Sure, people talk about the holidays as a time to catch up with family and treasure one another, but we all know the real reason for the season (besides alcohol): food. Whether it’s the sort of feast that takes twice as long to digest as it does to clean up or just snacks for a gathering of assorted cousins you haven’t seen in ages, it’s the time of year to flex your culinary muscles and make that New Year’s gym commitment even tougher to follow through on.
Luckily for you, Tim McDiarmid of Tim the Girl is here to beef up your menu with crostini, a classic appetizer you can spice up with a variety of toppings. Take it away, Tim.
Crostini: Your Blank Canvas
Crostini, literally meaning “little toasts” in Italian, are a favorite go-to party food for us. They are versatile, easy to make ahead of time and have on hand, and allow for your inner artist to shine through.
Crostini are said to have originated in medieval times when peasants used a piece of bread rather than ceramics to eat their meals. When in Italy, as I am each summer co-hosting the fabulous women-only culinary/wine/shopping/hiking tours with my best gal Bianca from Italian Fix (which are just now on sale for next summer), you will see so many different toppings on little toasts you won’t be able to keep track of what you had from one day to the next. Region to region, crostini toppings change, as do the accents and the shoes. Close your eyes, imagine a few of your favorite flavors, and let your creativity flow. We have a few of our favorites here for you to try. As always, be brave and be bold, ladies.
*Note that you can make all the toppings and the crostini ahead of time to have on hand.
To make crostini:
- Cut ciabatta bread on bias into nice long slices about 3⁄4 of an inch thick.
- Heat large griddle or fry pan on stovetop on medium heat.
- Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and place in pan. Turn to other side when they are a nice light brown.
- When both sides are done, remove and set aside to cool.
You can also bake them in the oven, but we like to do them on the stovetop when making them for a small party so they are fresh. For ease, you can bake them in the oven until crisp, set aside to cool, and use them for up to a week. Crostini are also readily available in grocery stores pre-made.
White Bean Purée, Escarole, Fig & Honey:
White Beans (1 large tin-drained)
8 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
Handful Picked Fresh Thyme
Teaspoon of Dried Red Chilies
Bunch Escarole Cleaned & Sliced
Tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
8-10 Fresh Figs (sliced)
4 tablespoons of Honey
- In the same pan, add 4 T of olive oil, dried chilies, & garlic. Sauté until lightly browned and add the white beans.
- Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add 2 large pinches of salt. Use a spoon to puree the beans or put the mixture into a food processor. Set aside.
- Wipe out the pan and add 1T olive oil and lightly sauté the escarole. At the end, add the vinegar.
To assemble crostini, you will put a thick layer of the white bean purée, then the escarole, a drizzle of honey, and a fig or two on top.
Herb Butter & Fresh Radish:
2 T Tarragon
2 T Italian Parsley
2 T Chives
1 stick of butter
Any pretty radish
Combine all herbs and butter in a food processor. You will end up with a nice bright green butter. Wrap in saran and chill so that you can cut it into slices. When ready to assemble, just put a nice slice of the herb butter, a couple radishes, and a sprinkle of salt last minute.
Wild Mushroom & Herb:
A few handfuls of your choice of any nice wild mushrooms (we used Oyster, Chanterelle, & Hen of the Woods)
½ C White wine
2 T Butter
1 T Rosemary
1 T Thyme
½ C Heavy Cream
Salt & Pepper
- Chop mushrooms and sauté in the butter over medium heat.
- Add wine and cook down.
- Add herbs and turn off heat.
- Add cream, salt & pepper, and let cool.
And there you go! A simple, versatile snack with a fancy Italian name to make your baking them sound more impressive. If things are too hectic for you to make them yourself, of course, there’s always Tim the Girl; don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone.