Thanks so much to the great women in my book group for giving me the opportunity to do what I love doing more than almost anything else – cook for my friends. I only had the latter part of the afternoon to prepare, having seen patients that day, but it was so much fun spending even those few stolen hours during the work week in my kitchen with the afternoon sun coming in and the radio going.
Here’s the menu I prepared for our little rooftop gathering:
- Goat Cheese, Garlic & Grape Tartlets
- Cucumber slices topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon & dill
- Assorted cheeses and crackers
- Castelvetrano Olives
- Steamed edamame sprinkled with sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- Pimm’s Cup Pitcher
Fueled by food and drink, we had a spirited discussion on the Middlesteins – a book I didn’t love, but that much of the group did. Thanks to my fellow members for all the evenings they so generously hosted throughout this past year, and here’s to many more wonderful reads!
Goat Cheese, Garlic & Grape Tartlets
This recipe is modified from a crostini recipe in a lovely little cookbook entitle Small Gatherings – Seasonal Menus for Cozy Dinners by Jessica Strand. It’s a small book of gems for entertaining, complete with prep and timing instructions for stress free entertaining.
The day was warm and crostini felt too heavy, so I opted to use puff pastry as the base. (If you use crostini, simply slice a baguette crosswise into 1/2 inch slices, brush with olive oil and toast lightly in the oven on 5-7 minutes.) I admit I increased the balsamic vinegar from 1 1/2 tbsp to 3 tbsp – I loved the idea of drizzling a little of that grape infused juice on the tarts. And I added fresh thyme.
Makes 24 tarts.
- 1 box puff pastry (2 sheets)
- Olive oil for brushing
- 2 garlic bulbs
- 4 cups mixed green and red small grapes
- 1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 6 ounces goat cheese
- Fresh thyme for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit
Thaw the puff pastry at room temp for 45 minutes. Unfold it onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 12 rectangles, Repeat with second pastry. Place rectangles onto a cookie sheet, brush with olive oil, prick with a fork and bake for 10-15 minutes, pressing the pastries down with a spatula if they puff up too much. (If you want to get really fancy, you can brush the edges with a little water, the roll them in to create mini crusts that you then press down with the tines of a fork., but who has time?) Remove to a rack to cool. Keep the oven on.
Using a serrated knife, cut off the tops of the garlic bulbs to expose the cloves. Place in a pie tin, cut side up. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the grapes, walnuts and vinegar and toss to mix well and coat the grapes fully with the vinegar. Transfer the mixture to a small baking dish.
Put the garlic and the grape mixture in the oven side by side. Bake the garlic until it is very, very soft. Bake the grape mixture until the grapes have collapsed and the juices are thick and bubbling. Both the garlic and the grapes should take 35-40 mins.
To assemble, squeeze a roasted garlic clove from its skin onto each puff pastry tart. Using a small knife, spread it as well as you can and then spread a generous teaspoon or two of the cheese on top of each. (It will be like putting the first layer of icing on a cake – lots of crumbs – and this is where you will think that making this as crostini would have been a much better idea, but don’t worry it will be delicious…) Place a spoonful of the grape mizture on top of the cheese and drizzle a little of the juices atop and garish with a few thyme leaves. Arrange on a decorative platter, sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper and serve.