A Simple Fall Appetizer

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Crostini are the most virtual appetizers on the planet. It has every element one could possibly want in an easy-to-prepare bite that can be as expensive or cost effective as you need it to be. A starter for a dinner party, an easy cocktail hors d'ouvres, or a meal on their own, a version of some type is almost always on my party menu and a go-to Mercy Dinner when a busy weekday sneaks up on me.
The classic combination for a crostini is fruit, cheese, and bread. The most commonly used bread is the chiabatta:

Meaning "slipper" in Italian, it's a crusty bread with a soft, spongy middle that yields itself nicely to a crostini. The loaf is sliced, anywhere from 1/4 inch to a full inch thick depending on what you're topping it with, and is brushed lightly with a fruity olive oil before being baked in the oven for 10 minutes or even grilled. Crostini can be also done successfully using a simple French baguette, but I really do prefer the versatility of the chiabatta.

For fall flavors, I love the following classic combinations:

  • sliced apples, sharp cheddar cheese
  • sliced pears, bleu cheese (roquefort), toasted walnuts, drizzle of honey
  • fig jam, imported prosciutto

All of the above can be whipped up in literally no time.

Just cut your bread to your desired thickness and lay out the slices on a baking sheet. Brush them with olive oil and bake in a 400 degree oven 7-10 minutes. Again, you can even grill the oiled slices on a grill for a couple of minutes on the oiled side. Top each slice with one or two slices of the fruit or a good spreading of the jam, a couple of dots of the cheese or a layering of the prosciutto, and return them to the oven another five minutes until the cheese just begins to melt. Take them out and drizzle some good quality extra virgin olive oil or some honey if working with bleu, and top with any chopped nuts if desired. If you don't like walnuts, then use pecans! Almond would go great with apples and cheddar as well. If you don't have prosciutto, just use a good ham like Black Forest or just put some sharp white Irish cheddar or a good bleu cheese. The options are literally endless.

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