Frontier Psychiatrist

Frontier Gastronomy – Crostini

Posted on: April 20, 2011

Fig Crostini

A crostini is basically a small, open-faced sandwich that feels much more glamorous.  Eating crostini is like eating tapas: a taste of this, a taste of that, and ultimately a meal.

When I make crostini, I use French bread or a baguette cut into ½ inch slices.  If the bread isn’t fresh-from-the-oven-warm and crispy-crusted (and really, how often do you make your own bread?), then toasting it is a good idea; the crunch is important both in order to contrast the generally softer toppings and to better support them.  Basically anything goes in the toppings department, although spreads or cheeses are often the best base because they stick to the bread.  If you make a variety they’re quite festive and colorful, so they’re fun for entertaining.  Here are some of my favorites:

Asparagus Crostini

Asparagus and Goat Cheese

Asparagus is one of those springtime indicators for me.  Weather cooperating (I’m never trusting that groundhog again), it should be showing up in farmers’ markets any day now. Asparagus roasts very quickly compared to many other vegetables, which makes it very convenient to prepare.  Try to find a soft, creamy goat cheese for this, or let it melt a little on the bread.  In retrospect, I might add a sundried tomato to each one next time, too. To assemble: Spread a thin layer of soft goat cheese onto warm bread.  Lay down a few roasted onion rings, then top with the asparagus pieces.  Season with additional pepper, to taste.

White Bean Puree Crostini

Pureed White Beans with Fresh Herbs

I cooked this recipe from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook, and I immediately fell in love.  The spread is a brilliant green from all the herbs mixed in, and the flavor is fresh and bright.  You can use pretty much any herb, but the flavors get a little muddled if you use too many. I like mint and cilantro together, or mint and basil.  It comes out warm from the sautéed onions/leeks, but it can be served hot or cold. To assemble: Just spread and eat!

Meatball Crostini

Meatball Parmesan

Admittedly I’m a bit of a health nut, so meatball subs are not often on my plate.  Turning something like a meatball sub, however, into a 3-bite crostini really reduces the caloric damage.  I actually made these meatballs with ground turkey and boiled them in the tomato sauce, so they’re pretty light and very flavorful.  This meatball recipe is adapted from a friend of a friend’s Italian mom’s kitchen, and I suggest making the full recipe, because you’ll never want to stop. To assemble: Put a thin layer of mozzarella cheese onto the bread (it will melt a little if the bread is warm), spoon a tablespoon of tomato sauce onto the cheese, then top with a meatball cut in half so that each half can sit on its flat side.  Sprinkle with extra parmesan.

Mascarpone, Honey and Figs

An open-faced dessert sandwich?  Why not.  Mascarpone itself is not sweet, but it takes really well to fruits and honey.  Ricotta cheese would be a perfectly good substitute for mascarpone if you prefer it.  When fresh figs are available, they’re totally outrageous as a topping here (Fig & Olive actually grills fresh ones so they basically melt in your mouth), but soft dried ones will work just as well. To assemble: For this crostini, I spread a thick layer of mascarpone on each slice of bread, drizzled some honey, and topped with a dried fig cut into quarters, followed by a little more honey drizzled on top.

Some other ideas:

  • Olive tapenade
  • Roasted and pureed squash or parsnip
  • Chorizo, fried egg, and frisée
  • Prosciutto and manchego cheese
  • Eggplant, basil, and ricotta

Recipes Referenced

Roasted Asparagus

A few ¼ inch thick slices of red onion

1 bunch asparagus

Goat cheese

Olive oil

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Break off the thick ends of each stalk and toss the asparagus with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. 

2. Rub the sliced onion with a drop of olive oil. 

3. Roast everything together at 425ºF for about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks.  The onions should be flipped halfway through. The asparagus should come out of the oven looking browned, crisp, and a little wilted. 

4. Slice them into pieces that will fit onto your slices of bread. 

White Bean Puree

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for garnish

1 leek, white part and some of the green, trimmed, well rinsed, and chopped; or 1 onion, chopped

1 cup chopped mixed mild herbs, like parsley, cilantro, mint, basil, or chervil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, tarragon, or thyme

3 cups cooked or canned cannellini, navy, or other white beans, drained, liquid reserved

About 1 cup bean-cooking liquid, stock or water, or more as needed

Salt and black pepper

1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Put the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the leek and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped herbs and cook a minute or 2 more.

2. If you want the mixture super-smooth, transfer it—along with the beans—to a blender, food processor, or food mill and process, adding as much liquid as you need to make a smooth but not watery puree. If you want a lumpier texture, mash the beans right in the pan with a fork or potato masher, adding liquid slowly to get them as soupy as you like.

3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice; taste and add more if necessary. Heat and serve immediately or keep warm over low heat for up to an hour or so. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil if you like.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce


¾ cup chopped onion

 ¼ cup olive oil

1 large can tomatoes

1 large can tomato sauce

1 large can tomato puree

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 bay leaf

¾ teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon ground black pepper


1 pound lean beef (or turkey)

1 cup soft bread crumbs

1 tablespoon parsley flakes

1 tablespoon fresh grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling on top

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1. Put all sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook on medium low heat until bubbling gently.

2. Meanwhile, mix all meatball ingredients together with your hands and form 10-12 slightly-bigger-than-golf ball-sized meatballs.

3. Turn down the heat on the sauce, and drop the meatballs into the sauce.  Boil meatballs in sauce for one hour on low heat, stirring often. 

Freya Bellin writes weekly for Mark Bittman’s web site and alternate Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include Risotto, Homemade Pizza and Tapas.


3 Responses to "Frontier Gastronomy – Crostini"

[…] for Mark Bittman and alternate Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include Crostini, Risotto, and […]

[…] Bittman’s web site and alternate Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent columns include Crostini, Risotto, and Top 5 Knife […]

[…] Bittman’s web site and alternate Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent columns include Crostini, Risotto, and Top 5 Knife […]

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