I’ve catered parties for years, and the one must-have item (aside from cocktails) is crostini. You may not know what crostini are, but you’ve eaten them. Translated as “little toasts” from the Italian, crostini are thinly sliced pieces of bread that are baked in the oven until crisp, and served as a vehicle for anything from hummus to cheese to caviar. They’re great for entertaining because they’re easy to make, they can be made and stored weeks in advance, and they’re a big step up from crackers.
To make crostini, you need three ingredients: bread, oil, and salt. That’s it! The typical bread to use for crostini is a baguette, because when you slice it into rounds, it’s the perfect one-bite size for an hors d’oeuvre. However, you can choose any kind of bread you like and simply slice it into little squares or triangles. Interesting choices include whole-grain, rye, black, and seed-studded breads.
In terms of equipment, you’ll need a bread knife, a few flat sheet pans, and an airtight container in which to store the crostini once they’re cool. Simply slice the bread into thin, bite-size pieces, lay the slices out flat on the pan, and drizzle lightly with oil, making sure to get a little oil on each one in order to prevent burning. Now, generously sprinkle the pan with salt. Bake the bread at 350 °F until it’s crisp to the touch and just starting to brown, about 10-12 minutes. Remove it from the oven and let the crostini cool, and that’s it, you’re done!
Now comes the fun part. Top the crostini with whatever your heart desires. Just by using your homemade crostini instead of crackers, your party spread will have a look of rustic elegance. Following are some topping ideas. As a general rule, put a small spoonful of the creamy ingredient on first, then add the topping. Crostini combo ideas: white bean spread with black olives, goat cheese with roasted peppers, sour cream and caviar, grilled chicken with pesto, roasted squash hummus, and sautéed mushrooms with a dab of ricotta.