Today was the first of two Holiday Appetizers cooking classes in my Two Aprons kitchen, otherwise known as my London basement. The classes are such a joy to teach – I can’t believe I get to cook and talk about food for two hours straight! On the menu were Pear Ginger Toddies (good way to start off the class, especially as some were nursing colds and it was dark, drizzly and chilly outside), Spinach Bars, Spiced Mixed Nuts, Garlicky Bean Dip with Baked Pita Chips, Smoked Mackerel Endive Boats, Strawberry “Santa Hat” Brownie Bites and last, but not least, festive Pomegranate Mint Crostini.
Crostini is a blank canvas. Top it with whatever bits and bobs lurk in your kitchen. Have a day (or two) old baguette? Slice it, brush with olive oil, toast in the oven and it’s ready to be topped. Leftover grilled vegetables in the fridge? Smear the crostini with goat cheese, top with the veg and drizzle with balsamic. Puree frozen peas to make a pea “pesto” and top with sliced cherry tomatoes and freshly shaved Parmesan. But when it’s the holiday season, nothing makes a more festive topper than the red pomegranate and green mint.
Pomegranate seeds are gorgeous and good for you, but a pain-in-the-neck to remove. Luckily I recently discovered a new genius technique for extracting them. It’s from Sami Tamimi, a London chef who is part of the Ottolenghi deli, cookbook and restaurant group. Basically you cut the pomegranate in half, then holding the pomegranate in your hand, cut-side facing down, you spank it with a wooden spoon (so cruel!) and slowly but surely the seeds come out with minimal peel/membrane. Give it a try; more detailed instructions are in the Note following the recipe below.
Try Pomegranate Mint Crostini out this holiday season. And don’t forget the bubbly…..
Pomegranate Mint Crostini (makes 24 crostini)
Note: Cut the pomegranate into two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all are there, sift through the seeds to remove any bits of white skin or membrane. Pomegranate can be seeded up to 4 days ahead of time, just keep refrigerated in an airtight container or zippered bag.
24 baguette slices, about ½”/1 cm thick (1 baguette will be plenty)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup ricotta cheese, stirred
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (see Note above for instructions on how to remove seeds)
2 tablespoons fresh mint, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat the oven to 375º F (190º C). Arrange the bread slices in a single layer on a baking tray. You may need to do this in two batches depending on the size of your tray. Brush each slice lightly with olive oil and toast until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Rotate tray halfway through baking if your oven tends to bake unevenly. Let cool.
To assemble the crostini, spread each slice of bread with about ½ tablespoon of ricotta. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and sliced mint, drizzle with honey and serve.