Today’s theme is Italian-style appetizers, all easy, all prepared in advance, all kept ready in the frig for last-minute back-yard barbecues.
RED PEPPER CROSTINI use summer’s succulent peppers. Stick with the reds for the yellows and oranges get lost paired with dark-colored balsamic vinegar.
To make olivada, place 12 ounces of good-quality (such as Kalamata or Nicoise) pitted black olives in a food processor with 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts and 2 garlic cloves. Process two or three times. While processing, add up to 3 tablespoons olive oil slowly until a paste forms. Process longer for a smooth paste, less for one where the olive meat remains identifiable (my preference).
PARMESAN CRISPS are so simple! For each crisp, place a heaping tablespoon of freshly grated Parmesan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about a dozen per sheet. Shape into a rough round. Bake at 500F for 2 minutes. Remove from oven and top with a few blades of chopped chive. Return to oven for another minute or until deep gold in color. Let cool for 2 minutes, then transfer to rack with a metal spatula.
RED PEPPER CROSTINI
Active time: 10 minutes for peppers, 5 minutes for bread
Occasional attention: 20 minutes for peppers, 15 minutes for bread
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced in 1” lengths
- 2 red peppers, cut in thin 1” lengths
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon capers (or more)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 loaf crusty bread, about 2 inches in diameter (or larger if small loaf not available)
- Cream cheese, low-fat Neufchatel works great
- Chopped parsley (optional)
Heat large skillet. Sauté onion in olive oil until onion is soft. Add pepper strips and sauté until soft, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, capers and balsamic vinegar and simmer gently until liquid is reduced. Season.
While red pepper mix is sautéing, slice loaf ¼ inch thick, then again (if needed) to make pieces two or three bites big. Mist both sides with olive oil and place on baking sheet. Bake 350F until lightly toasted, about 15 minutes. Let cool and transfer to freezer bag. Store in freezer until ready to serve.
To serve, spread crostini (the toasted bread) with cream cheese, then top with red pepper mixture. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
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