For many, appetizers are better than the most elaborate main course. These savory little bites are typically served before the meal, but done right, appetizers or hors d’oeuvres can be the main event. Maybe it’s because they’re so varied in flavor and texture.
Bruschetta or crostini (little baguette bread toasts) are so simple, they hardly need a recipe. Simply start with a baguette or other small bread rounds baked until crunchy, then top with any (and every) thing under the sun.
In her 30-plus years of events, caterer Annabelle Cohen has served bruschetta for breakfast with scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, avocado and cheese; for lunch as open-faced mini-sandwiches with olive oil and caper tuna salad and tomato; and for dinner with sliced medium-rare beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce.
One of her favorite ways to present bruschetta is with a make-your-own bar in which she provides the toppings and baguette rounds or fresh pita wedges, and guests can help themselves. With today’s extra precautions for gatherings, she often has a masked and gloved helper build and serve the bruschetta to party goers.
As Cohen says, “Guests will literally eat it up.”
Here are Annabelle Cohen’s tips on building your own bruschetta bar, the perfect addition to all kinds of parties. Don’t be afraid to mix and match; Cohen says some of her best bruschetta are experiments gone right.
Bruschetta and its first cousin, crostini, are basically sliced baguette rounds. Arrange them on a rimmed cookie sheet, drizzle or brush with a little bit of olive oil, and bake at 350° F for about 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden. They can be served warm or at room temperature and topped with just about anything you want. Pita wedges also work.
Chop everything finely so the bruschetta is easy to eat. Display the toppings in decorative little bowls for a show-stopping presentation.
● Fresh tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic glaze drizzle and fresh shredded basil
● Goat cheese (chevre) with honey drizzle and toasted almonds
● Fig preserves, shredded Manchego cheese and kalamata olives
● Sauteed mushroom slices, onions and garlic with shaved parmesan cheese
● Ricotta cheese, roasted eggplant, chopped onion and balsamic glaze (asparagus,
zucchini and onion are also good in combination)
● Feta cheese, grape tomatoes, roasted red peppers and olive oil
● Boursin cheese, smoked salmon, cucumber slice and fresh dill
● Fresh and sun-dried tomatoes
● Shaved parmesan cheese
● Other cheeses including ricotta, goat cheese (chevre), fresh mozzarella and brie
● Artichoke hearts
● Pitted olives
● Cooked or smoked meats, fish and/or fowl
● Chopped avocado with lemon
● Toasted nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pignolia (pine nuts)
● Seeds like sesame, sunflower, squash (pepitas)
● Roasted vegetables like red bell pepper, zucchini, asparagus, mushrooms, carrots
● Dried or fresh fruit or berries
● Fresh figs
● Spreads like white bean hummus (recipe below)
● Extra virgin olive oil
● Balsamic glaze (available at well-stocked groceries)
● Melted preserves like apricot, fig, marmalade