Tribute recipe to my late friend, Chef Christo Gonzales – A colorful small plate bouquet of texture, flavor compliment & contrast. Rustic, yet sophisticated. Lite, crisp & creamy, sweet & salty, tart & tangy.
Artisan whole-grain baguettes sliced, then brushed with a garlic-infused olive oil & baked to golden perfection. Layered with smooth whipped honey-ricotta, then topped with a spoonful of sweet brandy-roasted red grapes & shallots. Garnished with seasoned & blackened walnuts, shaved Parmesan, fresh thyme leaves & ground rosemary dust. Then drizzled with a homemade balsamic reduction & served chilled.
This one is for you, Broski.
- Brandy-Roasted Grapes:
- 24oz red grapes, seedless
- 2-3 shallots, finely sliced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups white grape juice
- ½ cup brandy
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- Olive oil & Sea salt Crostinis:
- 1 baguette, sliced approximately 1" thick
- Garlic-infused olive oil
- Sea salt and fresh ground peppercorn
- Whipped Honey-Ricotta:
- 15oz part-skim ricotta cheese
- 8oz low-fat cream cheese
- ¼ cup wildflower honey
- Seasoned & Blackened Walnuts:
- 1 cup black walnuts, roughly chopped and dry roasted
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- Kosher salt and fresh ground peppercorn, to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons thyme leaves, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons dried rosemary leaves, finely ground in pestle and mortar
- Parmesan cheese, shaved
- Balsamic reduction, pre-made or click HERE for a phenomenal recipe
- Preheat oven to 400○F.
- In a heavy bottom pan over low-medium heat, bring grapes, shallots, garlic juice, brandy, cinnamon & cayenne to a gentle simmer. Cover & cook at low heat until nearly all liquid absorbed. Express caution in maintaining temperature, as to not allow grapes to burst. Set aside in refrigerator for 1 hour & cool completely.
- Slice baguette in 1" increments, brush with oil & lay flat in single layer over baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, flipping half way through. Remove when golden brown. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in mixing bowl toss walnuts with butter & sugar, season to taste with salt & pepper, then spread in a single layer over a light-colored lined baking sheet. Roast for 8-12 minutes, shaking pan ½ way through to turn nuts. Remove from oven when browned & fragrant. Spread over a cooling rack. Set aside.
- While walnuts roasting, whip ricotta, cream cheese & honey in a food processor until creamy and smooth in texture. Set aside.
- To plate, spread a layer of whipped ricotta over the toasted baguettes. Top with a spoonful of roasted grapes. Sprinkle blackened walnuts & Parmesan shavings. Dust with thyme & rosemary powder. Finally, drizzle with a dash of balsamic reduction. Season to taste, as appropriate & serve.
Chef Christo Gonzales – An amazing father and husband, incredibly talented chef, inspirational poet, a lovable & sharp-witted jokester, the selfie-taking extraordinaire of selfie-taking extraordinaires, & most compassionate of human beings. My prayers pour over his son, wife, family & those who’s lives he unforgettably touched. I’m surely thankful for our time together over the last 3 years & unique friendship we formed – I will miss our weekly late night laughs and wee-morning chats. May you rest in peace with the good Lord above. Until we meet again. -David