Wine & Food Killers - Garlic Bread Winter Bruschetta and Jumping Juice Pet Nat 2022

Australia Claire Bullen Natural wine Natural Wine Killers Patrick Sullivan Pet Nat Xavier Goodridge

In the deepest ebb of the winter doldrums, I stumbled upon a recipe for “winter caprese salad”. Instead of fresh tomatoes, the recipe roasted cherry tomatoes until candy-sweet, paired them with mozzarella and basil, and drizzled over balsamic vinegar for depth. It felt like a moment of sun amidst winter’s deep freeze, a reminder that it won’t be too long before summer caprese is available again. But if you can make winter caprese, why not winter bruschetta? Swap out freshly chopped, high-summer tomatoes for confit tomatoes, and jazz up the base by serving it on garlic bread.

I felt like a genius when this occurred to me, but suddenly tomatoes became rarer than hen’s teeth. (Hopefully, by the time you read this, they won’t be quite so hard to get hold of. But if they are, at a pinch you can use tinned cherry tomatoes – warm them quickly with the oil and aromatics rather than roasting.)

The result is stupidly delicious comfort food – it raised my spirits immediately. To make the garlic bread, I roasted three garlic bulbs until golden and soft, mixed them with butter and parsley, then sliced the baguette like a hasselback potato, before wedging dollops of garlic butter between each slice. That way, the baguette bakes in one piece and the garlic butter seeps into every cranny before you slice it fully.

To complete the vibe, you need a wine that feels like drinking a spritz in an Italian piazza in the heat of summer. Jumping Juice Pét Nat 2022 more than did the trick. Made with Vermentino and Nero di Troia, it bursts with strawberry and watermelon notes, with playful fizz and just enough notes of citrus pith to give it depth.

Halfway through a baguette, lips smeared with garlic butter and glass in hand, I had just one thought: Winter? I don’t know her.

Garlic Bread Winter Bruschetta
Loosely adapted from Bon Appétit and NYT Cooking
Serves 4

For the confit tomatoes:
500g cherry tomatoes
6-7 fresh thyme sprigs
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar glaze
1 teaspoon crushed chillis
Flaky sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the garlic confit butter:
3 small heads garlic
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
150g salted butter, softened at room temp
15g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Flaky sea salt, to taste

For the bruschetta:
1 large baguette (or 2 smaller bake-at-home baguettes)
Two balls fresh mozzarella in brine, drained
Fresh oregano leaves, to garnish (optional)

1. First, prepare the confit tomatoes and confit garlic at the same time. Preheat the oven to 175°C. Add all the ingredients for the confit tomatoes on a large, baking-paper-lined tray and mix with your hands to ensure they’re evenly coated. Set aside.

2. Next, prepare the confit garlic. Slice off the stem top of each garlic bulb, just so you can see the cloves within the bulb. Carefully pour olive oil into the garlic bulb, right up to the top. Wrap in aluminium foil and place upright on a small baking tray. Repeat with the other two garlic bulbs.

3. Place both trays in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour. The tomatoes should be softened, splitting and starting to brown, and the garlic should be fragrant. Remove from the oven, leave to cool.

4. Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, remove from the foil and squeeze the softened cloves into a small bowl; the confit garlic should be golden and soft enough to spread. Transfer to a food processor, along with the remaining garlic butter ingredients, and blend well, pausing to scrape down the sides with a spatula, until evenly combined. Season to taste and set aside.

5. To prepare the garlic bread, turn the oven up to 200°C. (If using two smaller bake-at-home baguettes, as I did, prepare according to package instructions and then set aside until cool.)

6. Using a sharp bread knife, slice your baguette into roughly 1-inch-thick slices, being careful not to cut all the way through (the slices should be just attached at the base, as if you were making a hasselback potato). With a butter knife, ease generous blobs of garlic butter between every slice. When finished, wrap up the baguette(s) tightly in aluminium foil, place on a large baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Unwrap the baguette(s) and return to the oven for 5 more minutes until nicely bronzed on top.

7. Separate the bread slices and arrange on a plate. Top each with a slice of fresh mozzarella and several confit tomatoes, drizzling over any tomato juices. Garnish with fresh oregano and serve right away.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our Natural Wine Killers wine subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings plus expert tasting notes for three amazing wines like this one every month.

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