A piece of toasted bread is to a cook what a blank canvass is to an artist. There are so many possibilities for what you can create. Crostini has saved me many times when unexpected guests drop. I can always rustle up some bread and toppings for a quick snack. A quick look in your fridge and pantry and I bet you have the makings of a quick and delicious appetizer.
Let’s first talk bread. A nice loaf of ciabatta bread or a French baguette cut into ¼ inch slices will work perfectly. And there’s no shame in buying a loaf from the end of day clearance bin at your grocery store. After all, your plan is to toast or grill it to make it crunchy, right? Keep a pre-sliced loaf or two in your freezer and you’ll be ready for that impromptu party!
I like to spray the bread with a thin coating of olive oil and sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper. Now, to toast or to grill? That’s a great question. Both are good options. I find that toasting provides a crisp, crunchy texture and grilling gives the crostini a chewy, crusty quality. What is most important is watching them carefully so they don’t burn! Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes or grill over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes per side.
Now there are no boundaries when it comes to toppings. A nice soft and creamy bed of cheese or puree creates a nice base. I like to use whipped ricotta, goat cheese or a white bean dip, to name just a few options. Feel free to blend in fresh herbs, sundried tomatoes, or other ingredients that pack a flavor punch before spreading a layer on each bread slice.
Now the fun really begins! Are you in the mood for a savory snack? Top with sliced tomatoes, olives, avocado, roasted peppers, shrimp, salmon or cured meats for savory options. Spoon on a little bruschetta, pesto, or a salty olive tapenade to add depth and flavor.
Craving something a little sweeter? Top your desired cheese spread or even your favorite nut butter with fresh berries, sliced strawberries, pear, apples and other fruits. Dates, marmalade or pureed fruit with a sprinkling of toasted nuts or a drizzle of honey are other delicious options.
In my book there are no hard and fast rules. You are the artist and your taste buds can determine the combination of ingredients you use. Craving PB & J on some grilled crostini? While that may seem a bit unorthodox to some, it’s perfectly appropriate in my book. Go for it!