Sometimes I love sitting at the bar of a restaurant rather than the dining room. There you can choose to mingle with the bartender and ask recommendations on drinks and food more candidly. Often there are little perks like purse hooks, the ability to order more quickly and an adult-only environment. Occasionally, conversations are struck up amongst the other patrons and I’ll leave the restaurant, say, absorbing a bit of trivia. One evening, unwilling to render anything minutely creative from my pulp of a brain and rather melancholy from the thought of a frozen pizza, Ryan and I stopped for dinner at a local Italian place in town. As you might guess where this is going, we opted for the bar area rather than the more formal dining room. Something about the warm chestnut paneling, the shiny granite counter-tops, cushioned seats…and the gleaming bottles of wine drawing us in.
Unable to pin-point exactly what I wanted to drink, the bartender had me describe my countenance, which flavors I leaned towards, stared deep into my eyes and mixed up a dazzling pink-hued Hendricks cocktail with a celery-salt rim. It was divinely ME. (It was also very striking, I should learn to take my camera with me when I dine out). Now- let me interject here by saying the bar was near empty. Otherwise, I might not have received this VIP treatment. On to food – we decided to split courses and, therefore sample a few dishes; a seasonal vegetable salad with blue cheese, carpaccio dressed up with arugula, reggiano and caper berries, rigatoni with peas and cremini mushrooms in a light cream sauce, and this little gem below which I have recreated at home several times. The creamy blend of the mozzarella and the avocados all on top of a chewy garlicky bite of italian bread is addictive. The rest of the meal was delicious, but I could have been content with just this and a crisp, cold glass of white wine.
The first two times I made this the bread was lacking that restaurant- quality ‘chewiness’. I did some scoping around on the internet and came across this eye-opening post. Previously I had been brushing the bread with olive oil then baking the slices for 5 or so minutes at 350 degrees. To develop that ‘uh mah gawd’ flavor and texture, it seems, requires a little bit of pan-frying in olive oil. After all, it is a universal truth that fat tastes really, really good.
Bruschetta with Avocado and Fresh Mozzarella
1 loaf ciabatta
6 Roma Tomatoes,diced and deseeded
Slice the ciabatta bread into roughly 8-10 slices, not too thin because you want the pieces to be slightly chewy.
Heat some olive oil on low heat in a pan (I used a grill pan), enough to coat the bottom of the pan.Place bread slices in pan until golden brown, then flip over and add more olive oil. Again, continue pan-frying on low heat until golden brown.
Remove from heat and let cool, slightly. Slice garlic clove in half. Rub each slice with garlic. In a small bowl, season the diced tomatoes with some salt and pepper to taste. Spoon approximately 2 tablespoons of the tomato mixture on each slice of bread. Take fresh mozzarella and shred with either your hands or a knife and place into a small dish. There is supposed to be a rustic quality to the dish, so it doesn’t have to look perfect.
Sprinkle the cheese onto each piece of bruschetta as desired, approximately 1 tablespoon. Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed and carefully spoon out the fruit from each half of the shell. using a sharp knife slice thin strips of avocado. Place 2-3 strips of avocado on top of each bruschetta. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired.