I think that bruschettas and crostinis are some of the simplest crowd pleasers to prepare when you are entertaining a large gathering of people. They are extremely simple to make and are so versatile that the options are endless! Sometimes I choose combinations myself and prepare the meal before laying it out on platters as guests arrive. This is nice because it creates a beautiful presentation. Conversely, it’s a lot of fun and even less work to arrange the individual components of the dish and allow friends to compose their own crostini creations.
I really love having friends over and testing my experimentations on them! Occasionally I will have an impromptu dinner where I prepare the food and friends bring what they can to contribute. It’s always a lot of fun and these gatherings have been so successful that we have started to migrate from apartment to apartment! One night of late, we moved the party over to Brooklyn for an evening of food and drinks along with an assortment of strangers and friends all thrown together. I decided to go with the flow and plan my menu for the night based solely on whatever looked good that morning at the Union Square Greenmarket. Thus, the crostini extravaganza was born.
Harvest season is in full swing so I was overwhelmed with options. Gorgeous greens, brightly colored peppers, sweet corn by the barrel, tubs of tree fruits, heirloom tomatoes- everything was beautiful and fresh. I really like to cook by color so I picked up anything and everything that looked unusual. By the end of my shopping spree I realized I may have overdone it a little bit but was lucky enough to find out that some friends were in the area. I met up for a quick exchange of goods so that I didn’t need to trek all the way to Brooklyn with my groceries.
The final menu took shape on the spot and the combinations were as follows:
-Spicy tomato sauce, sweet corn, dollops of ricotta, and assorted sliced peppers
-Mozzarella, hazelnut basil pesto, and heirloom tomatoes
-Goat cheese, caramelized onions, baby arugula, crispy pancetta, and honey
-Butternut squash puree, blue cheese, dried cranberries, baby arugula and pistachios
I served these with a salad of ribbon shaved zucchini and summer squash tossed into a combination of unique greens. There was a bright red, frilly and bitter frisee, a meaty yet delicate purslane, soft butter lettuce and crunchy romaine. I mixed it all together with yogurt, lemon and herbs for a light and refreshing side dish. Everything was tasty and fresh!
In the end, the star of the show was dessert. As the finale, I whipped up a dessert crostini. I began with a base of honey ricotta cream. Then, I chopped up all of the fruits from the day- white peaches, tender nectarines and an assortment of plums. To this I added brown sugar, cardamom, cinnamon- and bourbon of course. I piled the fruit on top of the bread and garnished it with chopped dried cranberries, crushed pistachios and lavender. One bite was an explosion of complexities from the creamy ricotta, sweet spiced fruit, hint of nuttiness and the floral earthiness of the lavender. This will definitely be a dish to repeat.