Crostini Three Ways: Red Pepper, Olive, and Chicken with Capers

Picture the setting: a big old castellated building thick with stonework southeast of Siena, surrounded by the Italian equivalent of a county park. Three women of ascending age have carved a restaurant out of two rooms on the ground floor, accessible through ancient doors near the car park. We Bullhogs have come here to dine.

Fegatini con Pollo 250

By Italian standards, we were extremely early for dinner – 7:30 or so – and had the dining room, with its vaulted ceiling and sturdy flagstone floor, to ourselves. I can speak enough Italian for small talk and menu items, so I ordered all at once in a list. Pasta, wine, salads, chicken, crostini. Hungrily we sat at the massive table taking it all in, knowing our food would come out Italian style, in dribs and drabs when it was good and ready. 

The crostini came out first, beautifully presented on two plates. Small bites of incredible flavor. My kids dug in. So good, so flavorful was the crostini that my daughter’s eyes lit up. There was a pleasant glow around the table as we finished one piece and started on a second. And then, the fateful question: ‘What is it?’ 

Now, my Italian is good enough to go without a phrasebook, but it’s not that good. I saw the word ‘fegatini’ on the menu and let it slide by. Near at hand, the woman who had served us noted the pause around the table and heard my daughter’s question. ‘Fegatini con pollo,’ she said, gesturing, eager to please. ‘Chicken liver!’  She beamed and went back to preparing salad at the huge sideboard as the light went out of my daughter’s eyes and she slid her half-eaten piece of crostini back onto the plate. 

Crostini Three Ways: Chicken with Capers, Red Pepper with Feta, and Olive with Basil

Crostini Three Ways 600w

Okay, even I can’t do chicken liver crostini any more, no matter how good it tastes. Even before you add the egg yolks, it has more cholesterol than cheese. If that doesn’t matter to you, there are two wonderful recipes for chicken liver crostini in the Italian food bible ‘Il Cucchiaio D’argento’ (The Silver Spoon), which also gives us the true difference between Bruschetta and Crostini. It’s all in the intensity of the flavor.

But because crostini goes so well on the antipasto platter, I’ve developed these three alternate offerings. They may not be quite as rich as the fegatini, but you’ll find them as flavorful. In each case, cut a baguette diagonally into ¼ inch slices and bake the pieces on a cookie sheet at 350º for 12 minutes, turning once, before proceeding. I like to use a seeded baguette.

Chicken Crostini 250w

Crostini with Chicken and Capers

Makes 8-10 pieces 

Cut 3 boneless chicken thighs in half lengthwise and marinate in a tablespoon of olive oil, ½ teaspoon of thyme, ½ teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of caper juice (from the caper jar) for 3 hours at room temperature or 6-8 hours in the fridge.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When it smokes, put in all 6 chicken pieces and turn the heat down to medium. Sauté 2 minutes, turn the chicken over and sauté 2 more. Remove from the heat, slice the chicken in ½ inch pieces and sauté for another two minutes.

Dice 1 ½ ounces of soft cheese (I used brie, but Monterey Jack would work) and put it into a food processor. Add the chicken and the juices, 1 ½ teaspoons capers and a little more caper juice, and a few grinds of black pepper. Pulse several times until you have a smooth paste.

Pepper Crostini 250w

Crostini with Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Cheese 

Makes 6-8 pieces 

This one is so easy, but so good. It’s also the freshest and brightest of the three – a good counter for the meatiness of the chicken and the heady aromas of the olive.

Take 6 ounces of roasted red pepper (half the peppers from a 12-ounce jar, leaving the juice behind) and drain the pieces on paper towels or a cloth. Tear the peppers into small strips and put into a food processor. Add 2 ounces of Feta Cheese, a tablespoon of breadcrumbs and a teaspoon of good olive oil. Pulse until smooth.

Olive Crostini 250w

Crostini with Black Olives and Basil 

Makes 6 pieces 

While the crostini toppings above can be made ahead of time and left to sit covered in the fridge, because of the basil, this one should be done at the last minute. Basil goes brown so easily.

Drain 3-4 ounces of good black olives (I used Calamata, but the Salad Queen prefers oil-cured). Soak the olives in water to cover for a half hour to remove some of the salt.

Drain the olives again and put them into a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons chopped sweet onion, an ounce of fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil, and pulse to grind it all together, scraping down with a spatula as necessary.

Just prior to baking, mix half a beaten egg into the olive mix to help it set (optional). 

To finish: Slather the toppings onto the toast (1/4 inch slices of baguette baked for 12 minutes as stipulated above) and bake at 400º for a further 5 minutes on a cookie sheet. Some recommend broiling, but I’ve not had great luck with that.

These are fabulous appetizers for an Italian feast. Serve warm around the table or before seating, and watch the crostini disappear!

Siena Camponile at night

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At Woodfiredkitchen.com, Sortachef takes you on adventures in the kitchen and beyond, with tales to suit. Many of his offerings are woodfired - a flaming good recipe for pizza, bread, or something different. All recipes are original and tasty. Enjoy!
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