How to Build the Perfect Crostini

Crostini is limited only by your imagination. Seafood, such as sardines or smoked trout, makes for a great topping. For more meaty flavor use pâté or cured meats. Many great crostini are vegetarian, made with hearty ingredients like tapenade, beans, capers, and both fresh and dried produce. Crostini is also great for dessert. As savory crostini is an excellent way to start a meal, sweet crostini made with sweet cheeses, dried fruit, and drizzled with honey is the perfect end to a meal. When building your crostini, follow this simple guide:

1 – The Base
The perfect crostini base is firm and crispy, but not too stiff. Diners should be able to consume crostini in one or two bites without it falling apart. Small slices of bread such as baguette or brioche can be lightly toasted to create the perfect vehicle for toppings. To make it gluten-free and paleo, try using root vegetables like carrots, beets, or parsnips. They can be served raw or lightly crisped.

2 – Spreads, Sauces, Oils
Spreads, sauces, and oils add flavor and texture. Nothing beats a brush of a simple high-end olive oil for a rich olive seasoning. Spreads can be both sweet and savory. For a robust, meaty flavor add a liver or seafood pâté. For a lighter flavor, use mild cheeses like ricotta, mascarpone, or goat cheese. Add some Mediterranean flair with hummus, tapenade, or pesto.

3 – Toppings
The toppings used on crostini create dimension with taste, texture, and color. For sweet dessert option, use fresh and dried fruit like berries, raisins, and figs. Vegetarian options can include baby greens, seasoned legumes, and raw or roasted vegetables. For something a little more savory, try cured meats, thinly sliced beef roast, or raw or smoked fish. Slices of cheese also make for great toppings such as hard, salty cheeses like Manchego or Parmesan, robust blues like Danish or Roquefort, or a sharp cheese like Cheddar.

4 – Garnish
A crostini garnish should complement and balance the flavors of the remaining ingredients. Use spices, herbs, glazes, or oils to add color, texture, and flavor. For dessert options, add lemon zest, lavender, or honey. Seafood crostini can be garnished with sea salt, fresh herbs like dill, and drizzled with citrus and oil. Vegetarian options can be topped with nuts, pepper flakes, and freshly cut herbs. A grainy mustard adds flavor and texture to meat crostini.

5 – Pairings
A crostini plate, with its variety of flavors, is the perfect opportunity to showcase a sampler of beer, cocktails, mocktails, or wine. A small taste for each small glass. Wine is an obvious choice.
A dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc would match up to that goat cheese crostini. The artichoke bruschetta will find affinity with the Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio.

Parmesan cheese was made for an Italian red like Chianti because the salty notes of the cheese matches up well with the dark fruit flavors of the rich wine. Rieslings will love a crostini with some ricotta and honey. Cocktails also go well with these flavorful bites. A fresh and herbaceous libation such as a pineapple basil cocktail would work well with fresh mozzarella and tomato for a twist on the caprese salad.

Beer is also a good choice; try a porter with sweeter choices such as honey and cheese on crostini. Go bold with a Belgian Tripel and pear and gorgonzola. A sour ale will stand up to a tangy tapenade.