by Kay Baumhefner
Amuse-bouche. I love that French term for a tasty little bite. You even have to pucker your lips to say it. Typically off menu and more whimsical than an actual appetizer course, palate teasers afford the chef complete freedom in their creation. And for both professional and home cooks alike, it always makes sense to at least start with what we already have on hand. I’m happy to say that right now that’s baskets full of sun-ripened tomatoes.
I needed to make some finger food for a casual aperitif gathering we recently hosted, and guests were arriving in about half an hour. What with one thing and another that day, I was already way past Plan B. But we did have good bread, some homemade aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and olive tapenade. So I mixed the two sauces together to spread on small triangles of toast, and then started dicing those tomatoes.
Tossed with a dose of balsamic vinegar, sea salt, black pepper and shallots, their sweet, red juices flowed freely through the strainer and into a small saute pan to briefly reduce until syrupy. Then just spoon the cut tomatoes onto the dressed toast, drizzle on their reduced juices with a little extra-virgin olive oil, scatter cherry tomatoes, tiny leaf basil and herbes de Provence olives around on top, and Voila! An embellished French version of the familiar Italian bruschetta. Made more intriguing with an undergarment of mystery between the tomatoes and toast. And all done in a matter of minutes.
You could, of course, make them bigger for lunch. Or as a side with grilled meat, fish or chicken for dinner. Perhaps slipping in roasted peppers, zucchini or eggplant. Layering with salumi and/or shavings of cheese. Whatever suits you and the needs of that moment. Just remember, it’s a casual affair. And you get to enjoy it too!
Bon Appetit! — Kay
Originally published September 12, 2011 on Come Home to Cooking.