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Crostini

Toasts for Crostini

Get a good, airy baguette or the Italian version known as a stirato and have a container of Parsley Pesto ready.

  1. Cut the baguette into ¾-inch-thick slices on the bias?an angle of 30 degrees or so?which maximizes the surface area of the sliced bread. Use a brush (or, failing that, the back of a spoon) to dress both sides of each slice with parsley pesto?enough to stain the bread green, but not enough to soak it. (If you want to complete as much of the crostini making process ahead of time as possible, you can paint the bread with pesto a few hours before grilling or griddling or toasting it to order.)
  2. If you?re equipped for it, toast the bread in a panini press (or that George Foreman grill that you bought during a late night in front of the television) until it?s crisp?about 2 minutes. No panini press? No problem. Pop the bread into a toaster oven set at high heat for about 3 minutes, until toasted, crusty, and warmed through.
  3. Top the toasts with any of the toppings on the following pages while the bread is still a little bit warm, and serve.
Parsley Pesto

Makes a little more than 1 cup, enough for a loaf?s worth of crostini

  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves (from 1 bunch of parsley)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Large pinch of fine sea salt
  • 6 to 8 turns white pepper

METHOD

We brush the sliced bread for all our crostini with this pesto before toasting it. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree for a couple of minutes, until the mixture is an even green and smooth. Taste and adjust the salt or pepper to your liking. Store the pesto in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Shake well before using.

Cannellini, Caper, Lemon & Anchovy
  • Enough for about 8 crostini
  • 1 cup cooked cannellini beans
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped
  • flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Parsley Pesto
  • 1 teaspoon Puntarelle Dressing

METHOD

Combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir to mix. Use at once (we put a heaping tablespoon on each crostini toast) or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a few days. That?s how we make it at the restaurant. For the raid-the-cupboard version, combine: 1 cup canned cannellini beans, drained; 1 anchovy and 1 teaspoon capers, mashed or chopped together; 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley; ½ teaspoon fine sea salt; ¼ teaspoon white pepper; 1 tablespoon olive oil; juice of ¼ lemon. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Sweet Potato
  • Enough for 6 to 8 crostini
  • 1 sweet potato, roasted
  • Olive oil
  • Fine sea salt
  • and freshly ground white pepper

METHOD

Scoop the flesh out of the potato skin and mash it in a bowl, drizzling in enough olive oil to make the mash creamy and nearly loose?maybe 2 to 3 tablespoons per potato. Season the mash with salt and white pepper. When you serve, mound 1½ tablespoons mash on each toast and drizzle with olive oil.

Avocado
  • Enough for 4 crostini
  • 1 Hass avocado
  • Olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Halve the avocado: Run a knife lengthwise all the way around it, then twist it to separate the two halves. With the blade of the knife, lightly hack into the pit stuck in one of the halves, then twist the knife and pull out the pit. Slide a spoon down the side of each avocado half, between the flesh and the skin, and trace the contour and shape of the fruit to free the flesh from the skin.
  2. Now you've got a couple of options. The pretty way: Cut the avocado halves lengthwise in half, then cut them lengthwise into long, slender slices. Fan them on top of the prepared toasts. The easier-to-eat way: Cut each avocado half lengthwise in half, then make 4 or 5 crosswise cuts through the quartered avocado. Arrange the chunks of avocado on top of the toasts and serve.
Ricotta
  • Enough for about 8 crostini
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • Fine sea salt
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Find the best ricotta you can. Freshly made stuff from an Italian deli is your best bet. Heap it on the crostini toasts?1 generous tablespoon per toast works for us?then hit each one with a pinch of salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and a few turns of black pepper.
  2. Optional but nice: We like to scatter a couple of pieces of provolone cut into matchsticks on top of the ricotta to finish. Do as you will.
Roasted Eggplant
  • Enough for 8 crostini
  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • White pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • We like this simple and direct presentation of eggplant flavor, which is about half the way to baba ghanouj. (Add some tahini, lemon, and garlic, and you?re there.)

METHOD

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Slick the skin of the eggplant with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and white pepper. Put it on a baking sheet and put the pan in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes or an hour, until the skin is blistered in spots and a poke tells you that the insides are collapsing-soft and tender. (It?s almost impossible to overcook the eggplant for this.)
  2. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the eggplant cool for 5 to 10 minutes, so it?s easier to handle.
  3. We use a generous tablespoon of eggplant on each crostini and garnish it with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and a few turns of black pepper.
Cremini Mushroom & Truffle Oil
  • Enough for about 8 crostini
  • 1 cup roasted cremini mushrooms finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano, plus an additional teaspoon for each crostini
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white truffle oil
  • Stir together all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Taste and adjust as you like. We heap a generous tablespoon onto each crostini toast, then top each one with a teaspoon of cheese.
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