Last September we spent a week in Venice, Italy. Autumn in Italy, it should be cool right? Wrong.
The few warm weather clothes we packed made repeat performances that week and our ‘light sweaters’ never escaped the suitcase.
On trips, we quickly tire of eating out. And, believe me, the produce and cheese of Italy offer a perfect excuse for eating at home (or home away from home).
So in our little apartment on a canal, we enjoyed a couple of meals that we prepared. Both times, the meal was the same. Caprese salad (Insalata Caprese) – a classic Italian salad of tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, and good olive oil – alongside prosciutto with melon, and a hunk of good bread. Heaven.
It was reminiscing about Venice that inspired these crostini – pleasantly lost in narrow passages, riding the vaporetti like sardines in a steamer, waking to the bells of a dozen churches.
Grill slices of baguette drizzled with good olive oil and your cooking is done. Top them with fresh pesto, slices of fresh mozarella and tomato, then top with a fresh basil leaf. Serve as an appetizer or snack or with a generous plate of sliced melon (and prosciutto if you like) for the perfect summer supper.
- 1 clove large garlic
- 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup toasted walnuts
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese shredded or cut in small chunks
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt to taste
- 24 1/2-inch baguette slices
- extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- 8 ounces fresh mozarella cut into 24 1/2-inch slices
- 3 medium tomatoes each sliced into 4 rounds, then 8 half-rounds (total 24 half slices)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 24 leaves small fresh basil
To make the pesto: add garlic, fresh basil, walnuts and Parmesan cheese to the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely minced. With the processor running, drizzle in lemon juice and olive oil until the pesto is smooth. Add salt to taste and pulse to combine. Set aside.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high-heat). Brush both sides of baguette slices generously with olive oil. Grill until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side. (Alternatively bake on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until crisp.)
To assemble crostini: spread a generous amount of pesto on crostini and top each with a slice of fresh mozzarella and a slice of tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top each crostini with a fresh basil leaf and serve.