Tis the season… family, friends, and celebration are in the air. When I’m hosting a party, I like to have a welcome cocktail and small nibble to greet guests as they come through the door. For a Christmas party, it’s particularly festive to serve the colors of the season; red and green. And there is a bounty of red and green fruits, vegetables, and herbs to choose from; tomatoes, peppers, beans, apples, pears, berries, grapes, artichokes, broccoli, endive, cucumbers, avocado, limes, asparagus, celery, honeydew, currants, watermelon, cherries, pomegranate, beets, radishes, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and so on…
This recipe calls for two items that you may or may not be familiar with; piquillo peppers and smoked paprika. Piquillo peppers are small tangy peppers native to the village of Lodosa in northern Spain. They are fire-roasted then hand-peeled and packed in their own juices. The piquillo’s firmness makes them perfect for stuffing. They are also enjoyed “straight” with a drizzle of olive oil. The name piquillo, is derived from the Spanish word for “little beak”. Happily, they are available at Trader Joe’s.
Smoked Spanish paprika is also known as Pimenton de la Vera, Dulce. It is a popular ingredient in many Mediterranean recipes and its flavor is essential for authentic Spanish cooking. The peppers are dried, slowly over an smoldering oak fire for several weeks. The result is a sweet, cool, smokey flavor. Using smoked paprika provides a great way to add a smokey flavor without the heat. You can find smoked Spanish paprika at high end grocery stores such as Whole Foods, specialty stores, or at Penzey’s Spices online.
Instead of using a baguette as the base for this easy appetizer, I sometimes use red and/or green apple wedges. Then, there is no need to even turn on the oven! Instead of toasting, as you would with the bread, rub with a little orange or lemon juice to prevent apple slices from browning and then proceed with the spreading of the cheese and dolloping of the toppings. With the help of a food processor, this is another “easy-breezy” recipe.
Red and Green Welcome Crostini
12-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained, 3 tablespoons of the liquid reserved
1/2 cup packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup packed shredded Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Red Pepper Spread
1/2 cup drained Piquillo peppers, packed
1/2 cup drained roasted red bell peppers, packed
2 tablespoons drained and minced sun-dried tomatoes,
1 tablespoon drained capers
2 teaspoons smoked spanish paprika
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 French baguette, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1/2 pound Brie cheese, rind removed while cold, then brought to room temperature
Fresh Italian parsley sprigs, for garnish
Piquillo or bell pepper thin strips, for garnish
Artichoke Spread: Combine artichoke hearts, parsley, Parmesan, and the 3 tablespoons reserved artichoke marinade in a food processor, blend until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead, cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.)
Red Pepper Spread: Combine both peppers, tomatoes, capers, paprika, and garlic clove in a food processor until almost smooth. Add cream cheese and Parmesan and process until well blended. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead, cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.)
Arrange bread slices on baking sheet. Broil until lightly colored on both sides. Remove from oven an immediately spread with a thin layer of Brie cheese.
Spread each crostini with the green artichoke mixture on one half and the red pepper mixture on the other. Garnish with a red pepper strip and a parsley sprig.
Serve toasts immediately with Champagne as guests arrive.
Serves 12 to 15