Let Me Take You Down, Cuz I’m Going to…
Today I want to talk about straddling in the kitchen. You know, working the line between flavors, textures and temperatures to your own advantage. Juxtaposing ingredients to ensure that every bite is both sassy and class. It’s similar to the way that a chocolate-covered pretzel or a good and salty margarita scratch some primordial itch that occasionally pops up and leaves you clawing the walls for the smallest taste of the intoxicating combination. And if you don’t scratch said itch, you feel a need to indiscriminately throat chop everyone around you, until someone plies your greedy mouth with a salted caramel cupcake. I totally approve – desperate times call for desperate throat chops, and I’d kill a man for salted caramel.
This recipe was inspired by a small plate that I enjoyed at one of my fave haunts, The Arrogant Butcher. The pairing of strawberries, basil and goat cheese seemed oh-so-right on first bite, and I decided to up the game with a drizzle of some chocolate olive oil from Queen Creek Olive Mill. The mill, an artisan manufacturer of olive oil here in Arizona, makes small batches of the stuff by adding cocoa beans to the extraction process, producing an olive oil that turns out killer sweets (and some of the moistest, airiest cupcakes you’ve ever had…EVER had!) and craveworthy savory dishes (think mole sauces, chipotles, barbecue sauces and other smoky tastes). I fell in love with this olive oil on first taste – good thing in that I made the 45 minute drive to the mill to try not the chocolate, but the Vanilla Olive Oil for use in a Marcona Almond Olive Oil Cake. And all this only to get my comeuppance. I took one sip of the vanilla oil at the tasting bar and barely had enough time to make it to the nearby trashcan to spit it out. In fact, I almost did an olive oil spit-take all over some poor, unsuspecting grandma standing nearby. “What did you guys do this Saturday?” “Oh, we drove to the olive mill and Angela started an out-and-out brawl for spitting on someone’s grammy. Good times.”
Back to the transcendant chocolate olive oil – it can be difficult to track down, so feel free to use a top-notch, fruity olive oil in its place. The idea is sweet caprese salad more than true dessert. You can easily serve this as part of a splay of appetizers or as a dessert for a crew without sweet teeth. What up, sweet teeth?
Strawberry and Goat Cheese Crostini with Chocolate Olive Oil
1 baguette, cut into rounds
1 pt. of strawberries
3-4 fresh basil leaves
2 oz. of goat cheese
4 tbs. of chocolate olive oil (or whatever flavor of olive oil you’d like) plus extra for the crostini
balsamic reduction (I use Lydia Bastianich’s killer recipe)
Preheat the oven to 400°. Line the slices of baguette up on a cookie sheet and brush with olive oil on both sides. Bake until golden and toasty, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
While the bread toasts up, dice the strawberries and add to a bowl. Stack and roll the basil leaves (like a drug dealer counting up your take) and very thinly slice the basil roll into paper-thin strips (it’s a muthafuckin’ chiffonade!) Toss the strawberries, basil and 4 tbs. of olive oil together and let them mingle for a little while.
When the toasts have gone from muy caliente to warm, spread a little goat cheese on each toast. Top with a tablespoon or two of the strawberries and drizzle with a small amount of the balsamic reduction. Serve immediately.