One of my favorite pull-together-at-the-last-minute—or make days ahead—appetizers is a fruit gastrique served with an aged goat cheese on toasted garlic crostini. It’s perfect on days when your kitchen runneth over with fresh seasonal grapes, cherries, or blackberries or when you’re just in the mood for something fruity. A gastrique is a tangy sauce made by cooking vinegar and sugar together until the sugar caramelizes. Add fruit and a few additional flavors and you’ve got a quick and easy topping that becomes a beautiful compliment to cheese, pork, and poultry.
Start the gastrique by caramelizing the vinegar and sugar. While the gastrique is cooking, toast the bread. Your appetizer will be ready for guests in approximately 30 minutes.
Slice the bread, brush both sides with olive oil, and bake until toasted. Rub one side with a raw garlic clove. They seem to get better with age, so make them a day or two ahead if possible. Warning: Addictive on their own!
Red Grape Gastrique with Goat Cheese on Toasted Garlic Crostini Recipe
For the gastrique:
4 ounces (120 ml) white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
3 ounces (86 g) sugar
1 sprig of fresh thyme
Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
1 cup (approximately 6 ounces, 170 g) red seedless grapes, cherries (seeds removed), or blackberries (see note)
Cognac or brandy
For the garlic toasted crostini:
Approximately 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil for brushing
1-2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half horizontally
Fine sea salt
For the completed appetizer:
Aged goat cheese (soft or semi-soft)
To prepare the gastrique:
1 In small sauce pan, bring sugar and vinegar to a boil. Cook until the sugar begins to caramelize (approximately 10 minutes). It’s ready when it begins to smell like caramel, the bubbles become small and concentrated, and it turns a light caramel color.
2 Reduce the heat and immediately add the lemon juice, zest, thyme and grapes. Simmer covered until the grapes are completely soft and the liquid becomes a syrupy consistency (approximately 10 minutes). Add a splash of Cognac and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from heat. Discard the thyme sprig. Set aside to cool.
Serve at room temperature with the toasted garlic crostini and goat cheese. The gastrique keeps for at least a week refrigerated. Leftover gastrique can also be used to compliment meat, such as duck and pork.
Note: The recipe works well with grapes, cherries, and blackberries—fresh, frozen, or dried. If using dried fruit, reduce the quantity by approximately half.
To prepare the toasted garlic crostini:
Preheat oven to 400˚F (204˚C). Cut the baguette on the diagonal into 1/4-inch thick slices. Brush both sides with olive oil. Bake on a sheet pan for 10 minutes, and then turn each piece over and bake for another 5-7 minutes or until toasted. Remove from oven, lightly sprinkle with fine sea salt, and allow to cool to touch. Rub the cut end of the garlic clove on one side of the toasted bread. Store in an airtight container until ready to use. Keeps well for several days.
Enjoy with A Lillet Wine Cocktail.
As seen in JNSQ style magazine for iPad.
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