Simple Holiday Starters: Crostini Three Ways

When you read the appetizer section of most restaurant menus you’ll usually find crostini or bruschetta, both a delicious treat before dinner.  What is the difference between the two?  Crostini refers to thin slices of bread that are toasted and topped with cheese, vegetables or meat.  Bruschetta refers to thick slices of bread toasted over coals or a grill, seasoned with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and typically topped with a tomato and basil mixture.   I have combined the two and refer to these creations as crostini for simplicity.  The toppings are an easy way to dress up slices of good bread.  Whether it’s for you and your honey, or for a party, crostini make elegant holiday appetizers that can be prepared without much fuss. 
My three holiday crostini toppings are:
1. Olive Tapenade
2. Ricotta, Prosciutto and Pistachios
3. Gremolata & White Anchovies

Olive Tapenade
By now you probably know that I have a serious olive addiction.  Not only do I love the rich and creamy black olives but also Castelvetrano olives, oil-cured olives, black Cerignola and green Cerignola olives.  So it’s only fitting that an olive tapenade starts my list.  This tapenade is made with black olives, Castelvetrano olives, garlic, capers, Italian parsley, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  It has a wonderfully rich, nutty, briny and buttery flavor that satisfies my olive cravings.  I found the Castelvetrano olives in a jar (Mezetta brand) at my grocery store; these and the other varieties can also be found in the olive bar at grocery stores or specialty stores. The tapenade will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

Ricotta, Prosciutto and Pistachios
This crostini is inspired from the restaurant Postino Wine Bar in Scottsdale, thanks to my sister, Cheryl.  It uses ciabatta bread as a base and the flavor combinations are unusual.  To add a layer of flavor, I dress up the ricotta with some lemon zest, olive oil, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  For special dishes like this I use good quality Prosciutto di Parma, which comes from the city of Parma in Italy and has a distinct, rich flavor (San Danielle prosciutto is another delicious alternative).  The chopped pistachios add a salty, nutty flavor for a fantastic flavor contrast.

Gremolata & White Anchovies
Yum – if you haven’t tried white anchovies yet you are in for a real treat.  They are worth the splurge and have a plump texture with a mild fish flavor (nothing like the canned brown ones).  Imported from southern Italy, they are preserved in olive oil and a bit of vinegar; you can find them in your specialty Italian markets (Denver sources: Parisi, Tony’s Market) – any leftovers can be used for a quick sauce with pasta (heat several tablespoons olive oil, add some minced garlic and white anchovies and cook until the anchovies melt into sauce; toss with linguine, or angel hair, and Italian parsley).   Gremolata is usually made with parsley, garlic, lemon zest and olive oil; the herby, garlicky gremolata is the perfect companion to the rich, piquant anchovies on a toasted baguette slice.

There are endless options for making crostini, so have some fun and get creative – add a glass of Prosecco or Champagne and you are ready to toast in the Holidays.  Cheers!

Eat well and share the love!

Holiday Crostini Three Ways: Olive Tapenade / Ricotta, Prosciutto & Pistachios / Gremolata & White Anchovies
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies (makes 12 to 15 crostini)

Ingredients:
Crostini
8 to 10 baguettes slices (thinly sliced)
4 to 5 ciabatta slices (thinly sliced)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh-cracked pepper
Olive Tapenade (yields about 1/3 cup)
15 black olives
8 Castelvetrano olives (pits removed)
1/8 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon capers, drained
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper
Ricotta, Prosciutto & Pistachios
5 tablespoons low-fat ricotta cheese
1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
Dash of extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
Pinch of kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper
2 to 3 slices of prosciutto di Parma
2 tablespoon chopped pistachios (about 12 pistachios)
Gremolata & White Anchovies
4 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley (about ½ cup packed leaves)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon minced garlic
Pinch of kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper
4 to 5 white anchovies

Directions:
Crostini
Heat oven to 375 degrees F and cut baguette and ciabatta bread into slices.  Place on a sheet pan and drizzle both sides with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and season with kosher salt and pepper.  Bake in oven for 8 to 9 minutes until golden brown.  Let cool before topping.

Olive Tapenade: (4 to 5 slices of bread)
Add all ingredients to a small blender and blend in intervals until smooth; stop motor in between intervals and scrape down sides.  Store covered in the refrigerator – will keep for one week.
Spread 2 teaspoons of tapenade on each toasted baguette slice.

Ricotta, Prosciutto & Pistachios: (4 to 5 slices of bread)
In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, lemon zest, nutmeg, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread one tablespoon of the ricotta mixture on each slice, add a half of a slice of prosciutto (torn into pieces), sprinkle with 1 teaspoon chopped pistachios and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Gremolata & White Anchovies: (4 to 5 slices of bread)
Mix together the parsley, extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Spread 1 ½ teaspoons gremolata on each toasted baguette and top with an anchovy filet.

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6 responses to “Simple Holiday Starters: Crostini Three Ways

  1. These all look wonderful! I could make a meal out of them, maybe tonight. Love your plate.

  2. These look so yummy. I am going to step outside my comfort zone and try the white anchovies. Thanks for the shout out! A meal at the restaurant at Parisi’s is in order the next time I visit. Again-YUM!

    • I think you will enjoy the white anchovy crostini, especially with a St. Germaine cocktail!  To make it easier to eat them for the first time, I suggest you slice the anchovies up and scatter on top.  And yes, would love to take you to Firenze a Tavola for some authentic Italian food.  I’m happy to spread the word about your fun new wine blog!

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