Whatever you call them and no matter what their size, these toppings are unique and delicious. I call them the perfect start for a party. Made larger, bruschetta sized, they could even be considered dinner. What is the difference between the three? Crostini are smaller, in Italian the word translates as “little toasts”. Bruschetta comes from the Italian word ‘bruscare’ meaning ‘to roast over coals‘. Traditionally thin slices of bread are toasted and rubbed with garlic, then drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and served warm. They are usually larger than a crostini and can be topped with almost anything…I love them topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, and vine ripened tomatoes in late summer. Add a glass of rose to the mix and I am in heaven. A tartine is the French version of an open faced sandwich, pretty much the same thing as a crostini. All three start with a crisp slice of toasted bread.
The three toppings are fresh ricotta and pickled plums, fresh goat cheese with pickled fennel, and sweet butter with chili marinated anchovies.
If you don’t have pickled plums on hand (I had a couple of jars in the pantry from my backyard plum tree at the old house), use any pickled sweet fruit. And if you haven’t tried pickled fruit you are missing something. They are amazing in combination with cheese. I’ve seen some jars in the gourmet grocery stores. You can find recipes on-line, here’s one I found interesting. I might try pickling peaches this summer, they sound delicious as well.
You can toast the bread a day or two ahead and store the toasts (once cool) in a plastic bag. They keep well and leftovers make a delicious and crunchy garnish for a bowl of soup or a dip. When the kids were little I kept a jar on the kitchen counter, they didn’t last long and were a favorite snack.
To make the toasts, cut a baguette into 1/4 inch slices (you want it thick enough to hold the toppings but not so big that it isn’t an easy bite if you are standing up with a glass of wine in the other hand). Heat your oven to 350 degrees F and lay the bread slices in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake for about 7 minutes, then turn them over and bake for another 5-7 minutes. Check them frequently as they can burn. You want them a little charred and brown on the edges but not blackened.
Pickled Fennel Tartines
- 4 cups white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup chopped fresh fennel fronds
- 2 fennel bulbs, cored and cut into ½-inch slices
- 2 dozen toasts
- 1 lb. fresh goats cheese
- Olive oil for drizzling
- Fine sea salt such as Maldon
- ½ cup freshly chopped Italian parsley
1 day to a month in advance, pickle the fennel.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves, salt, red pepper flakes, and optional fennel fronds.
- Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pack the fennel into 3 wide mouth pint sized canning jars.
- Carefully pour the hot brine over the fennel, diving the herbs and spices between the jars at the end.
- Cover and refrigerate.
- For serving, add a smear of goat cheese to each toast, top with some chopped pickled fennel, then a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of sea salt and a leaf of chopped parsley.
Tartine with chili-marinated anchovies and sweet butter
First prepare the anchovies if they came packed in salt.
- 1 (1.5 lb.) can of salt-cured anchovies
- 1 (10.2 oz.) jar of Calabrian cilis
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup (2 sticks) good quality sweet butter (unsalted)
- 2 dozen toasts from a good quality baguette
Marinate the anchovies at least a week before making the crustadas.
- Rinse them well.
- Place them in a large bowl and add water to cover, soak for about 2 hours, changing the water every 30 minutes.
- Drain and rinse again, then set aside to “drip dry” in a colander. Use when no longer drippin
- Drain the oil from the jar of chilis into the work bowl of a food processor or heavy duty blender.
- Add the chilis, removing and discarding the stems, keep the seeds. Pulse the chili oil and chilis together about 10 times, until roughly chopped.
- Add half the chili mixture to a large mixing bowl, pulse the remaining until more finely chopped. Add the olive oil and pulse to blend.
- Once the anchovies are dry, transfer them to the bowl. Pour over the pureed chili mixture. Blend gently.
- Transfer the mix to a large glass container, seal, and refrigerate for at least a week or up to 6 months.
Just before serving, use a cheese slicer, vegetable slicer, or a sharp knife to shave the butter into thin slices. Cover each toast with the butter shavings, top each with 1 or 2 anchovies, and serve.
Lastly, the ricotta and pickled plums. You could use any pickled fruit for this one, the interest is between the ricotta and sweet but tart pickle. Pickled sliced and spiced peaches would be good, also figs. Use what you have in your cupboard or in the local specialty grocery store. I happened to have some pickled plum from a backyard tree. Let me know if you want my recipe for pickling them. They were cherry plums, actually wild ones that had sown themselves from the neighbors yard.
Unfortunately I don’t have any final finished pictures because they were carried out to a hungry crowd as most excellent nibbles to have with a glass of wine or beer. The contrast made them interesting and easy to eat while in the midst of conversation.
From A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus, Menus and Stories. i have really enjoyed this cookbook from Renee Erickson of the Seattle based restaurants.