Balsamic Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

image via sunset

Sorry I haven’t been around in the past week but I do have a very good reason: it was my birthday! True to my hedonistic nature, birthdays are never a one-day affair but a flurry of dinners, celebrations and gatherings with plenty of friends, family, wine and food.

This year started on my birthday eve when I my husband took me and the kids out to our favorite sushi restaurant for The Love Boat (a two foot long wooden boat, complete with sails, covered in over 70 pieces of sushi and sashimi). My kids think it is the most amazing thing they have ever seen and would prefer if every restaurant served their dinner on Japanese warships.

The main-event of my birthday celebration will be a day spent touring the Charlottesville wineries with a big group of friends and family next month. But even though schedules didn’t allow for it on my actual birthday, we still didn’t let the day (or excuse for a party) pass us by. We had our extended family over to barbecue. It rained all day, but that doesn’t stop us from having a ball (after the second bottle of Pinot I doubt anything was going to stop us from having a ball). My husband grilled fresh oysters which he served with his homemade mignonette sauce (best tip- use champagne vinegar instead of the plain white variety). And I made my current obsession: balsamic heirloom tomato and goat cheese bruschetta. I’m certain there is a less-wordy name for this recipe. Ambrosia works well. Or perhaps just “heaven”.

Here’s the absurdly simple yet absolutely sublime recipe. Please excuse the image quality on this post but the sun refused my party invitation so these were all taken inside.

First things first; get your grubby mitts on some heirloom tomatoes. We found ours at The Fresh Market but if you can get them at a local farm-stand, all the better. They are ugly, misshapen, gnarled little buggers that come in a rainbow of odd colors. They are the epitome of wabi-sabi in that their imperfections are exactly what make them so perfect. Next you’ll want to whip up some poor-mans pesto. If you happen to have a dashing man hanging around your kitchen, as I did, ask him to pull the leaves off the basil and finely chop them. Or you could do it yourself, but then someone else would have to take the picture. After chopping the basil, put it in a little bowl with a good amount of chopped garlic (the jarred refrigerated kind is fine) and drown it with extra virgin olive oil (don’t measure it, just pour it on for a few good glug-glugs of the bottle), then crack black pepper and sea salt over it, mix it up and set it aside. While he’s chopping basil, make yourself useful and chop up the tomatoes. When you slice the tomato in half, use your (hopefully washed) fingers to dig out the seedy pulp from the insides. You just want the meaty part of the tomatoes for this. Chop them up into whatever size chunks you prefer. Then dump your pesto mixture on top and mix well. Then drizzle heavily with balsamic vinegar and stir it through. Set it aside to do its magic (ie: marinate). In the meantime, get some good crusty french bread and slice it into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Lay them out on a baking sheet and put under the broiler until barely toasted.

Next get your goat cheese out. I like the plain crumbled kind with this recipe. They also come in thick, creamy, flavored varieties that are delicious on steak. but for this, the tomatoes are the star, so the plain works best.

Drain the tomato mixture if needed, or just use a slotted spoon to transfer the mixture to a clean serving bowl. Spread a piece of the warm bread with the crumbled goat cheese then top with the bruschetta. Divine.

This was a big hit at the party, but I also love to whip up a batch to nibble on while we drink wine on the deck. Hopefully the heirlooms I planted in the raised garden bed will keep me in bruschetta heaven all summer long. In my constant (losing) battle to institute “Meatless Mondays” at our house, so far this recipe is the closest I’ve come to victory.