You know what I hate about the winter?  No, it’s not the shorter days.  It’s not the cold or the snow.  It’s not even the bleak gray skies that we have more often than not.

It’s the lack of good tomatoes.

Seriously, it really makes me crazy when you go to the store and you see these round, red things that look like tomatoes and even say tomatoes on the sign, but when you take them home, they’re mealy and flavorless and, let’s face it, just gross.

So, last night we had friends over for dinner – the menu was a beef stew, so obviously soup wasn’t going to be my starter of choice.  And, the weather is really too raw right now to make salads a viable option.  So, I wanted to do something that would be warming but light enough that it wouldn’t be too filling.  One of my favorite summertime starters is bruschetta – toasted bread with olive oil and garlic, basil and juicy, yummy tomatoes.  So, I thought it would be nice to adapt it for a cold winter evening and this is what I came up with.  This makes a good six pieces of sourdough bread.

Oh, and one more thing – if you can let this cook slowly over about two hours, it is well worth the wait, silky and smooth and incredibly tasty.

Winter Bruschetta

  • 6 pieces sourdough bread (cut about 1″ thick)
  • Olive oil
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 3 medium-sized red onions, about the size of a fist, trimmed, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly (about 1/4″)
  • 1 large red pepper, cored and seeded, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, plus one more peeled but kept whole
  • 8 oz. spinach or Swiss chard, chopped (I used frozen and it worked fine)
  • 1 can cannelini beans, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large shallow pan with a lid, drizzle in a couple of glugs of olive oil, add the red pepper flakes and turn the heat on – a good medium heat.  Let the oil get warm and the chilli flakes infuse, then add the sliced onions and the red pepper.  Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, then cover and let cook for about 15-20 minutes or so until soft.  Add the garlic, stir in thoroughly, then cover and cook another five minutes.

Now, add your spinach.  If you’re using frozen, don’t worry about draining, just stir it in, then add the beans and stock.  Leave the heat on medium and let it simmer, partially covered, until the majority of the stock has been absorbed or evaporated.  Taste for seasoning.

When you’re ready to serve, toast the bread with a drizzle of oil until hot and lightly crispy (about five minutes in a hot oven will do it), then rub with the whole garlic clove and top with the onion mixture.  Top with some shaved or grated Parmesan and serve.

Winter Bruschetta