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Caprese Appetizer with Fresh Pesto, Roasted Tomatoes and Golden Bread

Courtesy of Maria C. Hunt
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Ingredients

  • 1 basket organic mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups fresh basil, washed and pulled from the stems
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • juice of ½ to 1 lemon
  • 1 pane rustico (Trader Joe’s)
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 balls burrata mozzarella di bufala (Trader Joe’s)

Preparation

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the cherry tomatoes out in a casserole dish, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Put them in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are slightly puffy, but have not burst.  Remove the tomatoes from the oven and set aside.

2.  Open the bag of pane rustico and place bag to the side to use later.  Using a bread knife, slice the pane rustico cross-wise in 1 ½-inch thick slices. Then cut each slice into roughly equal thirds.

3.  Coat a heavy-bottom frying pan with oil and heat over medium-high heat. When drops of water pop when splattered onto the pan, it’s ready to brown the bread. Add as many slices of the bread to the pan as will fit comfortably, placing the largest white side down in the pan. Watch the bread carefully as it will brown quickly — in a minute or so. Then turn the slices and brown the opposite sides for the same amount of time. Remove the browned slices to a plate to cool.

4.  Keep adding more olive oil to the pan as needed for you to finish browning the other pieces of bread.  Once you’re done, put the browned cubes back in the paper bag the pane rustico came in.

5.  Once the bread is done, it’s time to make the pesto. Add the basil leaves, garlic cloves, pine nuts and 2/3 cup olive oil to a food processor or blender. Process until the leaves are incorporated and you have a chunky green paste. Now add the juice of ½ lemon or more if you need it to make the mixture thinner. Scrape the pesto out of the food processor or blender into a serving bowl. As a final step, stir in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

6.  About 30 minutes before serving, assemble the appetizer by setting out a bowl of pesto and the dish of roasted tomatoes.  Pile the bread in a basket or a bowl. Transfer a ball of mozzarella into a small bowl, leaving the liquid in the container behind. Use a spoon to crack the outer skin and expose the creamy center, then add a drizzle of olive oil.  Place each item on a plate and enjoy.

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