Home With The Lost Italian: Easy and adaptable – Wild Mushroom Crostini recipe can be tailored to occasion

Crostini with wild mushrooms. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

I love crostini, an Italian appetizer consisting of slices of toasted bread that can host an endless assortment of toppings. Their versatility makes them a perfect party food, as you can adapt the toppings to suit any menu. And, depending on the toppings and how thickly you slice the bread, crostini can be light and delicate, or strong and hearty, like today’s Wild Mushroom Crostini.

This recipe is a go-to for me when I’m looking for an appetizer that is quick and easy to prepare, yet still elegant and flavorful. You could use any blend of mushrooms for this dish, but to save time I often purchase mushrooms that have already been cleaned and sliced. On this occasion, our local grocery store had three varieties on hand that met these criteria: Baby Bella, Button and Shiitake.

I love the robust earthiness of mushrooms, which is balanced in this recipe by the delicate flavors of lemon zest, shallots, fresh thyme and white wine. A touch of cream is added toward the end, to give the topping a lush and velvety texture before being tossed with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The cheese acts as a binding agent for the mixture, and its wonderful, nutty quality is a perfect complement to the meaty mushrooms.

When making crostini, the topping you use will dictate the type of bread you use, as well as the size and thickness of the crostini. For more delicate crostini, like one with smoked salmon and cream cheese, I prefer to use very thin slices of sourdough or rye bread.

But this wild mushroom topping is hearty in both texture and flavor, and requires a bread that will stand up well, like a good, crusty French baguette.

To prepare the crostini, I cut the bread into 1/3-inch thick slices, and then laid them out on a baking sheet. I brushed each slice generously with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and baked them in the oven at 400 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes, until the edges are a crispy golden brown.

You can serve the crostini immediately, or cool and store them in an airtight container for up to two days, then simply crisp them up again in the oven at 350 degrees for three to five minutes before serving. The mushroom topping may also be made up to two days in advance, which makes these crostini one of my favorite party appetizers, because I can get everything ready days in advance and then just assemble and bake before serving.

This Wild Mushroom Crostini is a great vegetarian dish to have in your arsenal and can be easily adapted for vegans by omitting the cream and milk. You can serve it hot from the broiler, at room temperature, or somewhere in between, and it will always be a crowd pleaser.

“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com. More recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

Wild Mushroom Crostini

1 French baguette, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/4 cup shallots, chopped

3 1/2 to 4 cups assorted wild mushrooms, chopped to fit atop crostini

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons heavy cream (omit for vegan option)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

To garnish:

Fresh chives, cut into 1-inch slices

Fresh parsley, finely chopped

Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange baguette slices on baking sheet and brush each one generously with olive oil. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper and bake in oven until the edges are golden brown and crispy, about 7 to 9 minutes. Use immediately, or cool and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil (at least 1 tablespoon) over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook over medium-high heat for about 6 minutes, just until they start to brown.

Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, stirring often. Add the white wine and cook until the liquid reduces by half, stirring occasionally, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the cream, thyme and lemon zest. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, then taste the mixture and add salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

To assemble, top each crostino with a heaping of the mushroom mixture, about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons each. Garnish with a dusting of Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and a few sprigs of chives.

If serving later, assemble the crostini, add just the Parmesan cheese garnish, and then heat under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, just until hot. Watch closely to prevent burning. Remove from oven and garnish with fresh parsley and chives.

Sarah’s Tips:

— You can use any variety of mushroom, but for efficiency I prefer pre-sliced varieties like Baby Bella, Button and Shiitake.

— This recipe can be easily doubled for large groups.

— For a vegan option, omit the cream and cheese.

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