Sometimes I bring chips and salsa to a party. Sometimes I bring really good beer that’s so hoppy only I want to drink it. Sometimes I bring nothing at all. Lazy! Time to start putting some effort into being a good party guest.
My friend Christine had a housewarming party last night. (Yeah, her again. We hang out a lot because we’re both so cool.) Christine is a free-spirited homemaker type too, and chips and dip wasn’t going to cut it. Alcohol was out too, since she made vodka infusions for the party – ginger peach, cucumber mint and strawberry basil. The cucumber was my favorite, with ginger ale…mmmm. I bet she’s going to post about it soon on her blog Home, Made.
So, what to do? Something simple, elegant and easy to eat: crostini with goat cheese and homemade toppings. Specifically, grilled tomato bruschetta and red wine fig compote. Make these, put them in mason jars with pretty ribbon, buy some chevre and Italian bread and voila: instant party apps/hostess gifts. You will put the crudite platter to shame. You will make the bowl of mixed nuts run and hide. You will vanquish the store-bought cookies…well maybe not the really fluffy kind with that super sugary frosting. Those are kind of good. But you will definitely get invited to the next party.
So here’s how you impress the pants off everyone:
Grilled Tomato Bruschetta Topping
- 5-6 vine tomatoes
- 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
- 1/2 cup onion (I prefer sweet onion)
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup basil, rough chopped
- balsamic vinegar
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
First, oil and heat your grill or grill pan. Quarter the tomatoes and scoop out the runny seed part…I just kind of scooped whatever came out easily, don’t worry too much about totally cleaning them out. Rough chop the onion and put these on the grill, along with the tomatoes, skin-side down. Grill only a few minutes, until there are marks on the veggies but not until they’re becoming very soft or breaking down. Take the tomatoes and onions off the heat and let them cool in a bowl, then dice.
Peel your garlic and roast it (toaster oven is easiest) for a few minutes until just brown. Chop the garlic, sundried tomatoes and basil and add them to the diced tomatoes and onions. Mix it up and add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. I would recommend 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil; keep mixing! When all was said and done my mixture was kind of runny, so I used a large spoon to drain off the excess liquid as I transferred the bruschetta topping to a pint-sized mason jar. Let the finished product rest in the fridge for at least an hour before serving to get a really great flavor meld.
Okay, bruchetta topping is done. A little salty, a little savory. But since you’re such an awesome party guest, you’re making ANOTHER topping, a sweet one:
Fig Compote (adapted from Martha Stewart)
- 3/4 cup chopped dried black mission figs, stems removed
- 1 1/2 cups red wine
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (plus a couple tablespoons if you want it sweeter)
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
- pinch of salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer until the mixture thickens into a sticky spread. Martha said this would take 7-9 minutes, but it took me about 20. I guess just stop whenever it looks like something that’d hold up on a cracker. I waited till it was about the consistency of a lumpy jam.
Spoon the compote into a mason jar and let cool completely before sealing and refrigerating it. It only yields a half-pint sized amount, but it’s enough for a small party since you only need a little on the crostini. Adjust the recipe accordingly if you need more.
Then buy crackers, crostini or make your own by thinly slicing a baguette, brushing it with olive oil and broiling or grilling it until crispy. Bring your bread, a log of plain goat cheese and your two pretty jars to the party and you’re all set! Guests can build their own crostini so you don’t even have to assemble anything. It seems like an ultra-fancy appetizer (compote sounds hard to make, right?), and you can play with different types of crostini for other parties. Maybe fresh herbs, so people can make their own herbed goat cheese spread? Or put out thin slices of peppers, olives and vegetables for people to top with. Try fruit bruschettas and tapenades, maybe? Fancy-pants you can play with the idea, but you will definitely not go wrong with these two mason jars of goodness. And definitely pair with that infused vodka. Trust.