Monday, May 26, 2008

Monthly Mingle - Blog Event

Lately I have been structuring my dinner parties Italian style. I put out some nibbles or antipasti for when guests arrive. I serve a first course or primo piatto of soup, pasta, or rice. Next I serve a secondo piatto of meat and a vegetable side or contorno. Finally, for the dolce, I serve one of my trademark homemade desserts. I find spacing out different types of food makes the pace of the meal more leisurely and I don't overwhelm people with the amount of food on their plates. Serving a starch as a separate course also helps people really enjoy a good plate of pasta or risotto.

It used to be that I didn't serve antipasto (or as my southern Italian relatives would say, anitpast'). I just poured glasses of wine when people came in and ushered them to the table. I realize that I was either making guests feel rushed or else I was encouraging them to hang out in the kitchen (and my kitchen really doesn't have room for more than one person at a time). Having some nibbles out also gives me more time to relax and make last-minute food preparations. I'm not pressured to have everything ready for the table as soon as everyone walks in.

The antipasto (or hors d’Ĺ“uvre if you want to be French about it) I chose for my mother's and uncle's birthday dinner this weekend served a dual purpose. Not only did I have nice nibbles for the family, but I also made up a new recipe for a blogging event. This one is from Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey, hosted by Mansi of Fun and Food.

I decided to go with crostini for my dish. Who doesn't like to eat those crispy, flavorful bits of olive-oil-splashed bread? Crostini leave a lot of room for imagination since you can top them almost any way you please.

In this case I had to make the dish vegetarian. I decided to do a sampling of crostini rather than just one kind. The base for the crostini is the same, but I decided on two very different toppings. One is suitable for the lacto-veg folks. The other is vegan (or would suit people who don't like cheese). If you're a die-hard carnivore, you could add a slice of prosciutto to the cheese crostini and some bacon to the mushroom topping.

The cheese one can be used with any type of oil you wish. I used macadamia nut oil, but hazelnut or walnut oil would be equally good. Even a high quality olive oil would work well (particularly a flavored one).

Crostini Duo

For Crostini
1 baguette, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbl chopped fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together thyme and olive oil. Brush over all of the bread slices and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake on a cookie sheet in a single layer for 8-9 minutes.

Sherry-Mushroom Topping
8 oz. cremini mushrooms (or mushrooms of your choice)
2 large shallots finely sliced
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 Tbl. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Clean mushrooms and place in food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.

Heat olive oil in skillet. Add shallots. When they are soft, add garlic and cook till fragrant. Add mushrooms and cook until they soften. Add sherry and turn up the heat a little until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Spread over crostini.

Goat Cheese Topping
8 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup Macadamia nut oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper

Place oil in a bowl and add rosemary. Let sit at least a half an hour so that the rosemary infuses. Spread the goat chesse over the crostini and then spoon the infused oil over each one. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and garnish with rosemary leaves.

The finished product.


Mansi Desai said...

wow, these look stunning Rachel! I love the sherry version, though my husband would gladly gobble all the goat-cheese ones:)

thanks for sending them to MM!:)

Lo said...

Lovely crostini! I just planted about 6 rosemary plants in my garden this past weekend, and so the goat cheese variety is calling my name.

Will also have to consider mingling myself one of these days.

Emiline said...

I love crostini! Look at how beautiful they are.
I wish I could go to an Italian dinner party.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Em - come out to NY and I'll gladly invite you over for dinner.