07/17/2012 12:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Summer Tomato Crostini with Reduced Balsamic


I treasure my weekends. When foodie related activities are woven in, that makes me smile. Yesterday my friend Helen and I headed over early to San Francisco to explore the farmers market at the Ferry Building. Our goal is to visit at least monthly, however with busy schedules, that objective is not always met. Perhaps it was the Giants game or just perfect weather, the market was jam packed with food lovers.

We parked at our secret location; that by the way may not be so secret anymore. The lot was jam packed. Luckily the attendant knows us and we just slipped in as the last person to be able to park there. We made a quick note to leave even earlier next time to assure parking. Our first stop was at the bakery that travels down from Healdsburg for the day and we picked up savory scones, donut muffins and fruit tarts. We were on a mission for shishado or padron peppers. One stand had them already packed in small plastic containers and very expensive, so the hunt continued until we ventured to the front of the building and found pardons at a reasonable price along with the ability to pick your own.

My reusable bag quickly filled with nettles, Thai basil, lemon cucumbers, padron peppers, fava beans, small heirloom tomatoes and a few other goodies. The day was still young, so off we jaunted to Fourth Street in Berkeley for a bit of shopping and eating. We landed at ZUT! which offers Mediterranean dishes using local ingredients along with hand crafted pizzas, flatbreads and focaccia. The bar celebrates locally crafted spirits, a vast selection of aperitifs and a wonderful wine list featuring Italian, French and Spanish varietals along with small lot California wines.

I began with a glass of Favorita from the Piedmont region in Italy. Quite light, crispy with a bit of effervesce -- just perfect for a Saturday afternoon lunch. We shared the Farro salad with Madjool dates, golden raisins, asparagus, walnuts, mint, and parsley, lemon and olive oil. This was a simply amazing salad that I must duplicate in the near future. Next we shared the Roasted beet salad with avocado, navel orange, grapefruit, mint, feta and olive oil. A lovely salad that celebrates California and the bounty we have here. We could not resist the French fries with garlic aioli and ketchup. It was a light and lovely meal that was just the perfect - highly recommend. Oh by the way, we had the Beignets with handmade Blueberry Jam - simply sublime.

Our last foodie stop for the day was in Berkeley at Amphora Nueva -- Berkeley Olive Oil Works. Amphora Nueva sits down the hill from the famous Claremont Hotel. Trust me, once you taste the olive oils here, your palate will change forever. You can taste each and every olive oil they sell which range from mild to spicy to peppery and from all regions around the world. They feature the largest, freshest selection of single varietal extra virgin olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars on tap. The staff is extremely helpful and makes you feel super welcome. If you get a chance, stop by for a delightful olive oil tasting experience.

After tasting many, I decided on the Spanish Hojiblanca which is well balanced yet complex with a very fruity nose and palate. It is grassy, with hints of Fuji apple and strawberry. My second one I chose was New Harvest Chilean Coratina which has an Italian style and is notes of bitter, green apple and a peppery finish. Thought I would round out my selections with aged balsamic vinegar and I chose the Blenheim Apricot White Balsamic. It is both sweet and tart with hints of apricot and honeysuckle. Mixing this with a 50/50 ratio of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar would make a perfect dressing over Arugula with a bit of shaved parmesan cheese.

With all of my goodies yesterday, I thought I would make a simple Summer Tomato Crostini for a snack. I used my new olive oil in the ricotta mixture along with Thai basil and the heirloom tomatoes. A bit of reduced balsamic drizzled over the top added the extra wow factor to these delightful crostinis.

Summer Tomato Crostini with Reduced Balsamic

Makes approximately 14


Sourdough baguette (14 slices)
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 T. chives, diced small
3 T. basil, chiffonade
3 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 cup small heirloom tomatoes cut in half
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Brush each slice of baguette with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake or broil until golden brown. Let cool.

In a bowl add the ricotta, chives, basil, olive oil and garlic and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and taste for additional seasonings.

In a small sauté pan add the balsamic vinegar and heat over medium high heat. Be sure to watch carefully. You will want it to resemble a syrup consistency. Let cool. If it becomes too stiff, add a bit more balsamic vinegar to loosen it up.