Today, I’m sharing this simple summer appetizer made with sweet roasted cherry tomatoes and a mound of warm tangy goat cheese. Plus, I share why I believe in the power of neighbor food.
Friends, I have to be honest. My heart has been heavy the past few weeks. The weight of the news coming out of Iraq, Israel and Palestine, and Ferguson is pressing in on me.
If I’m even more honest, I’ll tell you I want to ignore it. I don’t want to look at the pictures, read the articles, take the time to let myself mourn, grieve, and get angry for all the people who are suffering. It’s so much easier to keep things light. I prefer to read funny articles, watch a silly YouTube video, and occupy myself with making good food for you all.
But these things are happening, and they’re closer than we might imagine. The images from Ferguson, especially, have invaded my days. Crowds of young black men standing with their arms in the air with the words “Don’t Shoot. My hands are up!” scrawled on T-shirts and neon colored posters.
I can’t help but weep as the images flash before me. It’s not just a little neighborhood in St. Louis I see staring back at me. It’s my neighborhood. It’s my neighbors I see in those photos.
I’ve been to enough vigils in my community to know. I’ve seen the way communities are worn down, the way trust is lost, the way anger and despair fester beneath the surface. There is real pain here. Real loss. Real injustice.
I want to talk about solutions. I want to talk about racism, the militarization of the police, failing schools, and cycles of poverty. I want to talk about how we got here and how we move forward. But I feel like today is not the day to do all of that.
I feel like today is the day to grieve. Today is the day to recognize that a life was lost. Today is the day to mourn with a community that is missing their son, brother, classmate, friend.
Today is the day to gather at the table. It’s a day to bring our casserole dishes, our anger, our pain, our confusion, our misunderstanding, and our grief, and spread it out like a potluck before us. Let’s all pull up a chair–white police officers, you come. Young black men, join us. Grandmothers and teenagers, we need you. Elected officials? You’re welcome here (but leave the campaign material at home). Educators and high school drop outs and social workers and coaches and teen moms and pastors–the table is open, and we need your voice.
Maybe it’s just a wild dream of mine, but I believe there’s healing at the table. And if a solution is going to come from anywhere, it’s going to start there. It’s going to start with garlic bread and spaghetti. It’s going to start with not ignoring the news. It’s going to start with inviting our neighbors (the crazy ones, the black ones, the liberal ones, the conservative ones, the old ones…you get it) to share a meal at our tables. It’s going to start with sharing our stories, and listening, really listening, to each other.
It’s at the table where our common humanity is most apparent. It’s at the table where we sit as equals, each of us hungry, each of us with our own heartbreaks, our own hangups, our own gifts and wisdom. This is where we learn from each other. This is where we affirm each other’s dignity. This is where we start.
I’m bringing Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese to the table. It’s simple summer fare. Easy to make. Easy to eat. There’s nothing particularly special about it, or about anything else I make, really, except that it might just have the ability to transform our relationships and our communities if we give it the chance. All it takes is setting the table, flinging open the doors, and opening our hearts to whoever shows up. That’s truly neighbor food, and I hope it’s the start of healing.
- 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1-2 Tablespoons Olive oil
- Kosher or Sea Salt
- A few pinches sugar
- Fresh ground pepper
- ½ french baguette, sliced
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon butter, melted
- 6 ounces goat cheese
- Fresh basil and olive oil for drizzling
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the tomatoes out on a baking sheet. Toss with 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil until the tomatoes are well coated, then sprinkle evenly with salt, a few pinches of sugar and fresh ground pepper. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and sweet.
- Meanwhile, mix together the remaining olive oil and butter. Use a pastry brush to brush both sides of the baguette slices with the mixture then line them on a baking sheet. Place them in the oven with the tomatoes and bake for 15-20 minutes or until browned and crisped.
- When the tomatoes are done, transfer them to an oven safe plate or serving bowl and top with the goat cheese (you can slice it, crumble it, or leave it in a log). Place it back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes to warm the goat cheese. Remove from the oven, drizzle with a little bit more olive oil and sprinkle with fresh basil. Serve with toasted baguette, crackers, or veggies.