Sunday, 20 July 2008

Summer Snacks: Grape Crostini and Bruschetta with Red Wine

Crostini are small rounds or squares of bread brushed with olive oil, butter or crushed garlic and then baked in the oven. Crostinii means 'little crusts' in Italian and in France they are called croutons. They make great snacks but if you want something more substantial you can try Bruschetta – which are similar but larger. Bruschetta dates back to 15th century Italy and takes its name from the Roman bruscare meaning “to roast over coals”.

Roasted Garlic, Brie and Grape Crostini

You can marinate grapes in Port with rosemary and combine them with crushed garlic and Brie to make a delicious appetizer.

30 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup olive oil
fresh thyme, chopped
grapes, halved
1 glass Port
fresh rosemary, chopped
1 baguette, cut diagonally into 24 slices, toasted
Brie, rind removed, room temperature
Fresh rosemary sprigs

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the garlic and the oil in a baking tray and roast until the garlic is tender (usually for about 30 minutes). Drain, reserving 3 tablespoons oil. Transfer the garlic to processor. Add the thyme and reserved oil and puree.

Mix the grapes, Port and rosemary in a bowl and let it stand for 15 minutes. Spread each toast slice with 1 teaspoon garlic, add the Brie over this and top with grapes and sprigs of rosemary.

Ricotta Salata, Thyme and Grape Bruschetta

Ricotta Salata is an Italian cheese made from sheep's milk. The milk curds and whey used to make this cheese are pressed and dried even before the cheese is aged, giving this pure white cheese a dense but slightly spongy texture and a salty, milky flavour – rather like a dry Italian feta. In Italian, ricotta simply means "recooked." and refers to the cheese-making process rather than a specific cheese. This ricotta is also a salata, or "salted," cheese. Sicily, because of its abundance of sheep, is justifiably famous for its sheep's milk cheeses.

1 lb red grapes
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 slices good white country bread
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
1 oz ricotta salata
5 fresh thyme sprigs

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Remove the stems from the grapes and arrange on a small baking sheet lined with foil. Toss with plenty of olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Roast for 20 – 30 minutes until just softened and juicy.

When you’re almost ready to serve, grill or toast the bread on both sides. Cut each slice of bread in half. Immediately rub one side with the cut garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and season with sea salt and pepper. Divide the roasted grapes between the toasts, shave over a few small slivers of ricotta, sprinkle over the thyme leaves and serve immediately.

Bordeaux Rosés and Clairets would pair well with these snacks – the Château Roques Mauriac (£5.49) is really refreshing when served chilled and has mouth watering hints of wild strawberries and the Clairet du Château des Lisennes (£5.99) has gorgeous aromas of raspberries, red currants and blackberries.

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