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A Trio of Spring Crostini

A Trio of Spring Crostini

Spring means it’s time to start entertaining outdoors again. I can’t wait to toss the cushions on the patio furniture, invite a few friends over and open a bottle of chilled rosé. To be honest, the wine makes anytime a party but I wouldn’t think of having friends over without a few nibbles to serve alongside my favorite summer wine. Said nibbles do have to be easy and quick and pair nicely with rosé, so here goes.

I have a definite soft spot for crostini. It’s a perfect hand-held appetizer consisting of a one or two bite morsel of something delicious perched atop a toasted slice of bread. But with so many diets avoiding grains these days, let’s think outside the box. Exuberant spring with its light and bright nature mandates a fresh new approach to the crostini-esque munchie. How about a few new ideas for making crostini without the bread?

For a delicious take on the un-crostini, toss out the bread and use a sliced pear to hold crispy prosciutto, feta cheese, toasted walnuts and a honey drizzle. Or use Belgian endive leaves, which are naturally shaped like a little canoe, nestled with a mixture of ricotta cheese, lemon and fresh spring peas. The third take is a comforting and familiar baguette slice slathered with salty tapenade, roasted tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. Familiar? Yes. Boring?  No.

So here’s the plan…make one or all three of these make-ahead bites the next time you have friends and family over. Oh, and don’t forget the rosé.

Pear Crostini with Crispy Prosciutto, Walnuts and Feta

Pear Crostini with Crispy Prosciutto, Walnuts and FetaStart to finish: 30 minutes
Hands on time: 30 minutes

Pears, ham, walnuts and cheese are a classic flavor combo that just so happens to pear (pun intended) deliciously with chilled rosé. I love using offbeat ingredients for crostini-like base appetizers and who can argue that pear is lots more flavorful than a slice of bread. Plus, it’s gluten-free providing a tasty alternative for your guests with dietary restrictions or those who just crave something delish.

It’s that easy: To keep the topping from rolling off, cut the pear wedges so that they lay as flat as possible. Sprinkle with the toppings and apply the drizzle of honey which acts kind of like sweet hairspray, holding all the little pieces together. Another trick might be to serve these with those little wooden appetizer forks for an easy pick-up and pop in the mouth.

Makes about 16 pieces


1 ripe pear
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
3 slices prosciutto, finely chopped
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons honey (best out of a squeeze bottle for easy drizzling)


Core the pear and slice it thinly into about 16 wedges. Arrange the pear slices on a sheet pan and brush them with the lemon juice to keep them from browning.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the prosciutto. Cook until crispy, about 3 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Add the nuts to the oil remaining in the pan and toast the nuts for another 2 minutes or until lightly browned and toasty. Transfer them to another paper towel lined plate and cool.

Sprinkle the prosciutto over the pears and top with a sprinkle of goat cheese, nuts and a drizzle of honey. Arrange on a platter and serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Allow to warm slightly before serving.

Prosciutto and walnuts can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.

Endive with Lemony Ricotta and Spring Peas

Endive with Lemony Ricotta and Spring PeasStart to finish: 30 minutes
Hands on time: 30 minutes

I love how the endive leaves make little canoes for the filling to rest like precious cargo. Light and fresh, the little spears are filled with a creamy, cheesy, sweet pea filling with a hint of lemon. Perfect as an accompaniment to rosé or other light white wines, these little boats are as pretty and gluten-free as they are delicious.

Makes 16 pieces


1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
Pinch cayenne
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 heads Belgian endive
1/3 cup fresh sprouts


Combine the ricotta, zest, lemon juice, peas, Parmesan, chives, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning and keep chilled.

Cut the leaves from the head of endive near the base with a paring knife, rotating the endive as you cut away the outermost leaves. They will become smaller as you cut away to the middle leaves and these smaller leaves may not be useful. Try to use only the best leaves from the two heads. You should get about 5 or 6 good sized spears from each head. The remaining smaller leaves can be chopped and added to a salad at another time.

Lay out the leaves on a serving platter and nestle in a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture on the flat base end. Top with a pinch of sprouts. Serve cold.

Filling can be made up to 8 hours ahead. Assemble and refrigerate, covered, up to 2 hours before serving.

Tapenade Toast with Roasted Grape Tomatoes, Basil and Parmesan

Tapenade Toast with Roasted Grape Tomatoes, Basil and ParmesanStart to finish: 45 minutes
Hands on time: 30 minutes

While it’s creative to serve unique and unfamiliar appetizers, there is something to be said for the tried and true, oldie but goodie, pop it in your mouth with no worries kind of nosh. This is that appetizer. Sweet grape tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, Parmesan and a swipe of salty olive tapenade just to get the juices flowing, all piled on top of a slice of toasted baguette. Since these ingredients all hail from the same neighborhood, this Provençal inspired bite partners up with rosé like the childhood sweethearts that they are. A match made in heaven.

Makes about 18 pieces


1 pint toy box or grape tomatoes, halved
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch red pepper flake
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
18 slices cut from a baguette
1/3 cup prepared olive tapenade
18 basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 small chunk Parmesan cheese or 1/4 cup grated


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Toss the tomatoes, onion, garlic and 1 tablespoon olive oil on a sheet pan and spread them out so that they cook evenly. Sprinkle with red chile flake, salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables in the oven for about 20 minutes or until they become wrinkled and soft. Remove from the oven and cool on the sheet pan.

Arrange the baguette slices on a sheet pan and brush with the remaining olive oil. Toast the bread in the preheated oven for about 10 to15 minutes or until crispy and firm. You can toast the bread while the tomatoes roast. Cool.

Spread the toasts with the tapenade and top with the tomatoes and a sprinkle of the basil.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel slices of cheese from the chunk of Parmesan to fit the toasts. Lay the cheese on top of the basil or give it a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.

Tomato topping can be made one day ahead and kept refrigerated. Bring back to room temperature before assembling. Can be assembled up to 1 hour before serving and kept at room temperature. Do not refrigerate or the bread will become rubbery.

Carla Snyder

By Carla Snyder

Carla has spent the past 30 years in the food world as a caterer, artisan baker, cooking school teacher, food writer and author of 6 cook books including the James Beard nominated Big Book of Appetizers. Her passion is sharing fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meals that cut prep time and practically eliminate that nightly sink full of dishes.

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