I think I first fell in love with making aperitivos when I was about 10 years old and I helped cater a wedding. Most of what we made were appetizers and dips or spreads for crackers or little toasts like crostinis (is it plural with an "s" or is it always plural with the "i" at the end, like "One fish, two fish. Red fish, blue fish."?). It is one of my favorite first memories of cooking, even though it was a lot of work for a 10 year old and one adult to accomplish. It's also probably the reason I like cooking so much now.
If done right, a spread for the top of a crostini can be fairly simple and quick. Which makes it great for all those holiday parties and family gatherings and it's a bit more classy than some plain chips and dip.
The first of my recipes is bread to make the crostini. This is the bread I use on a regular basis for just about anything if I don't want to take two days to make it. It's what I use for homemade stuffing, rolls for sandwiches or hamburgers and even for hot dog/sausage buns. It's not the best bread in the world, but it's good and it doesn't take forever to make. Of course if you're pressed for time, feel free to buy some good quality bread and have at it.
The other two are great on top of crostini but the sauteed onion is a favorite. I've been told by many that they would just eat the onion by itself if they could (me too... in fact I have!).
Three Hour Homemade Bread Dough
Adapted from Our Best Bites
- 1 package (7g) yeast
- 1 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- pinch salt
- 4 - 5 cups flour
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 egg, separated
In a bowl pour in yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and sugar and set aside to stand for about 10 minutes. This is to activate the yeast and will be foamy and bubbly.
In another bowl whisk together 4 cups of flour and salt. Add in egg yolk and 2 tablespoon vegetable oil as well as the yeast mixture and water, stirring to combine. If dough is too wet, add a bit more flour a bit at a time. It should be a soft dough that barely sticks to your finger.
Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl with the rest of the oil, turning to coat the dough and cover and leave in a warm place to rise for about an hour.
Punch down dough and divide into however many loafs/rolls/buns you need. For the crostini I divide it into 2 or 3 even sized long rolls.
Place your floured hands on the dough and gently roll back and forth over a floured surface until it rolls out to about 3 inch thickness or less depending how big around you want the toasts to be. Place on a lightly oiled or lined baking sheet and cover, allowing it to rest for in a warm place for another hour to hour and a half or until doubled in size.
Mix the egg white with a teaspoon or two of water and brush the tops of the bread with it just before putting in an oven preheated to 375F (190C). Allow to bake 10 minutes, take out and brush the tops again with the egg wash and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until they are golden brown on top and sounds hollow when the top is tapped. Remove and let cool.
Note: Bread can be made a day or two ahead of time.
Using a serrated bread knife, cut across the width of the bread loaf to make 1/4th to 1/8th inch thick slices.
Lay slices cut side up on a baking sheet and brush the tops lightly with olive oil and bake at 350F for about 5 - 10 minutes or until toasted and crisp on top, remove and allow to cool.
Roasted Tomato and Garlic with Dried Oregano Flowers
- 2 or 3 tomatoes roughly chopped and stem removed
- 3 cloves roasted garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- pinch of salt
- dried oregano flowers
Place the chopped tomatoes on a baking sheet and season with a drizzle of olive oil, dried oregano and a sprinkle of salt. Pop in the oven at 375F (190C) for 15 -20 minutes or until the tomatoes have shriveled a bit and the juice is all over the pan. The skins may have darkened a bit as well from the heat. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before putting in a bowl.
Pour the other tablespoon of olive oil into the bowl with the tomato and add the garlic. Take the dried oregano flower and lightly brush them with your fingers over the bowl so that the loose bits fall over the tomato. Toss lightly and you're done.
Sauteed Onion and garlic with Ricotta
- 3 - 5 onions (depends on how much you want, but I always go with at least 5)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pinches of salt
Peel the onions and cut them in half, leaving the root end on. Slice the onions into thin half moons and set aside.
Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over high heat. Add in the onions, garlic and sprinkle salt on top, tossing as you go. If they stick a bit add in the other tablespoon of olive oil. Sautee until browned and soft making sure to toss them and stir frequently to keep them from sticking much. Remove from heat and place in a bowl.
Spread ricotta on a crostini and top with the sweetened onions.
Note: When cutting a lot of onion, place them in a bowl of cold water as you go so as to reduce the fumes from the onion and thus reduce the amount of onion tears! Be sure to drain well before cooking.