Sunday, May 23, 2010

a night of play & a night of work

My very sweet and super cool husband treated me to a night out last week at City Winery in lower Manhattan. I had been very interested to check this venue out, it is the latest venture of Michael Dorf, founder of the highly successful Knitting Factory. City Winery makes and barrels their own wines and for a price will allow you to create and barrel-age your own custom blend on their site. They also host great music and cultural events. We went to hear Laura Marling, the lovely and sophisticated beyond her years twenty year old British singer-songwriter. The music was wonderful and the room was fun, cavernous but with a sense of cozy intimacy from all the wood surfacing. The menu features wine pairings with small plates. So what was not to like? I loved it!  We had great seats, the sound system was fantastic, service attentive, the wine was excellent and the food was...
Ok, I'm a critic, I cant help it. First thing I did was ask the waiter if I could keep the menu so I could scribble notes all over it. The first pairing I sampled was Althea Prosecco Brut from Veneto, Italy paired with a Roasted Tomato-Shallot Crostini. The prosecco was INCREDIBLE!! I really thought it was delicious and it could easily become my most favorite sparkling wine of the season. The crostini was good, but my scribbled notes say: Missing salt, vinegar, herbs, garlic. Just a small comment.
Some beautiful plants I picked up today at the Union Square Green Market that I will stick in my garden: two coleus,  a red veined sorrel (!) and some Thai basil.

Hot house tomatoes have hit Union Square so I decided to try my hand at an improved Tomato-Shallot Crostini for a party I catered this week. The event was a fund raiser to introduce to local Democrats Didi Barrett,  running for State Senate in the 41st district of upstate NY.  Representatives from NARAL were there to endorse her. Good luck Didi! Also among the guests was Jerry Kretchmer, a long time active democrat and restaurateur who opened Gothem Bar and Grill over 25 years ago. I was surprised and happy to see Jerry, who is an old family friend and asked him what he thought of the food (Jerry's son Laurence, who I used to babysit (!) is Bobby Flay's business partner.)  Jerry said he only tried one hors d'oeuvre which he enjoyed, but it wasnt the crostini. Alas.

I think my version takes the City Winery's concept a little further and it is a pretty and easy little nibble to prepare for summer entertaining.

Tomato-Shallot Crostini
for the crostini:
1/2 loaf of baguette or fiscelle
3 Tbs olive oil
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Thinly slice bread into about 1/4" thick pieces. Lay out on a baking sheet and brush the bread with the olive oil. Bake for about 10 minutes until golden and crisp. Store in an air tight container for up to 2 days.

For the topping:
4 tomatoes
1 teas. salt
3 shallots
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbs. Butter
1 teas. balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic
4 basil leaves, cut into thin chiffonade strips

Peel tomatoes with a vegetable peeler, cut them in half, scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut tomato halves into a small dice. Place diced tomatoes in a bowl and sprinkle with half the salt and let it sit while you prepare the shallots.
Peel and finely chop the shallots. Heat the butter and 1 Tbs. of the olive oil in a small saute pan. Add the shallots and the rest of the salt and slowly cook at a low temperature for about 15-20 minutes till shallots are soft and golden. Add the vinegar to the shallots and cook for 2 more minutes and then remove form heat.
Place the rest of the olive oil and the peeled garlic cloves into a small saucepan and cook at a low heat for about 5-8 minutes, till the garlic is golden. Remove garlic cloves from oil and discard or reserve for another use. With a slotted spoon, scoop the diced tomatoes into the garlic oil, draining out most of the liquid that will have accumulated from the tomatoes. Cook tomatoes for just 2 minutes to soften slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the shallots. Place the tomato-shallot mixture in a small bowl and let it cool to room temperature before putting on the crostini. The mixture can be store in a covered container in the fridge overnight.
Garnish with the basil and serve.
Makes about 1.5 cups of the topping

The City Winery sounds like such a cool spot. They certainly don't have anything like that in Bergen County, NJ! I might have to make a trip into the City to check it out! I love this simple, little recipe. On warm nights, I often sit outside on my patio with several friends, sipping wine, eating hors d'oeuvres-type food, and watching the children play. This crostini would be perfect to enjoy on such evenings.

And, most often, Prosecco is among our selection of wines. This sparkler from Italy is really perfect with almost anything. A current favorite among my neighborhood friends is the Riondo Pink Prosecco. It can be found in any backyard on my block, on any given night. Deb's crostini, a nice hard cheese, some chips and guacomole, olives, and a little crudite would be a great combination of "nibbles" to enjoy with this crisp, fruity Prosecco. This is typically what our get-togethers consist of. Simple, easy, light.

This beautiful pale, pink bubbly retails for $9.99. Really - Prosecco is a must-have at any warm-weather get-together. And, with its affordable pricetage, it's worth stocking up on for the summer. Always delightul; always a crowd-pleaser. Everyone loves this wine!

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