I hosted my first dinner party last week. In planning the menu, I tried to choose dishes that I could prepare at least partially in advance so I could spend more time with our friends and less at the stove. I also wanted to plan ahead and start cooking little components of each dish throughout the week so I could make the most of my time after work each day and wouldn’t be scrambling on Friday.
We started with roasted almonds and three types of crostini: caramelized peppers and onions, bruschetta, and pear & goat cheese. I love the fresh baguettes from our co-op, and it is so easy to prep the toppings in advance. On Friday, all I had to do was slice and toast the bread and spoon on the topping.
The bruschetta and pepper recipes will make a lot of toppings– enough for two dinner parties’ worth of appetizers! Assemble only the amount you think you will need– you can always put more out later. Use the leftovers for more crostini the next day, or as a pasta or sandwich add-in.
The pepper and onion crostini were by far the party favorite. You can use green peppers, but red, orange and/or yellow will look more colorful and appetizing.
- 2 baguette loaves, cut diagonally into 3/4" thick slices
- Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 bell peppers, sliced and then cut into 1" lengths
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- Pinch of salt
- 2 ounces goat cheese
- 3 cups diced tomatoes, drained
- 3/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 cup water
- 1 Bosc pear
- 2 ounces goat cheese
- Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Brush both sides of each slice of bread with olive oil.
- Arrange the bread slices on a cookie sheet and bake at 400F for 3-4 minutes per side, just until they are lightly toasted.
- Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the peppers, onions and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are browned and beginning to caramelize, about 20-30 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Spread slices of toasted baguette with goat cheese and top with a spoonful of pepper and onions.
- Drain the tomatoes in a colander for at least 30 minutes. Toss with the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of tomatoes on each slice of toasted baguette.
- Mix the lemon juice with the water. Thinly slice the pear and drop the pieces in the lemon water. This will keep the pears from browning on the serving platter.
- Spread each piece of baguette with a bit of goat cheese and top with 2-3 slices of pear. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Make Ahead and Storage
The peppers and onions and bruschetta can be prepared in advance. However, wait to slice the pears until the day of, so that they don't brown too much.