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Maple Walnut Crostini

Maple Walnut Crostini with Goat Cheese-2Note: This post contains affiliate links*

Crostini are always on my appetizer short-list when I am planning a party. For those that aren’t sure, crostini are an Italian appetizer consisting of toasted bread with toppings. Crostini are great appetizers because you can toast the bread and make the toppings ahead of time. As the holiday season is upon us, I wanted to incorporate some seasonal flavors into the topping. Thus, the Goat Cheese and Maple Walnut Crostini was born!

Let me lay down the process of making these crostini for you. First, you are going to make a batch of maple walnuts. You can do this step a few days in advance of when you want to serve the crostini. To make the maple walnuts, you will combine butter and maple syrup with spices. After adding the walnuts you will stir to coat and the sauce is reduced. You will want to cool the walnuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Be careful transferring the walnuts from the pan to the baking sheet. They are hot! I speak from experience.

Maple Walnut Crostini with Goat Cheese-2

The second step is to slice the Chiogga beets very thinly. Chioggas are sometimes called candy cane beets, not because of their flavor but because of their beautiful red and white striped interior. You can peel and slice the beets the day before you plan to serve the crostini. If Chiogga beets are your thing (as they are mine) you may want to check out my Smoked Salmon Beet Bites too.

If you have a mandoline, slicing the beets very thinly is a snap. I love, love, love my mandoline (to be clear, I am talking about a Japanese-style slicing tool not the musical instrument). I use it all the time when I need food sliced very thinly or very evenly or both! The XOX Brand Mandolin is my favorite. It is super affordable, dishwasher-safe, and easy to store. A word of caution: the V-shaped blade in mandolins are very sharp and you should always use the included food holder to protect your fingers from the blade. Again, I learned this the hard way. Twice.

The last do-ahead tip I want to share is to make the crostini up to three days before you want to serve them. I typically buy a baguette for crostini. I like the small size of the bread. It is the perfect bite. Slice your baguette into about 1/2’’ slices. Drizzle the slices of baguette with olive oil and a sprinkle or salt and pepper.

You can either make your crostini on the grill or under the broiler. Whichever way you decide to make your crostini, be sure to keep your eye on them. They can go from just about there to burnt mess in no time at all.

How to Make Goat Cheese and Maple Walnut Crostini

Once you have all your components ready, you just need to assemble the crostini shortly before you want to serve. Place crostini on a platter, place one slice of Chiogga beet on the crostini, top with a dollop or slice of goat and top with a maple walnut. I recommend taking the goat cheese out of the refrigerator an hour before you want to prepare the crostini.

Maple Walnut Crostini pin

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Ricotta Toast with Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus

Ricotta Toast with Asparagus and Morels-4

If you have become a bit tired of avocado toast, you may want to consider swapping out the avocados for ricotta. Don’t get me wrong, no disrespect to avocado toast. I love it, I eat it often, but sometimes I want something a little different. Ricotta is light and airy and perfect with so many different topping.

Ricotta toast is something that I have eaten since I was a kid. Every Italian family keeps ricotta in the fridge. You still get the rich, creamy spread you are used to from avocado toast but a whole new universe of flavors opens up for you. Ricotta can easily be used either in sweet or savory dishes, think lasagna versus cannoli.

In New York, you can find fresh ricotta at many Italian markets. Have you had fresh ricotta? It is so creamy and delicious. I die. Literally. Well, I guess figuratively but still you cannot even at how good it is. I haven’t tried making it at home although I have been told (and this video confirms) that it is really easy to make.

How to Make Fresh Ricotta

I like to use a hearty, rustic bread for the toast. For the toppings on this ricotta toast, I used morel mushrooms which were foraged from the woods near my friend Rachael’s home in Missoula, Montana. I was so excited to get a package from her with bunches of morel mushrooms. What a treat! I made this Pizza with Morel Mushrooms and Green Onions using some of the mushrooms from that same haul.

If Rachael didn’t send you any morels and you couldn’t find them locally, I would swap them out for cremini or button mushrooms. Not quite the panache of morels but still a nice meaty texture to complement the ricotta. I also used some beautiful, medium-sized asparagus chopped into bite-sized pieces to top the Ricotta toast.

Ricotta Toast with Asparagus and Morels-1

Ricotta toast with morel mushrooms and asparagus can really be eaten for any meal. I prefer savory foods in the morning and devoured the toasts on Sunday morning for brunch with coffee. But, served with a green salad or soup, the ricotta toast would also make a perfect light lunch or dinner. Plus, it is so quick and easy to make. Basically, you a few minutes to chop the mushrooms and asparagus, a few minutes to sauté them, and the time it takes to toast the bread. Brilliant when you don’t want to fuss in the kitchen on a weeknight.

Ricotta Toast with Morels and Asparagus

 

 

White Beans and Tuscan Kale

White Beans and Tuscan Kale

I love to spend a few hours cooking on Sunday in order to set myself up with healthy, satisfying meals for the week. One dish that I often cook on Sundays is a large pot of beans. Canned beans are convenient but there is something special about cooking dried beans which you can infuse with your favorite flavors. Plus, cooking them at home also allows you to control the amount of sodium that you put into the beans.

Heirloom Beans

Recently, I have become obsessed with heirloom beans. Luckily,there are few companies that are preserving the incredible diversity of beans beyond what you will find canned in the grocery store. There are two companies whose gorgeous beans I haven’t been able to resist in the past. With names like Tongues of Fire, Orca, and Rattlesnake, these heirloom beans are really beautiful, like little works of art. They make me want to buy all the clear glass containers to store them in my pantry. #pantrygoals

Rancho Gordo is a California-based company that specializes in dried heirloom beans. The other is Zursun Heirloom Beans, an Idaho-based company that also sells an amazing collection of dried beans, many of which, you may not have ever seen before. I know I haven’t seen them available anywhere in regular grocery stores. I encourage you to check out the selection of beautiful beans that both companies sell.

White Beans and Tuscan Kale

About This Recipe

In this recipe, I used Zursun’s Flageolet beans which are a favorite of the French for their cassoulet. These white beans are prized for their delicate flavor and pretty pale green color. You could use any dried white beans and they would be perfectly fine.

While the beans cook, they soak up the favors of the sage, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. The beans cook until they are creamy consistency. You add the kale, spicy red pepper flakes, and more cheese right at the end and cook until the kale wilts.

White Beans and Tuscan Kale

You end up with a stew-like consistency. You can ladle it into a bowl or spoon it on top of slices of toasted crusty bread. This meal is so hearty and satisfying; I guarantee that you will love how it warms you up from inside on cold winter days. If you have any leftover they will taste even better the next day in your brown bag lunch. I promise!

White Beans and Tuscan Kale

White Beans and Tuscan Kale

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Roasted Carrot Hummus

I saw Giada De Laurentiis make this recipe for Roasted Carrot Hummus recently on her Food Network television show Giada Entertains. I grabbed my computer during the episode and searched for the recipe on the Food Network website.

I was able to locate the recipe for Roasted Carrot Hummus but the photograph of the food on the website seemed a disservice to the appetizer that Giada demonstrated on her show. Isn’t the photo above of the Roasted Carrot Hummus much more appealing than the one posted below from the Food Network website?

Roasted Carrot Hummus

The photo of Roasted Carrot Hummus from the Food Network website

The experience that I had watching Giada’s show and many other similar experiences on the Food Network website inspired the new series that I am starting today. The focus of this series is take awesome recipes from the Food Network and to cook them at home. Then, the important part, we are going to take good photos of the recipes. The Food Network’s website has consistently terrible photos of their recipes. Did I mention that?

Roasted Carrot Hummus

I often feel frustrated when I want to pin a recipe from Food Network to my Pinterest account. The photographs of the food that come up are rather uninspired. I work hard to curate Pinterest boards that are full of tantalizing recipes and sometimes I won’t pin a recipe despite how good it sounds because the photo is bad.

So, I am taking on the challenge of a photography project to create beautiful photos of recipes that I see on the Food Network. This way I can pin the recipe and hopefully give the recipe the Pinterest love that it deserves.

Next up in this photography challenge

Here are few examples of delicious-sounding recipes that are paired with sad photos on the Food Network website. I plan to make and photograph these over the next few months.

Parmesan Pomodoro

Original photo from Food Network website

Rigatoni with Greens

Original photo from Food Network website

Southwestern Potato Salad

Original photo from Food Network website

See what I mean? Life is too short to post recipes with mediocre pictures.

Don’t you think the pin below would get a lot more repins on Pinterest than the one next to it?  This is important if you are an avid Pinterest user.

If you come across a poorly photographed recipe on the Food Network, shoot me an email with a link to the recipe and I will add it to the list of recipes that need to be photographed again. Also, I need a good hashtag for this project. If you can think of something clever, leave me a comment below.

Onto to the recipe, I made a few adjustments to the original recipe. I added tahini, cumin, and reduced the amount of oil.

Roasted Carrot Hummus

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