My husband and I look forward each spring to celebrating graduation at Amherst College. We host a party for my spouse’s students, and make it a family affair by inviting the moms, dads, siblings, and grandparents of the honorees. This year was a particularly large group with almost fifty people at our home last Saturday for champagne and appetizers.
I set out a buffet that included smoked salmon with lemon crème fraîche, a tray of cheeses garnished with fresh cherries and sage, and roasted asparagus spears with a gribiche sauce (mayo with chopped hard boiled eggs, mustard and chives). Skewers of cantaloupe marinated in Pernod and mint, plus a savory Mexican cheesecake (scented with cumin and chili) served with yellow and blue tortilla chips rounded out the menu. But, it was a simple passed hors d’oeuvre for Manchego, Tomato, and Avocado Toasts that garnered the most attention.
The recipe, created by my son (a talented and creative cook), turned out to be perfect for a large crowd. The toasts can be prepared several hours ahead and the sliced cheese, tomatoes, and avocados mounded quickly on them at serving time. Generous sprinklings of herbes de Provence and fleur de sel provide robust flavorings.
If there’s no graduation party scheduled at your house, use these delicious nibbles as an opener for your grilled or barbecued meals over the long Memorial Day weekend.
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Manchego, Tomato, and Avocado Toasts
18 baguette slices cut 3/8-inch
5 to 6 tbsp olive oil
8 oz-wedge Manchego
6 to 8 Campari tomatoes on the vine, stemmed and cut into 1/4 inch slices (See note.)
2 ripe but not mushy avocados
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 to 3 tsp Herbes de Provence
Fleur de sel
1. Arrange a rack at the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. For the toasts, arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet, and brush well on both sides with olive oil. Place in the oven and bake until croutons are crisp and golden, about 4 minutes per side. Remove and if not using immediately, leave at room temperature covered loosely with foil for up to 2 hours.
3. Stem and cut the tomatoes into1/4 inch slices. Use a cheese slicer or a knife to cut the Manchego into thin slices. Halve and pit the avocados, then remove the flesh from their shells. Slice them, lengthwise, about 1/4 inch thick and place on a dinner plate. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice.
4. To assemble, top each toast with 1 to 2 Manchego slices, then with 1 or 2 tomato slices (depending on the size of the toasts), and finally with an avocado slice. (You may have some cheese, tomatoes, and avocados left over; save to use in a salad.) Generously season the toasts with a sprinkle of herbes de Provence and some fleur de sel.
5. Arrange on a serving tray and serve. Makes 18 toasts.
Market note: Campari tomatoes, also called cocktail tomatoes, are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and usually sold in boxes. Deep red with a rich, juicy texture, they are available at Whole Foods and other supermarkets. When ripe summer heirloom tomatoes are in season, you can substitute them for the Campari.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2016