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Local Chef: Susan O'Leary's Bruschetta

Wife and mother, Susan O’Leary of Fairfield, definitely has a natural ability when it comes to cooking and entertaining. A Weston native, food was always at the center of her family experiences. “I grew up with five brothers and sisters and everyone cooked. We’d all be in the kitchen and everyone would have a task,” she explains. When she was older, Susan’s mother started a catering company. So on the weekends she began working with her mother, helping to run parties and events.

Susan’s knowledge and passion for food grew when she moved to New York City, where cooking isn’t always at the top young people’s lists. “Working in New York City as a single person, my sister [Julie] and I were the only ones who’d actually serve food at parties. My sister Lulu actually lived in New York the same time I did too, and she would have these big parties and we would all just cook.”  With Susan running a soiree there was no need for take-out.

After New York City, she moved to Brussels, and then to Paris. As the resident American, she would give American-style cooking lessons to her friends. “The funniest thing that happened to me over there was the first Thanksgiving I have ever done myself. I went to get the bird and when I got home I opened it up and it still had its feathers and legs. I had to cut the feet off… It was a bit much. I couldn’t get all the feathers off. I cooked the turkey with the skin on it, and then took the skin off it and served it.”

Susan’s next adventure took place in Brazil at a barbeque, a major part of the Brazilian culinary culture. She reminisces, “We get to our first event that we have been invited to, and they keep passing around the meat. So I think these are the hors d'œuvres, but it turns out that’s not how it works. They bring the meat around and then at one point they put salads and vegetables out after.”

From a lifetime in kitchens around the globe, Susan has learned to combine her exotic flavors with the basics she learned at home!

O'Leary Bruschetta

Ingredients:

One Loaf of Ciabatta bread or a baguette

2 large tomatoes or 2 cups grape tomatoes

1 cup fresh chopped basil

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Brie or buffalo mozzarella

2 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix in a medium bowl chopped tomatoes/ halved grape tomatoes, basil, chopped or pressed garlic. Add Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil to taste.  My family likes a lot of juice so we usually add about 1/4 cup of Olive Oil and 1/4 cup of Balsamic.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside and let the taste marry for about 5 minutes.  Cut the bread down the middle.  Toast for three minutes.  Then place slices of Brie or Mozzarella on the bread and put back in the oven on Broil till melted.  Take out and put tomato mixture on top.  Cut up for a delicious lunch or appetizer.  In my family, we often use the Bruschetta mixture on top of Pasta with fresh grated Parmesan.  It is a light and fresh Pasta dish.

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