Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Herbed Strawberry Bruschetta with Whipped Feta + Pink Peppercorn Balsamic Reduction on Olive Oil Fried Multigrain Toast

Herbed Strawberry Bruschetta with Whipped Feta + Pink Peppercorn Balsamic Reduction
on Olive Oil Fried Multigrain Toast
Hey y'all, I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July holiday… we sure did. My Mountain Man and I celebrated our one year engagement anniversary. I can't believe it's already been a year of wedding planning, it seemed to pass so slowly and now looking back, it was too incredibly fast. Just in a short three months, we will be saying "I Do" in Atlanta. So bizarre. Anyway, today I am sharing a recipe that should be enjoyed all spring and all summer long. We're huge fans of bruschetta over here… and by that, I mean we could just eat a massive plate of it for dinner and call it a night. We don't discriminate, not even when it's made with fruit. Ripe strawberries pair beautifully with savory flavors and this recipe is a great example of that! I was actually inspired by a dish at our favorite restaurant (and wedding location), JCT Kitchen + Bar. It was a simple side of the ripest, sweetest strawberries that I have ever tasted with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic, some crumbled feta, and minced basil, mint, & chives. As we popped each berry into our mouth, the flavors sang so loudly and tasted so brightly. I couldn't believe the flavor combination. I just knew I had to take this idea and run with it. My recipe starts with a good loaf of multigrain bread, cut into rounds, and fried until golden brown in olive oil (a personal favorite technique when it comes to making bruschetta). Then, I made some whipped feta in the food processor, which is a breeze to make, but yields such lovely results. You could easily sub in goat cheese here, if you prefer, however I totally recommend the feta cheese. The strawberry bruschetta topping begins with chopping the berries into cubes and macerating them in a little sugar, balsamic, and lemon. I did this for about an hour, just to allow them to deepen and sweeten in a flavor (it's a must-do).  Luckily for me, I have a whole mess of fresh herbs growing in our garden, so I just minced up basil, mint, chives, and parsley, and added it to the mix. Save a little bit of the mixed herbs for garnishing though, it gives a beautiful contrast against the red berries, white feta, and dark balsamic. The balsamic reduction is enhanced with some crushed pink peppercorn because I absolutely love that flavor profile when paired with strawberries. Last year, I made strawberry-pink peppercorn jam and it was fab. So do it. Everyone loved this easy + fresh appetizer, and I can't wait to make it again and again and again!! Enjoy :)

For the Whipped Feta Cheese:
8oz Creamy Feta Cheese, Room Temperature (or very soft)
2oz Cream Cheese, Room Temperature (or very soft)
3T Cold Heavy Cream
Pinch of Salt & Pepper

For the Herbed Strawberry Bruschetta Topping:
1 Pint of Fresh Strawberries, Cut into Cubes
2T Balsamic Vinegar + 1-2T Sugar (depending how ripe your berries are)
1 Lemon, Zested & Juiced
2T Olive Oil
Big Handful of Fresh Basil + Mint, Minced
2T Minced Chives
Fleur de Sel + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste
¼t Red Pepper Flakes 

For the Pink Peppercorn Balsamic Reduction:
¼C Balsamic Vinegar
1T Honey
½t Crushed Pink Peppercorns (or to taste)

For the Bruschetta:
Prepared Herbed Strawberry Bruschetta Topping
Prepared Whipped Feta Cheese (plus crumbled feta for garnish)
Slices of Multigrain Bread
Olive Oil, For Frying
Prepared Pink Peppercorn Balsamic Reduction, For Drizzling
Freshly Minced Basil, Chives, & Mint, For Garnishing

1. For the Whipped Feta Cheese: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the softened cream cheese and salt until thoroughly mixed. Scrape down the sides and turn the mixer to medium-high speed and add in ¼C heavy cream. Continue whipping, while continuously adding a little bit of a crumbled feta cheese at a time, until the feta cheese is combined throughout. Add in the remaining ¼C heavy cream and beat on high until it is light & fluffy. Season the feta cheese with salt & pepper to taste. Spoon this mixture onto a serving plate.
2. For the Herbed Strawberry Bruschetta: In a large mixing bowl, toss together the cubed strawberries, balsamic vinegar, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Let the berries macerate for an hour. Add in the remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for 15-30 minutes to let the flavors meld.
3. For the Balsamic Reduction: Add the balsamic vinegar and honey to a small saucepan and cook to reduce for 3-5 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Stir in crushed pink peppercorns. Set this aside until ready to use.
4. For the Multigrain Bread: Heat about 1 inch of olive oil in a deep sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fry the slices of multigrain bread in the oil until golden brown & crispy, about 2 minutes on each side.
5. Assembling the Bruschetta: Spread the fried bread with some of the whipped feta, and then top each piece of bread with a mound of the strawberry Bruschetta topping mixture. Garnish with a drizzle of balsamic reduction, crumbled feta, and fresh minced herbs. Serve immediately.

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