Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Roasted Eggplant, Artichoke & Tomato Bruschetta with Lemon-Basil Fromage Blanc... A "Toast" of Thanks!

Anyone that has visited this space in the past few weeks is well aware that there's a little party going on... the Everyday Chef Challenge, sponsored by Pacific Natural Foods.

We've just completed Week One of the Challenge... congrats to Elana's Pantry for a winning entry... and we're now heading into the second, and final round. This week, the five bloggers will be busy coming up with their own spinach and Pacific Natural Food's creamy soup creation; recipes that will be posted on Wednesday, September 29. In the meantime, however, the party is still in full swing with loads of recipes being submitted by everyday chefs from all over the country. Take a peek... they all look pretty delicious! And don't feel like you need to hover against the wall waiting to be asked to dance, just pop onto the floor with your own entry. In the end, your favorite blogger recipe and favorite everyday chef recipe will result in those two chefs heading to Napa to attend a two-day culinary bootcamp. Fun stuff!

While I'm busy putting together my own final recipe, I thought I'd offer a little toast... in the form of this bruschetta... as my way of saying "thanks" for your votes of support this past week -- just a little something to snack on while you wait for us to return; a scrumptious little morsel to nibble while you think of something you might like to enter at some point this week; a tasty little toast... to you! So... settle in, look around, make yourself comfortable. And, make sure you pop by again next week to see what I've come up with for the final challenge. Cheers... and thanks!

Roasted Eggplant, Artichoke & Tomato Bruschetta with Lemon-Basil Fromage Blanc
makes 12 hearty toasts

This recipe is an adaptation of a bruschetta I tasted a few weeks ago at the Cana's Feast Winery in Carlton, Oregon. That appetizer featured orange zest and marjoram in a Fromage Blanc spread that was then topped with a spicy, chili-flake seasoned eggplant and tomato mixture.

Since the veggies are roasted in this preparation, I decided to use marinated artichoke hearts along with their marinade oil to create a robust little topping that comes together in just minutes. And, given the Mediterranean flavors I used -- eggplant, tomatoes, artichokes -- I came up with a lemon-basil flavored Fromage Blanc spread that offers a wonderful pop of fresh flavor to the zesty veggie topping piled high on these generously-sliced, crispy toasts.

for roasted veggie topping:
3 to 4 tomatoes, chopped
1 small eggplant, chopped
1 6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, chopped (marinade oil reserved for roasting)
salt and pepper, to season (about 1 teaspoon of each)

for spread:
1 7.5-ounce container Fromage Blanc cheese (about 1 cup; lowfat cream cheese can be substituted)
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 generous tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1 baguette, sliced on the diagonal into 1-inch thick slices
extra virgin olive oil (for basting)
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut once to expose flat surface (to rub toasts)

parmesan cheese shavings, to top toasts

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place tomatoes, eggplant, and artichoke hearts on a large, nonstick baking sheet. Drizzle veggies with reserved marinade from jar of artichokes; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix well to combine and place in oven to roast for 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine Fromage Blanc, parmesan, lemon zest, and fresh basil. Mix well to combine. Set aside.

3. Lay baguette slices out to toast on a stove-top grill, or in a heavy skillet, set over medium-high heat (lightly spray grill with an olive oil spray if you'd like). Grill toasts for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until crispy. Remove from heat, baste each toast with a little olive oil and rub with cut end of garlic clove.

4. Assemble bruschetta by first spreading toasts with a little Fromage Blanc mixture, top with a generous spoonful of roasted veggies, and sprinkle with a few shavings of parmesan cheese.

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