Buttery Bruschetta

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Before we get started, some clarity on a pet peeve: its brus-SKE-tta. I even have proof. All hail the internet!

The one recipe I have always drooled over from Julie & Julia isn’t even a Julia Child one– it’s that fantastic looking fried bread masterpiece that she throws together before deciding to embark on her epic journey. The bread is browned to perfection, but still remains soft; the tomatoes ooze with salty, basil-y delight; and the expressions of joy coming from Julie’s husband when he stuffs bite after bite into his face? Well, that’s just beautiful. I don’t think that man had to act an ounce in that scene, the lucky son of a …..

The key for me was avoiding the crunchy, toast-like outcome one often finds in bruschetta. I wanted a slight crisp on the outside with a warm, soft inside, so that it wouldn’t cut up my mouth but still provide me with a satisfying bite. Pan-frying over a fairly moderate temperature with butter seemed to do the trick. Because, really– when does butter NOT do the trick?

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Buttery Bruschetta

1 soft baguette, cut into 1″ slices (I went with a half-baked option because I wanted absolutely no crustiness to get in the way of my vision and baguettes tend to be a bit rough around the edges)
4 T butter
3-4 medium tomatoes, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped into small 1″ pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 T fresh basil, sliced thinly
1 T balsamic vinegar
3 T olive oil
1 t salt

In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, shallot, basil, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk together and add the tomatoes, stirring thoroughly so that the tomatoes are coated in the dressing. Taste and add salt if needed. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the butter over medium with some salt. When melted, throw in a clove of garlic and cook for a minute. Remove the garlic and place the bread slices down, swirling in the butter. You may need to do this in a couple of batches. Make sure that your bread doesn’t dry out and start to toast– add more butter if you need to and don’t be shy. It will take about 4-5 minutes per side to brown. When the bread has browned on both sides, remove and lay out in a single layer on a large plate. Spoon the tomatoes over and top with extra basil. Serve immediately (wait too long and the bread will become soggy).


Cheddar Bacon Ranch Pulls

All things you know and love: bread, butter, ranch flavor, bacon, and cheese. I know, I know– what was I thinking? Don’t I value my arteries? To all you negative Nancies, I say only this: you are just jealous. I saw this recipe on Pinterest and had to unearth it’s originsand make it myself. Without any further ado…

Cheddar Bacon Ranch Pulls“. This is amazing and addictive. You will punch people in the face to get to it first. You might even sacrifice your first born for another hit. So be warned– don’t enter into this culinary adventure if you’re emotionally distraught; you might find yourself suddenly covered in bacon bits, with butter smeared across your best face. Food-binge blackouts are the worst!

If you’re ready to take the plunge, here’s what you’ll need:
1 loaf crusty bread (the original recipe called for round, which was dandy; however, the center of the loaf didn’t get much “love”, if you will. I think a regular long baguette or ciabatta would work quite nicely)
1/2 lb bacon
1/4 lb cheddar
1 stick butter
1.5 T ranch dressing powder stuff

Cook your bacon:

Dice it up so that you have little delicious bits. Take your loaf:

And slice it both ways, but not all the way through:

So that you have little squares that are still attached to the base. Slice up the cheese:

Melt the butter and stir in the ranch powder:

I’m not going to show you the resulting mixture. It might scare you away. I can tell you, though, that it smelled fantastic. Like a magical marriage of garlic and fat that floated through the air and touched your very soul.

And by soul I mean salivary glands.

Smoosh (technical term) the cheese and bacon into all the little crevices of your bread. Dribble the butter-ranch mixture all over, making sure to get a good amount in the middle or thickest portion.

Wrap in foil and bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.

When ready, face plant into the bread and start chewing. Tell everyone you have some contagious and incurable disease so that they remove themselves from your presence and leave you in peace. Their shunning will be worth it, I assure you.

Food coma noms!


Hello Friends. You’re all going to be drawn to this recipe like a moth to a flame because it’s just that good. For those of you blessed enough to see me on a regular basis, you probably have already tried this and are beating your heads against the wall as your body goes into withdrawal. Before you get out the crack pipe in an attempt to find a substitute for this food high, take a moment to calm your nerves and read the recipe. This comfort food will soon be nestled in between your chompers:

Focaccia spiked with garlic, rosemary, and chili flakes and topped with sliced shallots. As Britney would say: Ooh Ooh Baby!

Don’t shy away from this recipe because it has yeast in it; it is NOT like normal bread, which takes hours to rise and is as temperamental as a menopausal rhinoceros. I’ve made this a bunch of times and I’m pretty sure my instructions are idiot-proof, but let’s see!

During my Italian adventure I was lucky enough to be a part of a bi-monthly Pizza Night on the farm where I was working. That place has all the stereotypical Italian facets that make that country so fantastic: the gigantic brick pizza oven, the wizened old man singing to himself as he stokes the fire, large older women who dote on their 30-year old sons who still live at home, and a really awesome pizza dough recipe. I could name a thousand other things, but you can wait for my novel release for the rest of the juicy details. It’s going to be called “I’m a winner and you’re fat” (Glee reference? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?).

Focaccia is essentially pizza dough without the sauce and toppings. I love the original recipe from Spannocchia, the Farm I worked on, but something got lost in translation over to focaccia. I felt that the crust hardened too much and was too much of a separate entity, rather then melding with the rest of the bread. I perused several other recipes and found that the addition of mashed potato made all the difference! Color me confused because who thought of that one?

Potato makes the finished product moist and spongy with a chewier crust. My addition of the herbs and garlic are easily omitted if they’re not up your alley, but they add a ton of extra flavor. You would basically be foolish to exclude them from the party.

Here’s what you’ll need:

3-4 cups flour
2 t salt
1 cup water
2.5 t dry active yeast, or one package
2 T olive oil
6-10 cloves garlic
sprinkle of chili flakes
1 sprig rosemary
1 medium russet potato
1 shallot

Peel and smash the garlic and place it in a small bowl with the oil. Chop the rosemary and add it to the bowl with the chili flakes. Set aside and let marinate for anywhere from 5min-1hour, depending on how much time you have.

Peel the potato and cut into quarters. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a moist paper towel. Microwave for ~5 minutes or until cooked through (easily fluffed with fork). Mash it up and let cool. You should have about 1/2-3/4 cup.

Place the water in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for about 1 minute. The temperature needs to be between 115-130 in order for the yeast to activate. Too low and it will not grow (poor parenting), too high and you will kill it (murder). My method may seem a little weird, but it works:

Take the bowl out of the microwave and stir the water around. Place your pinkie into the bowl (unless it’s unbearably hot) and, if you can hold it submerged in the water for 20 seconds, then it is the proper temperature. It should get unbearable right around the 20th second. I know, I know: we’re not living in caves anymore, so why would I bother with this archaic practice? Because not everyone has a food thermometer lying around and it’s good to know! I tested my pinkie-method against my thermometer and it hit the nail on the head.

When your water is at the proper temp, evenly sprinkle the yeast over the surface and don’t touch it. Do not stir. Do not swirl. Just don’t! You want the yeast to have a good amount of surface area to cover, but not so wide that the water will cool down quickly. Just aim for perfection and you’ll be fine. It will take about 5 minutes for the yeast to dissolve.

Meanwhile, mix the flour (I use about 3.5 cups) and salt together in a large bowl. Mix the mashed potato, which should be cool enough to touch at this point, into the flour with your hands. It won’t look much different with the potato than it did without:

Make a well in the center and pour in the oil

then the yeast/water mixture.

Mix with a fork until the dough is cohesive and comes together. If the dough is sticky add a bitmore flour, but not too much since it can make the dough tough. If the dough is too dry add a tablespoon of warm water. Go with your instincts, if you have any!

Remove the dough from the bowl and give it a quick knead to make sure it sticks together. Rinse out the bowl and spray it with olive oil. Place the dough back inside and cover with saran wrap or a dish towel. Put the bowl in a warm, dry location that is far away from any drafts or windows. It should take about an hour or two to rise to double it’s original size.

Once it is good and large, take it out of the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Preheat your oven to 500 and finely slice your shallot.

Knead the dough for a few minutes, adding more flour if it gets too sticky. Roll it out to about 10in x 15in and place on an oiled baking sheet. Stab the surface all over with your finger so that it looks like it’s been riddled with Small Pox and drizzle with olive oil.

Scatter the shallot slices over the top, sprinkle with salt, and put the tray in the oven.

Bake until the focaccia is golden brown and the top is sizzling, 20ish minutes. Feel free to sprinkle it with some grated Parmesan during the last few minutes of baking, if you so desire.

I was a little impatient and didn’t let it rise to quite twice it’s original size, so mine was a tad thinner with a bit of a crunch to it. To ensure a fluffy end result, let it rise completely!

The garlic roasts in the oven, making it squishy and mild when you bite into it. This treat is perfect on it’s own or dipped in some balsamic vinegar. I bet it would make a great sandwich with some arugula and mozzarella…mmm yum!