Now I’m a big fan of pre-dinner nibbles in the form of Bruschetta or Crostini or whatever you care to name them, but for some odd reason I tend to favour such appetisers more in the summer months. Eaten as the sun goes down alongside a glass or two of white . They’re usually assembled to use up an glut of tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines or peppers from the garden (my Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta being a bit of a favourite). Which got me thinking, there really must be some excellent store cupboard toppings that would be equally as fabulous in the depths of winter with a glass of red.
The Lovely (Cannellini) Beans topping I’ve made many a time before, but not for many years now. It’s simply a heady mix of Garlic, Fresh Chili, Fresh Rosemary and lots of good Olive Oil roughly mashed into canned or soaked and pre-cooked warm Cannellini Beans. Quick and easy, but very substantial in the flavour department!. A posh beans on toast. The Green Olive Tapenade is a newbie on me – I put it together to clear out the three half eaten tins of green olives that were lurking in my fridge – and part followed a multitude of internet recipes. And with pretty tasty and zingy results. An extremely flavourful mix of Green Olives, Olive Oil, Capers, Anchovies, Fresh Chili, Lemon Zest and Juice, Garlic and Fresh Parsley.
Both are great just on toast or pitta bread, ‘poshed up’ on Crostini or Bruschetta or served as a dip with raw veggies and breadsticks. The Tapenade is also sublime stirred through hot pasta or as a topping for tarts (see A Couple of Tomato Tarts) or pizza and even slathered onto bread for a sandwich. And probably lots more amazingly tasty treats that I haven’t thought of!.
Since herbs feature fairly highly in both these toppings I’m entering my blog to Karen of Lavender and Lovage‘s Herbs on Saturday bloggie challenge. And also to Javelin Warriors Made with Love Mondays as both my Crostini toppings are made with lots of homemade love!
Lovely (Cannellini) Beans!
Great For: Pre-dinner nibbles or appetisers, bigger kids (though my toddler Jacques adores these beans on toast!), grown-ups, parties, starters, vegetarians
2 tablespoons of good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (plus a little more for drizzling)
½ to 1 Red Chili, finely sliced (use less or none at all if you’re heat adverse)
2 cloves of Garlic, finely sliced
a 400g tin of Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed OR the equivalent in soaked and home-cooked beans (I tend to cook up large batches and use them in various recipes)
2 teaspoons of chopped fresh Rosemary leaves
1 – 2 teaspoons of Red Wine Vinegar
Salt & Pepper
Heat the oil in a saucepan on a low heat. Add the garlic and chili and fry for a few moments. Once you get a garlic aroma (but before it browns) quickly stir in your beans and rosemary together with a teaspoon of the red wine vinegar and very generous pinches each of coarsely ground black pepper and salt.
Keep the pan on the heat and allow the beans to warm through and the flavours to infuse. Once hot, remove from the hob and mash the beans a potato masher. I like a fairly rustic texture so don’t go too wild on the mashing, a few whole beans here and there are perfect.
Have a taste, adding more salt, pepper and red wine vinegar to suit. I don’t normally advise this but you may need to add a fair whack of salt to do the beans justice.
Serve warm on Crostini or Bruschetta with a naughty additional drizzle of olive oil. With a glass of red. Obviously.
Green Olive Tapenade
Great For: Pre-dinner nibbles or appetisers, bigger kids, grown-ups, parties, starters, vegetarians (if they eat anchovies that is)
200g of pitted Green Olives
a heaped dessertspoon of Capers, rinsed
3 Anchovy Fillets (canned in oil)
½ a Red Chili, sliced
a heaped tablespoon of chopped fresh Parsley
a clove of Garlic, finely sliced
Zest of ½ a Lemon plus a couple of generous squeezes of Juice
a generously large pinch of freshly ground Black Pepper
50 ml of Olive Oil
No cooking required here. Simply throw all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until you have your desired texture. Again, I quite like a fairly rustic texture here so don’t go too crazy on the blitzing. Or you could whiz with a stick blender in a deep sided dish. Taste and add more lemon and pepper if you wish; it’s unlikely you’ll need any salt.
For the Crostini
These really are a cinch to make and well worth the effort if you have friends over for a nibble, especially as they can handily be made a few hours in advance.
a Baguette, or part of a Baguette, preferably stale
a clove or two of Garlic, peeled and halved, optional
Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.
Simply slice a baguette, stale if possible, into thinnish rounds of ½ to ¾cm thickness. Slice across the baguette for smaller and more delicate crostini or diagonally for a more generous two to three bite-fulls – my personal preference! Cut as many slices as you think you may need, plus a few more just in case.
Brush both sides of the slices with olive oil, rubbing one side with the cut side of half a garlic clove. I sometimes rub garlic in, sometimes I don’t, depending on how much the toppings already have in (and mine invariably have quite a bit in!). Place on a baking tray.
Place in the hot oven for 5 to 10 minutes, turning half way through. They should be golden and crispy when done. How long they take will depend on their thickness and how stale the bread was to start with – stale obviously being quicker to ‘crisp’ up.
Set aside to cool. They can be made a few hours in advance. Top with either of the above toppings, or anything else you so care to eat!.
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