As the local tomato season kicks into gear this month, consider roasting cherry or grape tomatoes with garlic, herbs and olive oil to create an amazingly aromatic appetizer perfect for your al fresco entertaining.
Stir in some good-quality olive oil and fresh herbs to softened goat cheese. Slather this onto a slice of French baguette, then top with the roasted tomatoes. Open a bottle of chilled French Rose, and you have the instant makings of a memorable summer fete.
This is my go-to appetizer during these dog-days. It takes minimal time and ingredients, but the bold flavors are far from nominal. It’s even possible to prepare on a gas or charcoal grill if you dread heating up the kitchen with the oven – just use a grill pan over medium heat, and reduce the cooking time in half.
Roasted Tomatoes with Herbed Goat Cheese
16 oz. (2 pints) cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 large smashed garlic clove
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves pulled off but not chopped
8 oz. goat cheese
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves (in addition to the thyme above)
1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves
3 tablespoons good-quality extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place goat cheese on the counter to bring to room temperature.
Mix together the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, bay leaf and thyme sprigs and whole leaves together in a baking dish. Roast without covering for 50 minutes. The tomatoes should have split skins and begun to caramelize.Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the counter, then carefully smash the tomatoes with a fork to release their juices – I say carefully because they can squirt one easily in the eye as you do this!
In a mixing bowl, stir together the goat cheese with the chives, chopped thyme and basil, and 2 ½ tablespoons of olive oil. Taste and check for seasonings – add salt and pepper if desired. Place in a small serving dish and drizzle the remaining olive oil on top.
Serve with a sliced baguette or crostini. The leftover tomatoes and goat cheese make an excellent impromptu pasta sauce.