Dinner parties are super rewarding when you perfectly execute the cooking time of all of your dishes and your guests arrive when they are told to show up. But 95 percent of the time, that simply does not happen. So you have two options; adjust the tempo of your culinary symphony, or never invite those people over for dinner ever again. Although the devil on my shoulder might like to take the latter approach, I’m a sucker for entertaining, and therefore have learned how to put food on the table with the timing precision of a whack-a-mole champion. One of my secret weapons? Crostini.

“Little toast” in Italian, crostini is really just a fancy way of saying, “grilled or toasted bread with toppings.” I look at the crostini as the perfect vehicle for dishing out big flavor punches in bite-sized packages while your guests anticipate the comestible masterpiece about to be dropped on the table. While you’re putting the finishing touches on your first course, your guests will be happier than a pig in sh*t, with a crostini in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

Crostini are the ideal hors d’oeuvre because they are a “serve yourself, no utensils necessary” type of appetizer that you can prepare ahead of time whether served hot or cold. Although the possibilities for your ultimate crostini ingredient combinations are truly endless, we promise your guests won’t leave before your main course if you start with the examples below.

Crostini is the perfect vehicle for dishing out big flavor punches in bite-sized packages while your guests anticipate the comestible masterpiece about to be dropped on the table.

Roasted eggplant with fresh pesto and bacon (pictured above)
1 French baguette/loaf of your choice
1 Vidalia onion
1 Baby eggplant
1 lb uncured bacon
Pesto (homemade or store bought)
1 bulb garlic
Asiago/Grana Padano cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Slice the top off a whole bulb of garlic and season with salt, pepper, a drizzle of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and 1 tbsp butter. Wrap the garlic bulb in aluminum foil and bake in the oven at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes. Roast the bacon on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet while the garlic is roasting, and flip the bacon halfway through. Slice the eggplant into half-inch discs and place on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil on both sides of the eggplant, season with cracked black pepper, and roast for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Sauté the Vidalia onion in EVOO and butter until caramelized. Follow the homemade pesto recipe in the link above, or pick up some pesto in store. Top your baguette with the pesto, a thick slice of Asiago or Grana Padano cheese, bacon, roasted eggplant, caramelized onions and a clove of roasted garlic. Feel free to double stack this one, and add cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste.

 

Grilled-ham-with-goat-cheese-and-tomatoes

Grilled ham with goat cheese and tomatoes
1 French baguette/loaf of your choice
4 oz. goat cheese
Cherry tomatoes
Ham
Honey
Balsamic glaze

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, toss the cherry tomatoes with a tbsp. of honey, a drizzle of olive oil, 1 tsp. garlic powder, salt and pepper (and red pepper flakes if you’d like). Spread the whole tomatoes on an aluminum foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast until the tomatoes start to collapse slightly. Remove the tomatoes and let cool. Sear the ham in a skillet on high heat until it becomes crispy. Place the ham on the sliced baguette and top with a scoop of goat cheese and a roasted tomato. Top with some balsamic glaze and salt and pepper to taste.

 

Prosciutto-with-goat-cheese-and-melon

Prosciutto with goat cheese and melon
1 French baguette/loaf of your choice
Prosciutto
Goat cheese
Melon
Honey
Arugula
Sea salt

Top the sliced baguette with prosciutto, a scoop of goat cheese, a slice of melon, and some arugula. Drizzle honey and or balsamic glaze on top, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Roasted-eggplant-with-burrata-and-bresaola

Roasted eggplant with burrata and bresaola
1 French baguette/loaf of your choice
Roasted cipollini onion & pepper spread
1 baby eggplant
Bresaola
Burrata/fresh mozzarella
Scallions
Chives
Lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the eggplant into half-inch discs and place on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil on both sides of the eggplant, season with cracked black pepper, and roast for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. In a separate skillet, sauté 3-4 cipollini onions and 1 sliced bell pepper with olive oil, salt, and pepper until onions to start to brown slightly. Put the skillet in the oven and roast until bell peppers start to crisp, and then remove from the oven and let cool. In a blender or food processor, pulse the roasted onions and bell pepper until smooth. Top the sliced baguette with the roasted onion and pepper spread, roasted eggplant, bresaola, fresh burrata, sliced scallions, chives and a little lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste.