Ronnie Paul
Special to The Union

Ronnie Paul: Bring on the bruschetta

It’s difficult to establish a daily writing routine. At dawn, supposedly when writers get their best ideas, the dog thumping his tail against the wall, and kittens loudly shredding a lamp shade, make brewing ideas impossible.

Mid-morning finds me frothing milk for my second cup of espresso, checking my email for the fifth time, and phoning friends for news I may have missed in the last 24 hours. I barely have time to nibble a chocolate croissant, much less think about writing.

Around noon, I rifle through the refrigerator and decide if I’m really hungry. I count the dishes on the sink counter. Are there enough to wash now, or should I leave them for later? These are time-consuming decisions, and leave hardly a moment for literary creativity.

My brain is fried in the afternoon, but I sit down in my office anyway. Just as I lift pen to paper, my husband Jeff appears outside the window testing his new Weedeater, which by the way, sounds like a 747.

Unable to generate ideas with an engine humming, I skitter to the kitchen and browse last week’s mail and clothes catalog.

Then it’s animal-feeding time again, accomplished while I sip Pinot Grigio and muse about dinner. At this point I might add, I can scarcely produce a shopping list. I did make time, however, to create a few summer recipes, Please try these.

Peach Chutney

About 1 1/2 cups

Here’s an embarrassingly easy chutney recipe from my current peach mania phase.

3 medium peaches (about 3 cups), chopped in small pieces

1 medium onion, chopped in small pieces

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon pickling spice

Put all the ingredients in an uncovered pot over a medium flame. Stir the mixture frequently for about 1 hour, until the liquid evaporates and the mixture looks thick.

Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Of course you can serve this with curries or barbecued salmon, but it also creates one of my favorite summer munchies.

Peachy Keen Bruschetta

The servings are negotiable.

1 baguette, thinly sliced (I prefer the baguette slices untoasted, but feel free to do your thing.)

A soft spreadable cheese like Mascarpone or herbed Boursin

Peach Chutney

Spread the cheese on thinly sliced baguette pieces, and top with a dollop of Peach Chutney. Magnifique!

Mushroom Relish

About 1/2 cup

Apparently this is my summer for bruschetta toppings.

8 ounces mushrooms, halved

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire (I use a vegetarian variety)

1 teaspoon minced capers

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

1 tablespoon minced gold or red pepper

Steam the mushrooms in the vinegar for about 12 minutes, until the mushrooms are very soft.

When they’re done, put them in a strainer and squeeze out the liquid. Then put them in bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Let this marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Strain off the remaining liquid, and serve on baguette slices spread with a soft cheese.

At this rate, you’ll be able to host a make-your-own-bruschetta party.

Glazed Eggplant

4-6 Servings

Freshly picked eggplant brushed with a miso glaze: I predict you’ll make this several times this summer.

6 Japanese eggplants, each about 6-7 inches long

Olive oil

Glaze

Whisk together:

1/4 cup white miso

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons mirin (A Japanese sweet cooking sake. This should become another pantry staple.)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon raw sesame seeds

Cut the eggplant in half length-wise, pierce the flesh with a fork, and brush generously with olive oil. Place eggplant halves flesh down on an ungreased baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until the eggplant is very soft and a bit wrinkled. (If hovering dinner guests distract you, go ahead and do this step hours ahead of time.)

Turn the eggplant flesh-side up, and brush with the glaze. Broil face up until the glaze bubbles and turns a little golden. (This only takes a few minutes, so do it while guests meander to the table.)

Serve immediately.

Green Beans à L’Orange

Serves 6

This is an easy and artful way to place summer green beans on the table.

1 pound green beans

1 orange, sectioned and white pith removed

2 tablespoons toasted pecans

1 tablespoon chopped red onion

Dressing

Whisk together:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

Salt and pepper

Trim off the green bean ends. Drop them in boiling water for two minutes until just tender, then rinse them in a strainer under cold water.

Toss everything together and serve.

Ronnie Paul is a freelance writer in Nevada City.


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The Union Updated Aug 27, 2014 01:01AM Published Aug 27, 2014 01:01AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.