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Burnt Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Anchovy Bruschetta
From Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, by Francis Mallmann

Whenever I make bruschetta, I think of Aldo Langhi, chef of La Cave di Maiano, a restaurant in the hillside town of Fiesole outside Florence. Aldo's good nature no doubt had something to do with my affection for his food. Somehow, even at the frantic height of tourist season, calm reigned, and the result was impeccable food. Over the years, many of my cooks have spent a few months with Aldo, learning his cooking secrets, but also learning how to be both efficient and peaceful in a restaurant kitchen.

This recipe is my way of paying respect to a master of simple bruschetta. The key is the burning of the tomatoes. By blackening the cut sides to a crust, you get toasty bitterness and then a beautiful release of sweet tomato water when you bite down. The anchovies add pungency and the goat cheese smoothes it all out.

Ingredients:

36 cherry tomatoes (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 day-old baguette (10 ounces) sliced into twenty four 1/2-inch-thick rounds, toasted
until crisp
8 ounces Būcheron or similar goat cheese
24 anchovy fillets (about 3-1/2 ounces), drained and halved lengthwise

For the Parsley, Olive Oil, and Garlic Sauce*:

1/2 cup packed minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

Cut the tomatoes in half and put them in a bowl. Add the oregano, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine.

Heat a chapa or large cast-iron griddle over very high heat. When it is very hot, place the cherry tomato halves cut side down about 1 inch apart on the hot surface; work in batches if necessary. It is very important not to move the tomatoes while they cook, or they will release their juices and lose their shape and texture. Keep in mind that it is hard to char a tomato too much: best to err on the side of charring; and if you do move one, you are committed and you should remove it immediately. When you see that the tomatoes are well charred on the bottom, almost black (about 4 minutes), remove them using tongs or a spatula and place burnt side up on a large tray, about an inch apart so they don't steam.

Combine the parsley and garlic in a small bowl. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking to combine. The sauce will be bright green and thick with parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange the toasted bread rounds on a platter. Spread some of the goat cheese on each round, and place 3 tomato halves on top of the cheese. Garnish with the anchovies and drizzle a teaspoonful of the sauce on top. Serve immediately.

Note: A chapa is a flat piece of cast iron set over a fire.

*The sauce can be kept refrigerated for up to 3 to 4 days.

Yield: Serves 8

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