The recipe for the most irresistible spicy crostini is one of my favorite appetizer recipes of all time. The first Italian cookbook I ever owned was “Italy in Small Bites” by the late Carol Field. This book was my first introduction to the rich world of Italian flavors and culinary traditions. It came at the right time, as we were just about to leave for our first tour in Italy!
As I went through the book, I realized how much I loved these in-between-meal snacks and the concept of bite-size treats, served on slices of grilled bread. From the rustic bruschetta to the more refined crostini, these are ingenious ways to use day-old bread. After all, wasting bread is considered a sin throughout the Mediterranean countries.
The one recipe I kept making again and again from this book was this irresistible spicy crostini spread – crostini piccanti – from an old family recipe dating to the late nineteenth century. According to the author, the hand-written note in the margin of this one read “ottimo“- the best, and I couldn’t agree more!
The list of ingredients for this smooth and spicy spread, includes several typical Italian ingredients and condiments and a few less-expected additions as well. The flavor combination is unlike anything you have ever had, and your guests will be entertained for a long time trying to guess each one of those ingredients. These crostini are simply addictive!
- 2 large slices of dense country-style bread cut 1” thick, crusts removed
- 3 TBSP. red wine vinegar
- 6 anchovy fillets in oil, drained (or use anchovy paste)
- 3 TBSP. flat-leaf parsley
- 3 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- ¾ cup pine nuts, toasted in a skillet until golden brown
- 4 tsp. small capers, rinsed and drained
- 4½ hard-cooked egg yolks
- 12 large green olives, pitted
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- --- fine sea salt & freshly ground pepper
- 1 loaf of good-quality Italian baguette cut into ½” thick slices.
- --- extra virgin olive oil for the bread
- Set the two bread slices on a plate, drizzle the vinegar over them and leave for 15 minutes. If the slices are too big, add another tablespoon of vinegar. Squeeze the bread with your hands to remove any excess vinegar, if there is any.
- Place the bread in a food processor, equipped with the steel blade. Add the anchovies (I used anchovy paste, which I always have in my fridge), parsley, garlic, pine nuts (save 1 TBSP. for topping), small capers, egg yolks, green olives, ½ cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Process everything to a fine paste. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Brush the bread slices with olive oil and set them on a baking pan. Bake until lightly browned on both sides, turning once, about 8 - 10 minutes. You could also set the baking pan under a heated broiler and broil until lightly browned on both sides. If the weather permits, use the grill for even more delicious crostini.
- Spread the mixture over the warm crostini, sprinkle some extra toasted pine nuts and serve. Alternatively, place the mixture in a serving bowl and let the guests help themselves.
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