Prosciutto & Mozzarella Crostini
Ever been given a nice food-related gift from someone and not really been sure how to use it or what to do with it to make it worthy of the gift, or so that the item lives up to its potential? Ok, did that make any sense at all? Let me explain. My husband’s boss recently took a trip to Europe. Italy was one of the stops on his trip. Knowing that my husband liked to cook, his boss brought back for him a bottle of authentic Italian extra virgin olive oil. My husband and I didn’t quite know what to do with this gift because we knew we had to use it for something special, something that would be worthy of this gift. Of course, I use olive oil all the time in cooking, in the preparing of salad dressing, in the making of marinades. But, I use extra virgin olive oil that I buy in bulk from Costco, not any of this fancy stuff. So, I knew we needed to make something special with this olive oil, something that would highlight the rich flavors of the olive oil itself.
A few months back, my husband attended a work function at a fancy, hip, new eatery in Los Angeles. At this restaurant they specialized in aged varieties of olive oil and balsamic vinegars, among other items. During the meal, as an appetizer, a tray full of crostinis with various toppings were brought out to the table, along with a selection of various olive oils and balsamics. My husband came home raving about the crostinis and the oils and vinegars and couldn’t stop talking about it. So, he suggested that we make our own crostinis and drizzle some of this fantastic olive oil over the top as one use for this wonderful gift. I agreed that it would be a fantastic way to highlight the flavors of this extra virgin olive oil.
Ingredients for this dish are simple: a loaf of crusty bread, garlic, fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, prosciutto, amazing extra virgin olive oil, and some fresh cracked black pepper.
We chose to use some beautiful heirloom tomatoes. Since this was a fancy dish with fancy ingredients such as Italian extra virgin olive oil and prosciutto, we decided to spice things up and use heirloom tomatoes rather than a variety of other tomatoes. We loved the gorgeous mix of the dark deep red-purple and the vibrant yellow-orange and how it played off of the green basil and the white mozzarella on the crostini. It just added visual contrast as well as great flavor.
The first step is to prepare the crostini itself. Take your crusty loaf of bread and slice it up. We chose thicker slices of bread for our crostinis, though I think most people tend to go for thinner slices that become crunchier and crisper.
Lay the slices of bread on a baking sheet and drizzle the slices with olive oil (no need to go with fancy olive oil here and waste good stuff, any olive oil will do), as well as cracked black pepper. Make sure to get both sides of the bread slices, not just one side. Pop the baking sheet into the oven at a super high temperature so that the bread toasts up quickly, but without burning it! Obviously, thinner slices of bread will toast faster.
While the bread is toasting, prepare the rest of the ingredients that will top the crostini. Have everything prepared before you make the final dish. The dish is meant to be prepared and then eaten, not prepared as you go and eaten at some later point down the road.
Separate out the prosciutto into small enough pieces that you can use to top off the crostini.
Slice the fresh mozzarella. Again, use pieces that are the right size for the crostini you are making.
Prepare the basil. We decided to do our basil two ways; leave some of the leaves whole, and julienne the other half of the leaves. This way, we could assemble our crostinis in a variety of different ways just to make it fun and playful.
Finally, the heirloom tomatoes, we also cut up two different ways. One way was to thinly slice the heirlooms lengthwise getting nice cuts of the tomato. The second way was to small dice both of the tomatoes and combine them together so that the red-purple and yellow-orange created a colorful mixture.
By now, the bread should be toasted. Have a couple of fresh garlic cloves on hand. Slice them in half. When you pull the baking sheet out of the oven with your hot and toasty bread, take the cut side of the garlic clove and rub it all over the top of the crostini. You’ll be amazed at how much garlic flavor you end up getting on your crostini. This just provides a hint of garlic flavor to the crostini.
It’s finally time to assemble everything together now that you’ve got all the pieces. Top your toasted bread with some prosciutto and a slice of fresh mozzarella.
Then it’s time for the basil and the tomatoes. You can do this anyway you want. A whole leaf of basil topped by a spoonful of diced heirloom tomatoes. A slice of heirloom tomato topped by a sprinkling of julienned basil. A whole leaf of basil topped by a slice of tomato. Or even a spoonful of diced tomato topped by a sprinkling of julienned. There are so many possibilities!
You end up with crostinis that are colorful and pretty! But, you’re not done yet. If you want, you can sprinkle some crushed black pepper over the crostinis. Now comes time for the main reason we made this crostini. We drizzled the Italian extra virgin olive oil over the top of each of the crostinis. You can really taste the olive oil and the quality and flavor of it. I was a little afraid that the sweetness of the tomatoes, the creaminess of the cheese, the basil and the salty prosciutto would be too strong to actually be able to taste the olive oil, but that wasn’t the case at all. The flavors of the olive oil really shine through; nutty, smooth and rich.
And, if you want, you can also drizzle a little bit of balsamic vinegar over the crostinis as well for that tangy and pungent flavor of balsamic. All of the flavors will merry together well. This is a great dish to serve as an appetizer at a dinner party or when you have company over. It’s beautiful, colorful, and most importantly, flavorful.