Balsamic Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini

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If you ask me, cherries are an underutilized fruit. True, they have a short season, but so do lots of other fruits and vegetables that get a lot more love. (Rhubarb…peas..fiddlehead ferns. Really, fiddleheads?)  Ripe summer cherries are bright red, plump and juicy, sweet and just a little bit tart. Like strawberries, figs and plums, they can go both the sweet and savory route, and a combination of the two is especially good.

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These Balsamic Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini are a really easy summer appetizer, and a surprising one, too, when people are expecting the classic tomato-basil-balsamic combo. (They’re also BEAUTIFUL, which doesn’t count for nothing.) Creamy goat cheese is the perfect base for the juicy cherries, and basil adds a nice fresh herbal note.  This is the time to use a high-quality balsamic vinegar- the sweeter and more syrupy, the better. A really acidic or sour vinegar will overpower the the cherries and basil.

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The recipe itself couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is heat the cherries with a little bit of honey, the balsamic vinegar and basil, toast some bread, and assemble the crostini. Total time, 20 minutes. While a cherry pitter is not absolutely necessary here, it will make your life a lot easier, and your fingers a lot less red. I’ll leave that up to you.

Balsamic Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini

  • Servings: makes 20 crostini
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
  • one French baguette, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbs fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons, divided
  • 8 oz plain, creamy goat cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries, honey, vinegar, 2 tbs basil and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are just starting to release their juice. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, arrange bread slices on a sheet pan. Brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.
  4. To assemble the crostini, spread a layer of goat cheese onto each slice, then top with a spoonful of cherries. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tbs of  basil over the crostini and serve immediately.
  5. Note: While you can make the cherry mixture in advance, the longer it sits, the more the cherries lose their bright red color. I would recommend making them right before serving.

One Marinade, Three Meats: Sesame Ginger Grilled Skirt Steak, Chicken and Tuna Steaks

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Ah, grilling season. Time to accidentally incinerate expensive cuts of meat, or risk undercooking them and spending the whole night wondering if you’ve given all your friends food poisoning. Isn’t grilling the best?

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. And you don’t have to stick to hot dogs and brats to save face, either.  All you need is a cut of meat or fish that requires little fussing – and even less time on the grill- and a killer marinade that works for everything.

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First, the secret sauce. This Sesame-Ginger marinade is easy, it’s fast, it’s always good, and most of the ingredients are things you might have kicking around in your pantry. The soy, sesame and ginger combo is flavorful, and just a tad spicy, but mild enough not to overpower a simple summer buffet. And the best part? It’s equally delicious with steak, chicken, and tuna. I have a feeling it would be great with salmon or skewered shrimp, too.

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Skirt steak is my favorite cut of beef to grill. It’s inexpensive as far as steak goes, and though it’s considered a tougher cut, the long, flat strips of meat make it ideal for marinating (not to mention it cooks incredibly quickly.)

This marinade does wonders for boneless skinless chicken breasts – the obvious, universally liked-but-often-bland choice here. I would recommend using smaller, organic chicken breasts – not only is the meat better for you and more delicious, but the breasts are easier to grill because they don’t burn on the outside before they’re cooked through.

Finally, tuna steaks are a no-brainer, because as long as you’re using good quality fresh tuna, you can’t undercook them. Just please, don’t overcook them.

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The recipe makes enough marinade for 2 pounds of your meat of choice, but for a big summer spread, you could triple the recipe and make steak, chicken and tuna. Who doesn’t love a little surf and turf? I also like to throw a few scallions drizzled with olive oil onto the grill, for a pop of green on the serving platter. While you definitely don’t need to include this step, the scallions add some major presentation points and are delicious in their own right.

Sesame-Ginger Marinated Skirt Steak, Chicken Breasts, or Tuna Steaks

Ingredients


For the marinade:
– 5 tablespoons soy sauce
– 1 tablespoon honey
– 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
– 1 teaspoon Chinese chili paste
– 1 ½ tablespoons grated fresh ginger
– 1 large clove garlic, minced or grated on a Microplane
– 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Whisk together all ingredients in a medium bowl or 2-cup measuring cup and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 24 hours.

Either:
– 2 lbs skirt steak
– 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
– 2 lbs tuna steaks

Directions

For steak:

Place the steak in a large, nonreactive shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the steak and toss to coat the meat completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, and up to 10.

When ready to grill, prepare a charcoal fire with one layer of coals or set a gas grill to medium-high heat. (You can also use a grill pan on the stove over medium-high heat.) Cook the steak for 3 minutes on each side.

Remove the steak from the grill and cover with foil for 10 minutes. Slice the meat diagonally and serve.

For chicken breasts:

Place the chicken in a nonreactive dish or bowl. Pour the marinade over the breasts and toss gently to coat the meat completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours, and up to 10.

When ready to grill, prepare a charcoal fire on one side of the grill (this way, if the chicken browns too quickly, you can move over it to the less hot side of the grill to finish cooking through without burning it.) Alternatively, turn your gas grill to medium heat, or heat a grill pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Grill chicken for about 10 minutes on each side, or until cooked through and browned on the outside.

Remove chicken from the grill and cover with foil for 10 minutes before serving.

For tuna steaks:

Place the tuna steaks in a nonreactive shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the steaks and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour, flipping the steaks midway through.

When ready to grill, prepare a charcoal fire with one layer of coals or set a gas grill to high heat. (You can also use a grill pan on the stove over medium-high heat.) Cook the steaks for exactly 3 minutes on each side. Be careful not to overcook the tuna; the center should still appear raw when you remove the steaks from the grill.

Serve immediately.


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