I've noticed a recent trend in cookbooks to hide a recipe for tomato-based jam, conserve, marmalade, or chutney somewhere in the pages. The tomato preserve will usually show up in a sandwich recipe, or else on a burger or cracker. Most of them taste okay, but they're often too sweet or too savory for more general use. The tomato marmalade in Domenica Marchetti's The Glorious Vegetables of Italy, seen here on a crostini with melted fontina, is by far the best I've made this year. It holds in perfect balance the natural sweetness of fresh tomatoes, savoriness of warm spices, and (this is key) tart bitterness of lemon zest. Marchetti includes whole swaths of peel in the preserve, enough that each bite will likely get a refreshing zing.
The assembled crostini are good, too. Gently funky fontina melts effortlessly on top of the jam to create an appetizer akin to a grown-up version of one of my all-time favorite snacks, bread pizza.
Why I picked this recipe: One more tomato preserve recipe? Why not?
What worked: The pairing of the sweetly savory marmalade with melty fontina was a grand idea. And once the marmalade is made, this is an appetizer that comes together in less than 5 minutes.
What didn't: I gave the baguette slices a quick toast (just enough to firm up the bread) before spreading on the marmalade to keep it crisp.
Suggested tweaks: These crostini would also be good with a melted mild swiss, or served room temperature with a few slivers of aged goat cheese on top. If you don't want to process the jars of tomato marmalade, you can cut the recipe in half and keep it in the refrigerator. The smaller batch takes around 1 hour to cook down.
Reprinted with permission from The Glorious Vegetables of Italy by Domenica Marchetti. Copyright 2013. Published by Chronicle Books. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:Makes 6 to 8 servings
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:2 hours
- 5 lb (2.3 kg) ripe plum tomatoes, washed
- 2 cups (400 g) sugar
- Zest and freshly squeezed juice of 2 large lemons, zest and cut into strips
- 1 to 2 tablespoons good-quality aged balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 fresh chile peppers, such as cayenne
- About 1/2 cup (115 g) tomato marmalade (above)
- 1 thin baguette (ficelle), cut on the bias into thin slices
- 8 ounces (227 g) grated fontina Val D’Aosta cheese
To make the marmalade: Wash and then sterilize five 1/2-pt (240-ml) glass jars and their lids by immersing them in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Trim the stem end off the tomatoes. With a vegetable peeler, slice the skin off the tomatoes in strips and discard. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and push out the seeds with your thumb (I do this over the sink). Cut the tomato halves in half again lengthwise, and then cut each quarter into 3 or 4 pieces. Toss the tomato pieces into a large heavy-bottomed nonreactive saucepan.
Put the sugar, lemon zest and juice, vinegar, salt, cloves, bay leaves, and chile peppers into the pot with the tomatoes. Set the pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook at a fairly lively simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until the marmalade is glossy and thick enough to spread. Be sure to stir often to prevent burning. When the marmalade is ready, remove the bay leaves and the cloves.
Spoon the marmalade into the sterilized jars, screw the lids on, and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year. Or store the marmalade in the refrigerator, where it will keep for at least 2 months.
To make the crostini: Position an oven rack 4 inches (10 cm) from the broiler and turn the broiler on.
Spread the tomato marmalade on the ficelle slices and top each with a mound of shredded cheese. Arrange the slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until bubbly and browned.
Transfer the crostini to a platter and serve immediately.