Here in the windy city of Chicago, the weather has taken a wicked and frosty turn. In times like these, I try to think of things that warm both the bones and the soul. So, for last night’s little gathering, I decided to make a spicy peperonata on top of herbed goat cheese toasts. When I’m hosting a party and against the clock; this is the dish I turn to.
For the peperonata:
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1 inch dice.
3 tri-colored bell peppers (orange, yellow and red), diced.
1 large clove of garlic, grated.
2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
½ teaspoon of smoked paprika.
1 teaspoon sriracha.
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.
2 tablespoons of water
Salt and pepper to taste.
For the goat cheese spread:
1 log of goat cheese.
1 sprig of rosemary, removed from the stem and minced.
1 sprig of thyme, removed from the stem and minced.
5 leaves of basil, chopped.
Fresh cracked pepper.
For the toast:
French baguette, sliced on the bias.
Start by coating the bottom of a saute pan with a healthy amount of olive oil and turn on to medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to ripple a bit at the bottom of the pan, it’s time to toss in the onions. Season with salt and pepper and make sure everything is coated with oil. After about 2 to 3 minutes, add the peppers and continue to cook for another 5 to 6 minutes. Next, take the whole clove of garlic and grate with a microplane into the pan and cook for about 30 seconds—you don’t want to go much longer or the garlic will burn. Then add the tomato paste and stir around the mixture so that it breaks up the paste a bit. Honestly, I like to somewhat caramelize the tomato paste for a few minutes before I add anything else. It gives the dish an earthy, roasted tomato taste. Now, add the vinegar, the sriracha, stir and add the water. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Last, season with salt and pepper and turn off the heat. Now it’s time for the goat cheese spread—take the softened goat cheese and place it into a bowl. Add the herbs and seasonings and mix together to let all of the flavors come together. Finally, slice the baguette on the bias (at an angle) and transfer to a baking sheet. Paint on a thin coat of olive oil on each side of the toast and place into a 400 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes. Finally, spread the goat cheese mixture on each toast and then top them with the peperonata and garnish with chopped chives. To me, this dish captures the last of farm stand produce from summer and braces you for fall by warming you from within. Moreover, it’s the perfect crowd pleaser. The complex flavors that this dish imparts gives it that stewed taste that makes your guests think you’ve been slaving in the kitchen for hours—what they don’t know won’t hurt them.