Let’s talk about entertaining shall we. I love hosting. Like a lot. Perhaps it reminds me of my planting days where a meal as simple as shepherd’s pie could turn around someone’s day. For years I lived for that. Now I guess I relish any chance to recapture those feelings, to elicit a smile with but a bite.
While hosting others can seem daunting, throwing together a few appys is mad easy. There is no easier appetizer than crostini, aka “little toasts”. Except maybe charcuterie. Both are based on the same principles of meat and cheese pairing which you can read all about in one of my latest Eat North pieces. Crostini is simply its assembled version that may very well be more economical.
First things first, you’ll need to make the toasts. Slice up a baguette or bread of your choosing, brush both sides with olive oil, and bake til crisp. Easy. Now decide on your toppings. My advice, don’t complicate it. Simply imagine yourself in front of your favourite charcuterie and cheese board then go nuts.
If that doesn’t help, I’ve put together some of my favourite- and easiest- combos.
Goat cheese + preserves
Literally any preserve will do. Red pepper jelly, partridgeberry jam (what up Newfoundland!), fig compote, onion relish – it all works.
Even bacon jam. Especially bacon jam. A little chopped chives or nuts for garnish and you’re done. Goat cheese also rocks with sliced sundried tomatoes and basil.
Cranberry sauce + brie
That leftover cranberry sauce is perfect wrapped in a warm blanket of Brie. A quick ride under the broiler should do the trick.
Prosciutto, pear, caramelized onion+ blue cheese
This is one of my favourite pizza combos and it’s equally as good in toast form. Feel free to add some pesto and may I suggest the local Dragon’s Breath from That Dutchman’s or the award winning Bleu D’Elizabeth available at Ratinaud. You may just wow even the stanchest of blue cheese haters.
Dijon, roast beef + horseradish
Got leftover roast beef? Thinly slice that bad boy and pack all the flavours of a roast beef sammy into a bite sized crostini. Go a step further with blue cheese, a pickle or even a pickled beet. In fact, anything you’d put on a sandwich, works on crostini. Think turkey, cranberry sauce and squash or maple glazed ham, pickle, and aged cheddar.
Traditional bruschetta is so much better in the Summer when the local tomatoes are at their best. This warm version full of mushroom love is perfect for the cold Winter months. Simple fry up your favourite variety of mushrooms in garlic and butter. Deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine if you like. Add a few splashes of cream plus a pinch of thyme and continue cooking til reduced and thick. Season with a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper then finish it off with shaved parmesan, Gruyere or, my fav, That Durchman’s Old Growler aged gouda. If you want to get fancy, garnish with chopped parsley or chives.
Ricotta, lemon zest + honey
Don’t knock it til you try it folks. It’s especially perfect for those citrus junkies. Actually, ricotta plays well with just about anything – sliced radish, jam, avocado, cucumber, blueberries, you name it.
Cream cheese, smoked salmon + dill
Simplicity at its best. If you want to take it to the next level, add lemon zest, capers, a slice of red onion or some thinly sliced cucumber.
I could go on and on but you get the picture; the possibilities are endless. I dare you to search ‘crostini’ on Pinterest and not get inspired. Remember, however, entertaining should never be stressful. Go as fancy as you’re comfortable or throw some chips into a bowl and call it a day. Trust me, your friends won’t care.