Salsa Bruschetta

Salsa Bruschetta

This recipe is one of my favorite creations thus far. It happened sort of by accident, ending up in a much different place than it started. The original inspiration was the concept of Pan a la Catalana, and then I started researching recipes, and went a completely different way. I was in the kitchen with my tomatoes and garlic and my baguette, and suddenly I was just adding things to a bowl and tasting and adding some more. I seem to do that a lot lately, which makes me both very excited about what I could create, and very concerned that I’m missing a lot of interesting things that might result from me ever following a recipe properly. But, what would be the fun in that?

The Salsa Bruschetta that has resulted from my impatience and possible over-confidence in the kitchen is fresh, bursting with flavor, and a perfect addition to your favorite tapas recipes – I served it alongside my Baked Patatas Bravas. I used tomato and onion as a base, and added garlic and a bit of balsamic vinaigrette, along with basil, lemon, brown sugar, and olive oil. It’s got a lot of the flavor that you would find in Pan a la Catalana, and in traditional bruschetta, with some sweetness and citrus that really lift the onion and the garlic to make them a little brighter. The lemon and onion are what really take this bruschetta recipe into salsa territory, because there isn’t a lot of  salsa-esque heat. I added a pinch of cayenne, but I didn’t want that to overshadow the freshness of the tomatoes and the lemon. If you’re in the mood for something a bit spicier, I’d recommend adding chopped jalapeno to this recipe.

There’s one more element to this particular version of Bruschetta: After I sliced my baguette, I topped the slices with a light drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of Monterey Jack cheese. Next time I may experiment with mozzarella for a caprese-inspired version, but the Monterey Jack worked extraordinarily well with the Salsa Brushetta. It’s the right amount of salty and creamy to pair with the tangy, slightly sweet flavor of the bruschetta. Cheese isn’t typically a part of bruschetta, possibly because that can take it to pizza-bread territory very quickly. I assure you that very little about this Salsa Bruschetta reminds me of pizza. The flavors are much lighter, yet richer and more complex than something you’d find on a pizza. (Unless it’s a very good, very unusual pizza, of course)!

These are definitely best served fresh, when the cheese is still gooey and melted. They do keep in the fridge fairly well overnight, and I have it on good authority that husbands named Bobby find that leftover Salsa Bruschetta makes an excellent afternoon snack. Whether you’re snacking or having your Salsa Bruschetta as part of a meal – perhaps as an interesting starter – this recipe is one you’ll make again and again. It’s very quick to make, and as uncomplicated as something that looks this elegant can get. No one will believe that you knocked the whole thing together in 20 minutes. But they won’t have much time to worry about that, as they’ll be worried about getting another bite before it all disappears.




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Salsa Bruschetta

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1/4 small/medium white onion
  • 1 french baguette
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil + more for drizzling
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1 dash cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsps lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 dash cayenne
  • 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack

Instructions

  1. Dice tomatoes and mince garlic, stir together. Chop onions in a smaller dice than the tomatoes and add to the bowl. 

    2. Slice baguette into thin slices, about 1/4 of an inch thick. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle olive oil lightly over each. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 4 minutes. You want the bread crisp on the edges, but still a little soft.

    3. Add remaining ingredients to the salsa mixture, except the cheese. Stir until well combined. Salt to taste - add more cayenne for a spicier salsa. 

    4. When baguette slices are done, remove from oven, top each with a little less than 1/2 Tbsp of Monterey Jack, and return to the oven for 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted. 

    5. Top each baguette with the salsa mixture. Try not to eat the whole batch by yourself. 



Warm Butternut and Bell Pepper Salad

Warm Butternut and Bell Pepper Salad

On Sunday, I woke up and realized that I’d barely eaten a single vegetable between Friday and Saturday. Please tell me that happens to you, too. This recipe was born out of a need to make something delicious and vegetable-based, with the ingredients already in my kitchen. It’s funny how sometimes the most wonderful dishes come together that way – and I can guarantee that this dish is indeed wonderful. It’s got soft, slightly sweet butternut squash, bell peppers, garlic, and onions as a base.  To flavor it, I created a cross between a light balsamic vinaigrette and Chinese take-out inspired sauce that works with the nutty squash flavor better than I could’ve dreamed.

I was cooking bacon before I started concocting my “stir-fry,” so I threw some torn, thick-cut bacon in with the mix. It added another dimension to the texture, and I don’t think I even need to remind you how adding the flavor of bacon to just about anything will immediately improve it. I wilted some spinach into it at the end to add a little more color and bulk. I don’t actually love cooked spinach all that much, but the flavor of it sort of disappeared in this dish, so I got more nutrition without that bitter wilted spinach flavor. This is yet another addition to my “make vegetables taste good” file.

I was truly just throwing things in the pan for this one. Chop up the vegetables, saute them, and add your sauce. Then throw in a big handful of fresh spinach, let it cook down, and the result is a perfect alternative to a regular cold salad. The prep and cooking processes take maybe 30 minutes, and you don’t have to stand at the stove the whole time the food is cooking. Since starting this blog, I’ve become very aware of how much I like being able to multitask. If I can make lunch and clean up the kitchen at the same time, (and maybe text and dance and dream up other blog ideas as well), I am a much happier person.

I invented this recipe to be my lunch, but it would make a fabulous side dish for beef or chicken, or even a vegetarian entree if you forgo the bacon (just make sure to taste it and see if it needs an extra dash of salt in that case!). That said, the recipe makes a fairly small portion. Even as a side dish, you may need to double or triple the measurements depending on who you’re feeding. It’s a quick, healthy lunch or dinner for when you want something warm and comforting, but still light and fresh. If you’re doing any kind of low carb diet, then this recipe is definitely for you.

I always mention how recipes are incredibly versatile, but I suppose that as a person who can’t ever follow a recipe without tweaking it, I just think everything is open to interpretation. You could try this dish with other kinds of squash, any greens you like, beets, or mushrooms – the possibilities are endless when you’ve got some onion, garlic, and a great sauce to start.




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Warm Butternut and Bell Pepper Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 medium white onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 2 cups diced butternut squash
  • 2-3 strips of bacon
  • 3 tsps olive oil, divided use
  • 1 tsps balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsps sesame chili oil
  • 2 tsps soy sauce
  • 2 tsps honey
  • 2 tsps rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsps brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 big handful of fresh spinach

Instructions

  1. Chop red bell pepper, onion, bacon, and butternut squash, and mince garlic. Add to skillet on high heat with a tsp of olive oil. Give them a quick stir once every minute or so.

    2. In a small bowl, stir together all remaining ingredients including 2 tsps of olive oil to make the sauce. When the vegetables in the skillet just start to brown, pour half of the sauce over them and stir.

    3. Keep an eye on the skillet, stirring frequently (but not constantly). When the vegetables look like they're almost done (squash and peppers are tender, onions are browned), pour the other half of the sauce into the skillet and stir.

    4. Let cook for 3-4 more minutes, and lower heat. Add fresh spinach to the skillet and stir in. Let it cook just long enough for the spinach to wilt. Remove from heat and serve.

    Note: I place a large pot lid over my skillet after adding the spinach to help it wilt a little faster.