In the summer, each time I eat a naturally ripe, fresh fruit or vegetable I think, “Ahh yes, this is what (insert name of fruit or veggie) is supposed to taste like.” It is in the summer that I stop resenting the fact that my European friends think American cuisine is all about burgers and fries, but instead I defend the juicy, smokey burgers fresh off the backyard grill, warning these friends not to judge a burger’s merit based off of fast food. Heaven forbid! In summertime, seasonal ice cream shops open up to feed the masses and little kids run around with mouths colored to match the flavor of their most recent popsicle. For me, these things represent the flavor of summertime. The other night Scott and I combined two of these “flavors” using juicy, ripe vegetables and the savory, smokiness of the grill. What resulted was a delicious bruschetta that was the highlight of our meal.
While this bruschetta would have tasted great by simply tossing it in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar as I traditionally do, I couldn’t help playing with it and trying something new. Granted, sometimes when I “tamper” with things the result is less than fabulous, but this time the food was enhanced and I would like to share my delicious discovery with you!!
It all started when I came across a post on one of may favorite blogs, Orangette, for making thyme infused browned buttered corn. Intrigued by the rich, nutty taste promised to result from browning the butter, I gave it a try. We loved it! Scott could not believe it when I told him the only ingredients were butter, thyme, and salt, insisting there was something else deeper, richer. He didn’t know what it was, but there was “definitely something there.” Pleased and curious by what this new trick up my sleeve could do, I decided to try it on brushcetta, replacing the traditional olive oil dressing with browned butter. I had a big bunch of basil from the farmer’s market that needed to be used, so I chopped it up as finely as I could and threw it in the pan with the butter. Once the butter turned amber color and smelled fantastic, I poured it over grilled tomatoes, onions, and eggplant. I tossed these veggies with crumbled feta cheese, added just a splash of balsamic vinegar to draw out all the flavors, and piled this high onto grilled slices of a sourdough baguette. Still timid around certain veggies (three of which make up this bruschetta), Scott wasn’t too sure about my bruschetta creation, but when I took my first bite and cried, “Yes! Success! I did it!” followed by a mini triumphal dance in my chair, Scott decided to take a bite, and when he did, he joined me in my triumphal dance! Yup, definitely a success.
Grilled Bruschetta Tossed in Basil Infused Brown Butter and Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Makes about 16 slices of bruschetta
16 ¾ inch slices of a sourdough baguette or any good crusty bread
1 pint grape tomatoes halved (or whatever size tomatoes you have on hand)
¼ tsp dried thyme
1 small onion sliced into ¼ inch rings
1/2 of a good-sized globe eggplant
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
About ½ cup loosely packed basil leaves or ¼ cup when finely chopped
1½ tsp aged balsamic vinegar or to taste
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Peel the half of the eggplant you are using and slice into ¼ inch slices cutting from the stem end to the round “globe” bottom. Salt each slice of eggplant and let it sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients for the grill. If using a charcoal grill, now would be a good time to light the coals.
Halve the tomatoes and slice the onion and toss both with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the dried thyme as well and prepare and aluminum foil “boat” for them to go on the grill (if you have a veggie grill basket by all means use this instead). Brush the sourdough slices with the olive oil, wipe the liquid that has collected on the eggplant off, and brush the eggplant slices with olive oil.
Grill the sourdough slices, onion rings, eggplant slices, and tomatoes over medium to medium-high heat. The sourdough will take the least amount of time so put these on the grill last. Grill the eggplant on one side until grill marks appear and the eggplant has become softer and turned from the opaque white color to a tan. Turn the eggplant over to grill the other side. Grill the onions, flipping them once, until they are translucent and beginning to brown. Once everything looks done and tomatoes are soft and “wilted” bring the veggies over to a cutting bored and chop the onions and eggplant to desired size. If you have a willing (and trusted) cooking partner have them grill these things while you make the browned butter.
To brown the butter place a small sauce pan over medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter is melted add the chopped basil and stir frequently until the butter turns dark amber in color and smells quite nutty. Remove the brown butter from the heat.
Toss the onions, eggplant, tomatoes, feta, browned butter, and balsamic vinegar all together and taste for further seasoning. Eat warm or at room temperature.