What is Crostini?
Cros·ti·ni: Noun. A fancy name for small slices of toast with toppings. (FYI, that’s my definition. Not Merriam-Webster’s!)
When to serve Crostini
It is frequent, if not reliable, that if I am hosting one friend or a full scale party, there will be Crostini’s! In fact, I call it the “Crostini Du Jour!” Crostini’s are the perfect accompaniment to a glass of wine when chatting with a friend, and easily scalable so you can also please a crowd.
It’s all about the base
Crostini is all about the base. Your toppings may be delicious, but if they don’t hold up on the base because the bread is soggy, or the base is too hard and crumbles in your hands, then it doesn’t matter how good the toppings are. Think about the crostini toast as the foundation to your building – it’s essential. All you need for a great foundation is a fresh baguette, extra virgin olive oil (evoo) spray, an oven, and a sheet pan.
How to make Crostini
The Best Crostini toppings
The toppings can be super simple such as tomato bruschetta, or can be as creative as you want. There are endless amounts of Crostini toppings and they can be followed exactly or they can inspire you. Once you know how to make a good base (I’ll show you how to make crostini toast in the video below), and you understand the basic combinations that go well together, you can really start to get creative. You will be able to create toppings from items in your pantry, from leftovers and you’ll make new inspirations. Here are some popular combinations:
- Goat Cheese with Fig Jam
- Ricotta & Herbs
- Tomato Bruschetta
- Beef & Horseradish Sauce
- Goat cheese & Roasted Peppers
- Olive Tapenade
- Whipped feta & tomatoes
- Goat cheese, Whipped Feta or Ricotta Cheese with Truffle Honey
Recipe: Crostini with Goat Cheese & Peppers
In a medium sized bowl, combine 1 jar of thin sliced roasted peppers- drained and pated dry, with 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 cloves minced garlic, .5 tsp kosher salt (or to taste), 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper and 2 tbsp drained capers. Cover and marinate for 3-4 hours at room temp. Taste for seasoning.
Top toast points with generous portion of room temperature goat cheese and then top with the roasted pepper mixture. Ensure each piece has a few capers. Garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately.
Sharing what I have learned
Like most things in the kitchen, you learn to get good at something through trial and error. Crostini is no different, Through experience I have learned a few things that I can share with you.
First, I learned that traditional recipes call for brushing the toasts with olive oil before baking. I found this not only to be time consuming, but it was inconsistent. Where the brush landed often was soaked with too much olive oil while other spots were too dry. It also makes an oily mess. So I thought, “Why not use olive oil spray?” Once I tried that, I never looked back. It provided a consistent application across the bread and takes seconds to do! Note: I did not say Pam spray or canola oil spray, I said Extra Virgin Olive Oil spray.
Next, I learned that store bought toast points (or crostini toast) are never as good as home made. It’s not even worth discussing further.
Finally, I learned that the smaller circumference of the baguette, the better. in other words, try to find a narrow baguette. We are going for a toast point that is small and easy to manage in 1-2 bites. Beyond that, it becomes an open faced sandwich!
Recipe: Crostini with Spicy Crab
In a medium sized bowl, combine .5 lb lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage, .5 tsp chopped garlic, 1/4 lb Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeños, grated, 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp Hot Sauce, such as Franks, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 cup Mayonnaise, 1/8 cup diced jarred jalapeños.
Top toast points with Crab mixture and top with a sprinkle of grated Monterey Jack. Bake at 350°F for about 10 mixtures or until heated through. Garnish with a thin piece of fresh jalapeño.
Make Ahead Tips:
- Slice the baguette and store for up to one day in a zip- lock bag, with the air squeezed out. This way, the bread is ready to spray, season and toast when you are!
- Many of the toppings can be prepared at least one day in advance such as herbed ricotta or whipped feta. Just be sure to bring things topping close to room temperature before serving, especially vegetables or certain cheeses.
- If your topping can handle some garlic flavor, take a peeled clove of garlic and rub it on the toasted bread slices before serving. This is a great tip from Ina Garten. You won’t believe the level of flavor it adds. (Do this sparingly- it adds more flavor than you think!)