Roasted Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini

 
It seems like just yesterday that I was dusting off my popsicle molds, stocking up on tomatoes at the market, and more or less bidding my oven good-bye until September, but alas, this is the last post before summer -- aka the very best season of the year -- draws to a close. I know, I know, summer officially ends mid September -- for me, however, summer has always consisted of the months of June, July, and August, the arrival of September unofficially marking the start of Fall. And how can it not? The weather cools down; kids go back in school; the leaves begin to change color; and no summer vacation takes place after August. You see what I mean. 

So here it goes, the last post of the summer, one that I hope you'll find worthy of closing out the most anticipated season of the year. Having invested in a shiny brand new cherry-pitter I was eager to find a use for the last "summer ingredient" on my list -- cherries -- and pondered making cherry pie, cherry cobbler, or cherry clafouti before taking a detour away from Dessert Street and wandering down Savory Lane. I had already roasted peaches earlier in the summer as a dessert and figured I could do the same with cherries -- what fruit isn't made better with a little roasting?! -- replacing the butter and cinnamon with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and serving them with goat cheese instead of ice cream. The result is an appetizer far more interesting and unexpected than your typical bruschetta, not to mention fantastically delicious -- the cherries are caramelized slowly in the oven with honey and balsamic vinegar, spooned atop a layer of sharp goat cheese, all of it held together by a slice of toasty, olive oil-y bread. There are a whole lot of flavors and textures going on here -- sweet, tangy, juicy, creamy, crunchy -- but all of the ingredients complement each other wonderfully, coming together in perfect appetizer harmony. Warning: you will never be able to go back to your usual chips-and-dip appetizer after this one.

A couple of notes: Any variety of cherries should work fine here. I used a ciabatta loaf for the bread, but you can also use a baguette or any other kind of bread you want. This would also be great with some chopped basil stirred in to the cherries after roasting, or a bit of very finely chopped rosemary stirred in as well. If you can get your hands on different colored cherries -- orange, or yellow, in addition to the red -- feel free to mix them to make this dish super pretty.

ROASTED CHERRY AND GOAT CHEESE CROSTINI

Ingredients:
4 cups cherries (about 550 grams) pitted and halved
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound (224 grams, or 8 ounces) soft goat cheese
Olive oil
20 slices of bread from a loaf of ciabatta bread

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until lightly browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Let cool. 

In a baking dish, toss the cherries with the olive oil, honey, and balsamic vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the cherries, stirring occasionally, until juices have mostly evaporated and the cherries are tender, about 30-40 minutes. Let the cherries cool.

Spread each toast generously with goat cheese. Top each toast with some of the cherry mixture and their juices, transfer to a platter, and serve.

Recipe barely adapted from www.seriouseats.com.




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