Seasonal Snackage

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Harvest 2009 is underway in Napa, meaning that the harvest party season is officially upon us. And that of course calls for celebration.

I am a staunch believer that when it comes to entertaining, simple is best. My favorite kind of dinner party is actually the all-appetizer sort, because (1) appetizers are typically the most interesting part of a meal; (2) the host can get all the preparation done in advance and never has to tear herself away from the party to clear dishes or prep the next course; (3) people can snack continuously all evening; and (4) sensational market-driven starters are a snap to make, especially this time of year.
The rainbow of heirloom tomatoes dominating the market right now need nothing more than sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to transform into a gorgeous tomato salad. Adding fresh herbs, soft cheese, or aged balsamic vinegar is really gilding the lily for tomatoes at their peak, although frankly I've never found that kind of gilt offensive.

Another superb late summer starter is thick-sliced peaches or nectarines, each wedge wrapped in a basil leaf and piece of prosciutto, then impaled on a toothpick for easier devouring. Luscious Mission figs stuffed with a bit of blue cheese or fresh chèvre also never disappoint, particularly when broiled quickly and then garnished with honey and fresh mint.

But the most seductive of all has got to be truffled peach bruschetta... grilled peaches tossed in black truffle butter and minced fresh rosemary while still warm from the grill. I like to slather fresh chèvre on the toasty bread, and garnish the peaches with arugula and truffle honey. Then I like to bliss out in truffle ecstasy, which often shuts down conversation. Consider yourself warned.

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