Cannellini Bean and Roasted Tomato Crostini

(Two easy holiday hors d’oeuvres, courtesy of Debbie Branby, owner, The Cheese Board in Reno. Serves 8 to 10)

On the Crostini recipe, Branby notes, “I love a simple hors d’oeuvre that is full of flavor and easy to make. You can do these bites well before guests arrive and still have plenty of time for a glass of wine before the party begins.”

1 sourdough baguette (day old is great), cut on the diagonal into 36, ¼-inch slices

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided in half

2 small rosemary sprigs

1 small shallot, about 2 tablespoons, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1 teaspoon thyme leaves (preferably fresh)

2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (unsalted, if possible)

½ cup roasted tomatoes in oil, drained, split, and chopped (Whole Foods is a good source.)

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

½ teaspoon lemon zest, plus extra for garnish

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper, plus extra to taste and for garnish

½ cup crumbled feta

Baby arugula

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange baguette slices on baking sheet, brush with ¼ cup olive oil, and bake for 10 minutes. Turn oven off, flip crostini, and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

In medium sauté pan, heat remaining ¼ cup olive oil. Add rosemary sprigs, shallots, garlic, Aleppo pepper, and thyme. Cook over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes or until you smell herbs and shallots are soft.

Add drained beans and ¼ cup tomatoes; toss to coat. Cook for 2 minutes, then remove rosemary sprigs. Add water and cook until liquids are almost totally reduced. Remove from heat. Add salt, pepper, lemon zest, and goat cheese; stir to combine. Put everything in food processor and quick-pulse three or four times for coarse texture. Adjust seasonings. Let cool.

To construct, lay two small arugula leaves on each crostini. Add small dollop of bean purée on top, leaving some arugula leaves visible. Top purée with ¼ teaspoon of remaining roasted tomatoes. Garnish each crostini with crumpled feta, lemon zest, and cracked pepper. Place on your favorite platter and get ready for compliments!

Note: To make this dish vegan, leave out cheese. To make gluten free, substitute lightly roasted root vegetables for crostini.

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