When chef Chris Hastings and I paired up on an auction item for the TumTum Tree Foundation—a non-profit that provides funds for children’s charities across Alabama—everyone assumed we’d do Southern food.
But we both cook Southern for a living and wanted to do something different. “What should we cook, Marie?” Chris asked. I said, “Let’s do Italian.”
Chris was all over it and I was just as excited, though we could’ve been making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for all I cared. I just adore Chris and, though we donated the dinner to the foundation, getting to hang out with him was like giving a gift to myself.
No assistants, no nothing—just me and Chris and a bunch of fantastic food in my kitchen. The guests—who also did an overnight stay at The Inn—hung out with us and we all sat down together to eat in my backyard.
We did two pastas: The tagliatelle with chanterelles and another with pesto, arugula and pistachios. We made salad with warm balsamic vinaigrette. Chris did an Alabama lamb with ratataouille, whole roasted gulf snapper with shrimp and a beautiful plum swirl sorbetto with biscotti.
But that’s not all. We started with a huge platter of Chris’ cured meats and this brushcetta with cheese from nearby Many Fold Farm. It’s savory, sweet and a simple way to start off any Italian dinner.
Bruschetta with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Honey
- 8 pieces crusty bread, sliced ½-inch thick
- 1 cup Brebis or soft mild goat cheese
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons mild olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 ½ pounds onions, sliced thin
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Salt and pepper
In a large skillet, melt the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the onions begin to soften, about five minutes.
Stir in the sugar and cook, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan frequently, until the onions are golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Toast bread over a wood fire or under a broiler. Pour a bit of the olive oil on each slice.
Spread cheese on slices, then spoon a bit of onions on each. Drizzle with honey. Garnish with edible flowers, if desired.