Caterina, the owner of a small Italian restaurant in Filderstadt, Germany, small town south of Stuttgart, first introduced me to Crostini, “little toasts”. She originally hailed from Lucca, Italy where her mother owned a restaurant in the Piazza dell’ Anfiteratro. My stop at her restaurant became more than a simple lunch when she convinced me to create a meal of Crostini. Each was topped with a variety of spreads but the roasted tomatoes provided such an intense flavor, I was determined to replicate it back home. With guidance from Caterina, the recipe below achieved a greater intensity!
Only three Flavor Tiers are involved in this appetizer making preparation easy but plan ahead since it takes several hours for the tomatoes to cook. Slow roasting the tomatoes creates a wonderfully sweet robust intensity. If possible, roast the day before using and reheat before serving, one of Caterina’s tricks to meld the flavors. Add the fresh basil after you remove from the oven, as basil will blacken if added prior to roasting. While Caterina would serve thickly sliced bread, I like the use of square Ciabatta rolls. They provide the perfect two bite base for the tomatoes. Simply rub a clove of garlic on each half after toasting and then quarter. An option is to include pesto such as Amalfi Coast Pesto and fresh burrata along with the tomatoes to create a hearty appetizer or lunch. Of course, serve with a great Chianti such as Fontodi Chianti Classico Reserva 2009.
2 square Ciabatta rolls
1 garlic clove, halved
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 pint small mixed heirloom tomatoes or mixed color tomatoes, cut in half
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 T garlic infused olive oil
½ t kosher salt
¼ t fresh ground black pepper
¼ c fresh basil, coarsely chopped
Heat oven to 300°. Line a large sided baking sheet with foil.
Place the tomatoes in a medium bowl. Add the oils, salt and pepper. Stir to coat tomatoes. Spread tomatoes on a large sided foil lined baking sheet. Do not use parchment paper. Foil allows capture of the juices. Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 3 hours, mixing every 30 minutes.
At the end of 3 hours, remove from oven and stir in the basil. Turn off oven and place back in for 5 minutes to wilt basil. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.
(If making the day ahead, do not add basil. Cover and place in refrigerator. Prior to serving, heat in the microwave for several minutes. Stir in basil and serve.)
Heat oven to broil. Place oven rack on top level. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Split the ciabatta rolls in half. Place on the parchment lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet into oven. Broil for 2-3 minutes, watching closely, until lightly browned. Remove from oven. Immediately rub each slice with garlic. Cut into quarters.
Spoon the tomato mix into four custard cups or other small serving bowls. Place 4 squares on each plate around the tomato mix.