Cucumber Velvet Bruschetta | The thing I used to love watching the European master chefs make the most, was a pearl onion reduction. They would reduce pearls in all kind of awesomeness – fortified wines, vermouth, raisin juice, you name it – then season them up to make interstellar flavor asteroids that sent any dish into a new age. Pearl onions are small and impressionable – like the nerdy new kid in middle school – but in the end they provide an inventive and priceless contribution that makes the rest of us wondering why we didn’t pay more attention to them in the first place.
In this recipe, we reduce red pearls in red wine, marsala and balsamic until they’re softened to sweet perfection. Every pearl needs a throne, so we settle it upon creme fraiche-marinated cucumber threads on a sun-dried tomato buttered sourdough boat.
Now that’s a nice throne.
* You can make the Pearls and Cucumber in advance to speed this up come assembly time!
- Canola Oil - ½ tablespoon
- Red Pearl Onions - 12
- Cabernet Sauvignon - ¾ cup
- Marsala Wine - ¼ cup
- Balsamic Vinegar - ¼ cup
- Bay Leaf - 1
- Sugar - ½ teaspoon
- Salt - ⅛ teaspoon
- Cucumbers - 4, threaded
- Creme Fraiche - 3 ounces
- Lemon Juice - 1 tablespoon
- Sugar - ⅛ teaspoon
- White Pepper - ¼ teaspoon
- Salt - ¼ teaspoon
- Olive Oil - 1 tablespoon
- Butter - 2 tablespoons, softened
- Baguette - 1, sliced
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes - ½ cup (about 10), store-bought
- Roasted Garlic - 1 teaspoon
- Sugar - ⅛ teaspoon
- Salt - ¼ teaspoon
- Mandolin - with 3 mm spaghetti insert
- Mixing Bowl - large
- Fill your mixing bowl up with warm water and toss in the pearl onions.
- Let them soak for at least 10 minutes.
- Then go ahead and peel them by slicing off both ends and removing the skin. Set them aside.
- Get all your liquids measured out.
- Heat up the oil in the saucepan over medium-high heat. Let it get hot.
- Toss in the peeled pearls with the salt, and saute them for 4 minutes, stirring often.
- Now pour in all the liquids and bay leaf, stir, and toss in the sugar too.
- Bring the mix to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer it all for 40 minutes until almost all the liquid is reduced (keep about 2 tablespoons of liquid).
- Trash the bay leaf.
- Set the pearls aside or put them in an air-tight container (along with any of the reduction liquid) while you work on everything else.
- Grab that mandolin and put in that 3 mm spaghetti insert. We are going to cut our cucumbers into threads people!
- Peel all four of your cukes and slice off both ends. Trash the ends.
- Now grab your mandolin with the fancy insert.
- What you're going to do is make 2 slices on each of the 4 sides of the cucumber, so you'll only be making a total of 8 strokes. No more or else you'll get seeds! They should look like this,
- Toss those cuke threads in a mixing bowl (trash any bad ones) with the salt and let it sit in the corner for 30 minutes to give the salt time to draw out the water.
- After an hour, strain the water from the bowl.
- Then mix in the rest of the ingredients, cover the bowl, and let is rest for at least an hour in the fridge for the flavors to marinate.
- Preheat your broiler to high. Put the rack in the middle.
- Toss the sun-dried tomatoes into the blender along with the garlic, sugar and ⅛ teaspoon of the salt.
- Blend for about 15 seconds while you pour in the oil, until you have a nice coarse paste.
- Scrape the mix out of the blender into a container and set aside until you're ready to plate.
- Then go ahead and cut 10 slices of your baguette on a diagonal about ½ inch thick.
- Then smear on a thin layer of the softened butter over each piece and place them on the sheet pan.
- Sprinkle on the last small pinch of salt.
- Toss the baguette slices under the broiler until they turn light brown & crispy - about 1½ minutes. Watch them carefully so they don't burn!
- Take the bread out of the oven and smear a small tablespoon of the tomato mix on the warm bread, end-to-end.
- Swirl a little bit of the Cucumber around a fork (think spaghetti) and carefully lay it over the tomato.
- Then rest one of the Pearls on top. Way to go rock star!
* If you don't have roasted garlic, use a little bit less of the raw stuff.
* This is a fancy appetizer that is a favorite in our circles...especially among the females.