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TIP OF THE DAY: Crostini Appetizers

Bruschetta and crostini are two of our favorite nibbles to serve with cocktails, wine or beer.

Both are Italian traditions, and can be made from scratch or topped with leftover cheese, meat, seafood and/or vegetables. Bruschetta can be made indoors or on the grill. Crostini, which are smaller and can fall through the grill grate, are made indoors under the broiler.
BRUSCHETTA VS. CROSTINI: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

The answer is twofold: the size of the slice, plus grilling versus toasting. Bruschetta (three or four inches in diameter) are cut from a baguette and grilled; crostini (about two inches in diameter) are cut from a thinner loaf (called a ficelle) and toasted.

Bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKEH-tuh) are grilled bread slices rubbed with garlic and topped with any variety of items. The toppings can be as simple as extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, to diced tomatoes and basil, to almost any spread, vegetable, cured meat or cheese—even fruit.

Bruschetta originated in the Tuscany region of Italy; in modern times is a popular snack or appetizer. It may have been the original garlic bread.

   
crostini-with-havarti-castelloUSA-230

Crunchy crostini with summer vegetables and melted cheese. Photo courtesy Castello USA.

 

The word comes from the verb bruscare in Roman dialect, which means “to roast over coals.” If you have access to a grill, grill the bread for authenticity. If not, you can toast it.

The word bruschetta refers to the grilled bread, not the topping. Some American manufacturers and others in the food industry misuse the term, using it to refer to the topping only and selling jars of “bruschetta” (it should be bruschetta topping). Show your superior knowledge and don’t allow the term to be distorted.

Crostini (cruh-STEE-nee) are croutons—not in the American sense of small toasted cubes of bread used to garnish soup or salad, but thin slices of toasted bread. The word is the plural of crostino, “little toast” or “little crust.”

Smaller than bruschetta, the slices are typically cut from a ficelle, a thinner baguette one to two inches wide (the word is French for string). The slices are brushed with olive oil, toasted and then topped with spreadable cheese, pâté or other ingredients. Plain crostini are served with soups and salads, (in the manner of the formerly fashionable melba toast) or set out with cheese.
 
WHY USE FRENCH BREAD WITH AN ITALIAN RECIPE?

Bruschetta began as peasant food, thought to originate in medieval times when it was common for Italian peasants to eat their meals from slices of bread instead of using expensive ceramics plates. The originators would have used any bread available to them.

Over time, the recipe became refined as an appetizer (antipasto), on more easily handled small toasts. While both countries make a large variety of delicious breads, the Italian repertoire didn’t include long, thin loaves like baguette (the French word for stick) or ficelle (the French word for string).

Here’s an overview of the differences between French and Italian breads.

Now, let’s eat! The crunchy, cheesy appetizer recipes that follow are from Castello Cheese, which has a website full of recipes with cheese.

The first recipe uses their Aged Havarti; the second their Creamy Havarti. You can substitute any semi-firm cheese that can be shaved (examples: Alsatian Muenster, Gouda Monterey Jack, Port du Salut, Reblochon, Tilsit, Tomme de Beaumont).

Prep time is 30 minutes.

 

havarti-crostini-bacon-castelloUSA-230
Crostini with bacon and havarti. The recipe is below. Photo courtesy Castello USA
 

RECIPE: CROSTINI WITH SUMMER VEGETABLES

Ingredients For 18 Crostini Servings
 
For The Crostini

  • 1 ficelle or slender baguette, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1¼ cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 4 mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 poblano or Anaheim chile pepper, seeded, stemmed
    and finely chopped
  • 8 ounces Castello Aged Havarti, shaved thinly
  • Preparation

    1. MAKE the crostini: Preheat the broiler to high. Brush the bread slices with olive oil and arrange them, oil side up, on a baking pan. Place under the broiler until the bread turns a golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove and season the crostini with chives and salt. Set aside.

    2. MAKE the vegetable topping: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and pan fry for 1 minute. Add the onion slices and continue cooking until they soften and become translucent.

    3. ADD the tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms and chiles and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and top the crostini with vegetable mixture, then with thecheese.

    4. PLACE the crostini under the broiler just before serving, until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Serve warm or room temperature.
     
    RECIPE: BACON & HAVARTI CROSTINI

    This recipe takes less time than the vegetable crostini: 16 minutes. Castello used its Creamy Havarti.
     
    Ingredients for 8 Servings

  • 8 slices of diagonally cut baguette
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, such as chives, dill, parsley and rosemary
    (you can use a combination)
  • 8 slices smoked bacon, cooked
  • 2 ounces havarti, shaved thinly
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRUSH one side of the bread slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and herbs.

    2. ARRANGE the slices on a baking pan and place under a broiler until the edges of the bread crisp to a golden brown, about 3 minutes.

    3. REMOVE the pan from the heat and top each slice of bread with a layer of crumbled bacon and shaved cheese. Return the pan to the broiler and heat until the cheese melts, about 3 minutes.

    4. REMOVE and immediately sprinkle with remaining chopped herbs. Serve while hot or at room temperature.

      




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