Emily Columpsi

"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery" -Mark Van Doren

Cheesy Goodness

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For my last dish in the appetizer category, I was a little indecisive on what I wanted to make. There are legitimately so many different options, which really doesn’t make my decision any easier; however, I needed to find something that I was capable of making. I always plan to watch the Rachael Ray Show in the mornings: such a great show. Anyways, Rachael Ray always finishes her shows with a cooking segment; I am always fascinated by her creations, they look delicious. So immediately I got the idea! Why don’t I look on the Rachael Ray Show website for some appetizer recipes!

Wow! I have never actually been on the website, but there were probably twice as many recipes on her website than on Smitten Kitchen. So I clicked on the appetizer section and I was just overwhelmed by the options: it ranged from Chinese cuisine to vegetarian to European. Basically everything you could imagine! I scrolled threw the options and to be honest, everything looked way to difficult for a beginner like me, so I just kept on scrolling threw until I found exactly the right one: Red French Bread Pizza. I looked at the recipe and directions and it was the perfect balance of easiness and difficulty. My decision was decided; I was making appetizer pizza.

As I was reading through the directions I realized that for all the recipes on her website there is a complimentary video that goes with it; basically it is the segment that was shown on her show. Very helpful! It legitimately felt like I was cooking with Rachael and I loved the visual component as well! Anyways, before I realized this helpful guide, I was reading through the directions to make sure that I knew how to do everything that was asked. Immediately I did not know how to do the first step: roasting garlic. You can roast garlic? Well for someone like me who literally has no experience in the kitchen this was a serious question. Obviously, I needed to do some online research to figure out what the proper method was before actually attempting the recipe.

After searching through some videos and websites, I quickly realized that roasting garlic was actually not that much of a daunting task. Actually, it only really consists of 3-4 steps; I would have assumed more than that. As I was reading through this particular website, I learned that you can never overcook garlic. Well that is a relief, because sometimes I forget that I placed dishes in the oven and occasionally burn them. It stated in the website that the you can leave garlic in the over for literally as long as you like, as it depends on how soft you would like the cloves to be. The directions said to leave the head itself intact with all the cloves connected. In other words, do not separate the cloves. After reading this I was a little concerned on how I was going to get the cloves out of the paper after the roasting was completed. However, I did not need to be worried, as I read further into the website it gave some minor directions on what to do. Simply, you just have to let the garlic cool slightly and then press on the bottom of a clove to push it out of its paper. Seemed easy enough, but I guess we will see. How do you like to use roasted garlic in your cooking?

Once I felt comfortable with the recipe and its directions, I got myself organized. As I was laying out all of the ingredients, I was remembering my cooking rules.

Cooking Rule #1: Make sure you have all the ingredients prior to cooking

Cooking Rule #2: Read the directions carefully. I did not want any mistakes happening this time around.

Recipe:

3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

1 head of garlic

2 pints of grape tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 loaf of crusty French bread, split in half lengthwise (you could use Italian bread as well)

2 cups of shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

2 cups of Parmesan cheese

¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped

Directions: The writing in italics is my own thoughts.

To start off preheat your oven to 4OO degrees. As the oven is warming up, cut the tip off the head of garlic. Make sure that your knife is sharp because I found it difficult to cut through the garlic. Or maybe I just wasn’t strong enough. As well, once you have cut off the tip, use your fingers to peel away all the loose, papery, outer layers around the head of garlic. It is important that you keep the head intact will all the cloves connected. You could separate the cloves if you would like, this does make them roast faster. Place the garlic in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (1 tablespoon) and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remember last time how I put too much pepper in the recipe because there was no exact amount. Well this time I made sure that I did not put more than a ¼ teaspoon. Fold the foil up and around the garlic and then transfer it into the oven and let it roast for approximately 40-45 minutes, until the cloves are tender.

Garlic before roasting

As the garlic is roasting, measure out 4 cups of grape tomatoes. I pint is equivalent to 2 cups. Rinse the tomatoes under cold water, place them onto a baking sheet and toss them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper. After the garlic has been roasting for about 20 minutes, place the tomatoes in the oven as well and roast them until they have softened and burst open, about 10-15 minutes. I personally placed the tomatoes on the same baking sheet as the garlic. This is up to you though.

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As the garlic was roasting, it literally filled the house with such a delicious smell.

Once the tomatoes have finished roasting, transfer them into a medium-sized bowl or pot and let them cool slightly. When the garlic has finished roasting, squeeze the softened cloves into the bowl of tomatoes and mash them together. Getting the cloves out of the paper was a little difficult. First off, I do not think that I let the head cool off long enough as I burnt myself. However, I tried the method that the website recommended, and it took a few tries but I eventually got the hang of it.

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Once the tomatoes and garlic have been mashed together, let the mixture/flavors merry in the bowl. As this is happening, take your loaf of bread and cut into halves and then place onto a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Well, this turned into a disaster! I definitely was not smart when I was cutting the bread. Instead of placing the bread on the cutting board, I was holding the bread in my hand…Well simply put, I could not tell when I cut through the loaf so what did I do? I sliced my palm with the knife. Blood everywhere… gross I know. So I had to stop what I was doing and tend to my cooking wound. Cooking Rule #3: do not hold bread in your hand when you are slicing it. Once I was all bandaged up, I cleaned and washed the area thoroughly and then proceeded back to my recipe.

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As the bread is in the oven, grate the cheeses.

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After the bread has turned golden brown, take it out of the oven and let it cool slightly. Spread the tomato-roasted garlic mixture over the halves of bread and then sprinkle both cheeses evenly over the halves. Place the bread back into the oven to melt the cheese, 5 minutes.

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This appetizer is served better hot, so garnish with a little chopped parsley and then enjoy!

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To be honest, this wasn’t half bad. It was crunchy, cheesy, sweet and savory! I actually really enjoyed it! The roasted tomatoes really tasted authentic and pure, which is a flavour I really enjoy, and the flavour of the roasted garlic was phenomenal! I thought it would be overpowering but it was subtle and added great flavour and texture. However, I felt like it was missing something. I was afraid that I missed something in the ingredients, but thankfully I did not. I got the rest of my family to taste it. They all really enjoyed it and said it-tasted great, but if anything there should be a sprinkle of basil on top to add a little something extra. My mom took the liberty to add some basil to her half and she said it really made a difference and tasted amazing! All in all, my family gave me a solid 9/10, because it needed that extra oomph from the basil to kick it up a notch in flavour. Italians really love their bread, tomatoes, garlic and cheese, so seriously you can’t go wrong with this recipe.

Give it a try!

Well, that is it for the appetizer category. Next, week I move onto salads! Any recommendations on what I should cook next?

Bye for now!

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