I've discussed my brown thumb many a time here on cooking ala mel. Every year that we've lived in this apartment, I've gotten basil and rosemary plants and failed to keep them growing. This year, I decided to try keeping only one basil plant alive, thinking that one plant might be something I can handle. So far, so good, although it's only been about a week (which is a success for me, albeit a very small one).
Now, with my obvious incapabilities at growing my own fresh herbs and spices, you would not believe my excitement when I was contacted by the lovely people at Dorot to try their fresh spices. Dorot grows their own herbs and spices in Israel and fast freezes them directly after picking them. How perfect for a cook like me (and I'm sure I'm not alone) that can't be relied upon to grow her own spices! I can't often justify buying fresh spices at the store, since most of it usually goes to waste after I use the tablespoon or so needed to make a recipe and immediately forget about it in the fridge. I was obviously meant to find Dorot.
Dorot creates a wide variety of spices and sauces, from ginger, garlic, basil, cilantro, and dill, to glazed sautéed onions, aglio olio sauce, and chimichurri sauce, among others. Their spices are packaged in mini ice cube-like trays, so you can just pop out as much as you need for your recipe as you're cooking, and you're on your way - no cleaning and chopping spices! They have the equivalence written right on the front of the package to make it easy to convert the number of cubes you need from how much fresh spice your recipe calls for. The packages stack really nicely, which was pretty important to me, as we have a pretty full freezer.
At our local grocery store, they only carried the Dorot chopped basil, crushed garlic, and crushed ginger trays, which was totally perfect for me, as they're the spices I use the most often. I'm especially excited about the crushed ginger, since I love using fresh ginger in Asian inspired stir fry dishes, but I can never use up a whole ginger root. The flavor of fresh ginger is incomparable, and now I don't need to worry about it going bad! The best part is that I don't have to bother with peeling it, because really, who wants to peel and chop ginger? And oh man, are these little cubes packed full of flavor! They're just as potent as fresh herbs - I was actually sort of surprised by the overwhelming fragrance I was met with when I popped a few cubes into the bowl for this bruschetta.
Speaking of the bruschetta, wow, talk about delicious. Being smack in the middle of berry and tomato season, I really wanted to showcase some fresh strawberries in this recipe. They add a great sweet and tartness to the bruschetta that adds a great depth that you otherwise wouldn't have in a standard tomato bruschetta. I added some balsamic vinegar to bring out the sweetness, and I seasoned this with only Dorot chopped basil and crushed garlic, as well as a bit of salt and pepper. The blue cheese spread really rounds out the whole thing, by adding a slight creaminess and rich flavor - and I promise it's not overpowering for those of you that aren't blue cheese fans!
One thing I really need to emphasize is the need for a good crusty bread for this bruschetta. I used a multi-grain baguette from the bakery at our grocery store. Ciabatta or focaccia would also be wonderful. Toasty bread is so key here.
This bruschetta can be served at room temperature or warm - it's up to you! I enjoyed it both ways. It can be prepared ahead of time, which is awesome, and really, the flavors only get better and better as it "ages." This is great for summer parties - definitely a crowd pleaser! Alex was a bit dubious about the combination of strawberries, tomatoes, and blue cheese, but you know what he said? This is even better than a normal bruschetta, which I consider a huge compliment, as Alex is huge on bruschetta, and he's the best at nailing flavor profiles. And you know what? I have to agree with him.
Do you use fresh herbs and spices in your cooking? If you do, do you grow your own, or do you buy little bunches at the store?
Strawberry Tomato Basil Bruschetta with Blue Cheese Spread
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 pint strawberries, hulled and chopped
- 3 cubes Dorot crushed garlic (or 3 cloves garlic, minced)
- 6 cubes Dorot chopped basil (or 2 T fresh basil, minced)
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 2 T balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 t kosher salt (or coarse sea salt)
- 1/4 t black pepper, freshly ground
- 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
- 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
- baguette, sliced on a diagonal
- olive oil, for brushing
- sea salt, for sprinkling
In a large bowl, pop out the cubes of Dorot garlic and basil, and set aside to defrost while preparing the other ingredients.
Add the chopped strawberries and tomatoes to the bowl, and toss to coat with the spices. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and black pepper, stirring until well combined. Set aside for about 20 minutes (or place in the fridge overnight) to allow the flavors to develop.
In a small bowl, beat the blue cheese and cream cheese together until smooth. Set aside (place in the fridge if preparing the night before).
Before serving, place the sliced baguette pieces on a baking sheet, and brush the tops with olive oil. Place under the broiler for 2-5 minutes, until browned. Allow to cool slightly before handling.
Smear the tops of the baguette slices with the blue cheese spread, and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the tomato strawberry mixture on top. Sprinkle with sea salt (if you want to serve them warm, pop them back under the broiler for another minute to warm the tomato mixture). Serve immediately.
Disclaimer: I was compensated by Dorot for creating this recipe and sharing my honest review. All opinions are my own.