Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homemade Tapas: Baked Goat Cheese in Peppers, Onions & Tomato

Tapas always reminds me of the Cafe Babareeba in Chicago. You'd think it would remind me of my honeymoon in Spain, or one of the fantastic restaurants here in my adopted hometown of NYC.  Instead, say the word tapas, and I am fondly recalling my first memories of dining without parents with my high school girlfriends.  When asked for restaurants in Chicago, some two!?! decades later, I am still sending people to Babareeba on Lincoln and hoping they enjoy it as much as I have.

One of my first go-to items is actually still on the menu, "Goat Cheese baked in Tomato Sauce." A simple, yet perfectly delicious appetizer.  When our local farmer's market cheese monger suggested a bright and creamy goat cheese last weekend, in a flash I was back at Babareeba, sopping up that perfect little appetizer with good crusty bread, talking about boys, sneaking in the occasional sangria and laughing with my oldest friends.

I've recreated a slightly more filling version below, bulking up the sauce with some gorgeous CSA mini bell peppers and optional sausage.  We plopped the entire pan on a hot plate directly on the table, ripped off hunks of crusty bread and gorged straight from the source. Deliciso!

Goat Cheese Baked in Peppers, Onion & Tomato Sauce
  • 12-15 mini bell peppers OR 3 - 4 large bell peppers all red, yellow or orange
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 a large white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 log of goat cheese
  • Olive oil, plus more for the table
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Optional: 1 link of sweet or spicy sausage of your liking, sliced thinly
  • Large loaf of your favorite crunchy bread or baguette
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
  • Dice the onions and peppers into bite size pieces
  • Swirl olive oil twice around a cast iron or oven-proof saute pan.  Add the peppers and onions, and saute over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes.
  • If using sausage, add sliced sausage and cook for 4-6 minutes until done, stirring frequently. 
  • Add chopped garlic, salt & pepper, and cook for 1 minute stirring until fragrant.
  • Lower heat to low-medium, pour tomato sauce over and cook for a few minutes until the sauce is warmed. 
  • Slice goat cheese into 6-8 pieces and place on top of the tomato pepper base. 
  • Add the entire pan to the oven, and cook at 325 for 8-10 minutes until cheese starts to melt but doesn't fall apart.  Optional: Turn on the broiler, and broil for another 2-3 minutes to brown the cheese. 
  • Remove from the oven.  Divvy onto plates or serve straight from the pan on the table along side a baguette, olive oil and salt for dipping.
Without Sausage                                      With Sausage

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