Sweet, herbaceous and zesty: this cranberry goat cheese bruschetta with garlic and herb chermoula makes a beautiful festive appetizer that packs a surprising punch. Serve this for the holidays or just as a special treat for company, and wait for the compliments to start rolling in.
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It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
It's hard not to love the winter holidays (though my husband can give anyone a crash course at being the Grinch). Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Russian New Year's, Kwanza or you give up after Canadian Thanksgiving, it's all equally fun.
To me, there's just something captivating about the combination of twinkling lights, music and grins on everyone's faces.
But of course, the real reason we're all in it for the holidays is the food.
I have written about the difficulties of eating and cooking around the holidays before. The rich offerings, the variety, and the sheer volume of food laid out on tables at this time of year can be staggering. This makes coming up with unique and surprising recipes year after year particularly difficult.
Luckily, that's where food bloggers like me come in!
Christmas in July
Most food bloggers start to plan their holiday posts around summertime. With campaigns and scheduled recipes, it's not out of the ordinary to be baking Christmas cookies in July, or buying out stocks of powdered sugar like it's on sale in August.
So it shouldn't surprise you to find out that the idea for these Festive Cranberry Goat Cheese Bruschetta With Punchy Garlic And Herb Chermoula came to me back in the summer, when I was setting out for a picnic with my little family.
The combination of goat cheese and cranberries has long been a favourite of mine. On that summer day, when packing up a slab of goat cheese with dried cranberries and nutty crackers, I got the brilliant idea of making cranberry goat cheese bruschetta, topped with finely chopped parsley and garlic. From there, the thought of upgrading to garlic and herb chermoula was not too far.
What is chermoula?
But what is garlic and herb chermoula, you ask? Chermoula is a spicy herb sauce that can be used as a relish or marinade. Chermoula is made up of a mix of spices, herbs, garlic and citrus juice, and it originates from the North African cooking of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.
Chermoula is punchy and pungent, a great way to add flavour to fish, or other mild dishes like cauliflower. I love to use it for a burst of flavour in my carrot soup. In other words, chermoula is the perfect solution for adding a surprising spicy twist to dishes that otherwise need it.
Why do I love chermoula?
The advantages of my garlic and herb chermoula include:
- It's very easy to customize - just use whatever herbs you have on hand, though my favourite recipe involves both parsley and cilantro
- It keeps for a long time in the fridge
- It's freezable! All you need to do is just drop spoonfuls of chermoula into an ice cube tray, and freeze, like my freezer-friendly cilantro pesto.
- It's a LOW FODMAP food - gluten-free, dairy-free, free of sugar and so much more. You can also make it without garlic if it upsets your stomach.
- It can be made from fresh or freeze-dried herbs
What are the ingredients of chermoula?
The most common chermoula ingredients are:
- Cilantro, or corinader
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
The Ease of Freeze-Dried Herbs
The best part of making this chermoula recipe is how easy it is - and best of all, how you can make it using only pantry ingredients.
As I said, chermoula is fully customizable. In the past I have published a cilantro-based version of this beautiful and unique marinade. But on that fateful July day, when I wanted to make it, I didn't have any cilantro in the fridge.
- super easy to store,
- certified gluten-free,
- taste great when rehydrated,
- are interchangeable 1-to-1 for fresh herbs in recipes, and
- are fresher than dried herbs, which lose most of their nutrients in the drying process.
All these factors make me feel like using Green Garden freeze dried herbs is healthier and better for me and my little one than relying on regular dried herbs.
Easy holiday appetizer
So now that we are all on the same page in terms of how what is chermoula in the first place, and how easy it is to make it, now it's time to discuss how to incorporate it into your holiday appetizers.
When I first dreamed up this cranberry goat cheese bruschetta topped with chermoula on that hot summer day, I felt it would fit in naturally on a festive Christmas or New Year's holiday platter.
The visual combination of red, plump cranberries, resting on generously spread snow-white goat cheese crostini is arresting. Dotted by the green-white-and-red bursts of garlic and herb chermoula, this appetizer becomes a holiday showstopper.
The taste of the sweet cranberry sauce, coupled with the tangy goat cheese and the punchy herb and garlic chermoula is an intriguing and surprising combination.
Laying all this out on pieces of crusty baguette or even besides crackers makes for a perfect holiday appetizer.
The ingredients that make up this cranberry goat cheese bruschetta couldn't be simpler.
To make garlic and herb chermoula, you need:
- 4 tablespoons Green Garden freeze dried parsley
- 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon Green Garden freeze dried garlic
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- A pinch of salt (or more, to taste)
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- juice of 1 small lemon
- 6 tablespoons water to dilute for chermoula
To make the cranberry sauce, you need:
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water for cranberry sauce
- 3 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
To assemble the cranberry goat cheese bruschetta, you need:
- One baguette or ciabatta
- 300g of goat cheese
First, you want to start by prepping all your ingredients. As we're using freeze dried garlic and parsley, there's minimal chopping involved - hurray! You just need to finely mince cilantro and squeeze out the juice of one lemon.
Now, let's make the garlic and herb chermoula. Its flavour gets better as it sits, so I like to make it first, or even a day in advance.
To make garlic and herb chermoula, combine all the ingredients of chermoula in a bowl, except the oil and lemon juice. Slowly drizzle in the oil and juice, whisking the mixture with a fork or a whisk as you go along. Alternatively, you can make this in a blender or using an immersion blender.
Set aside. Chermoula can keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for a week, or even longer, and it gets better with age!
Now, let's make my favourite easy and low-sugar cranberry sauce. This couldn't be simpler, and you can use either fresh or frozen cranberries.
Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan on high heat, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely dissolved - about 3 minutes. Add the cranberries to the pot and return to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until most of the cranberries have burst.
That's it! I use half the amount of sugar that traditional cranberry sauce uses, and no one is the wiser.
When you're ready to serve your cranberry goat cheese bruschetta, slice baguette or ciabatta thinly. Spread with 2 tablespoons of goat cheese (or more, to taste), top with a tablespoon of cranberry sauce and two teaspoons of garlic and herb chermoula. You can use more or less of each component - taste and decide how you like it.
Serve your cranberry bruschetta soon after you make it, or the bread will get soft.
You can easily substitute most of the ingredients in the chermoula. Use all parsley, all cilantro or combine both in a different ratio.
You can use equal quantities of brown sugar or coconut sugar instead of regular granulated sugar in the cranberry sauce. You can substitute the sugar for maple syrup or honey as well - just use equal amounts of syrup and water.
You can use any other bread you like instead of baguette or bruschetta. I like with this Russian dark bread as well, or sourdough.
Scaling the recipe up or down
The recipe makes a decent amount of chermoula - about 250 ml. This will be enough one whole baguette. If you're using more than one baguette, increase the amount of chermoula.
The cranberry sauce will be enough for two baguettes, so no need to double it. You can scale it down if you'd like.
If making for a large crowd and you'd like to avoid making individual servings, you can also make this as a layered dip and serve it with crackers. Just take a bowl, lay down plastic wrap on the inside of it, and layer chermoula, cranberry sauce and goat cheese (in that order). Let cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. When ready, turn the bowl onto a plate. Remove bowl and slowly peel off the plastic wrap. Voila!
You can even serve the cranberry goat cheese and chermoula dip in a bowl as is. Just layer it in an opposite order - goat cheese, cranberry sauce and chermoula.
How to make this gluten-free?
Just use gluten-free bread! You can also use Mary's crackers with the toppings served as a dip.
Alternatively, use slices of roasted sweet potatoes as the vehicle for your topping.
How to make this paleo / whole 30?
I like to use slices of roasted sweet potato as a paleo substitute for bread in this cranberry goat cheese bruschetta. Just slice your sweet potato into ½-inch rounds, or long slices lengthwise. Grill them in a pan for 5 minutes on each side, or until fully cooked. Alternatively, you can layer them on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes at 375F.
Substitute the sugar in the cranberry sauce for maple syrup or honey.
You can sub the goat cheese for cashew cheese.
How to make this keto?
Make the same substitutions as for paleo, but keep the goat cheese! You can also use a keto sugar replacement for the cranberry sauce.
How to store this?
Ideally, this cranberry goat cheese bruschetta will be served soon after making it, or the crostini will get soggy. However, all the individual components can be made days in advance! Just store them in separate containers in your fridge.
How to reheat it?
No need to reheat anything - this appetizer is served cold.
Looking for more party appetizers?
- How to Make the Ultimate Middle Eastern appetizer platter
- Pumpkin and caramelized onion puff pastry pockets
- Endive spears with celery root remoulade, cranberries and pepitas
- The Middle Eastern Small Plates E-book
Looking for similar flavour combinations?
- Almond, cranberry and sweet potato casserole with berry granola crumble topping
- Roasted sweet potato salad with onions, cranberries and nuts
- The best fall salad
If you want to see the step-by-step instructions for this Thanksgiving cranberry goat cheese bruschetta, check out my story.
Cranberry goat cheese bruschetta with garlic herb chermoula
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 3 cups cranberries fresh or frozen
- 300 g goat cheese
To make chermoula:
- Combine all the ingredients of chermoula in a bowl, except the oil and lemon juice. Slowly drizzle in the oil and juice, whisking the mixture with a fork as you go along. Set aside (chermoula can keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for a week, or even longer).
To make cranberry sauce:
- Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan on high heat, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely dissolved - about 3 minutes. Add the cranberries to the pot and return to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until most of the cranberries have burst.
To assemble cranberry goat cheese bruschetta:
- When you're ready to serve your cranberry goat cheese bruschetta, slice baguette or ciabatta thinly. Spread with 2 tablespoons of goat cheese (or more, to taste), top with a tablespoon of cranberry sauce and two teaspoons of garlic and herb chermoula. You can use more or less of each component - taste and decide how you like it.