Within the great file of my favorite food category, Things I Can Put On Toast, I dare you to find anything easier to whirl up in the minutes before a party than artichoke-olive crostini, the terribly named but unmatched in Mediterranean deliciousness of feta salsa or walnut pesto. Lightly broil a thinly sliced baguette — and I vote for preparing a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, ready to bake off later, nobody minds — and voila: it’s suddenly a party.
This is my new favorite addition to the category. Although it takes longer to cook, it takes just as little time to throw together. This seemingly simple combination of two ingredients, roasted together, become so much more than the sum of their parts. Personally, I’m not a great fan of either on their own; I find most grocery store grapes too sweet and readily-available olives too aggressively salty and one-note. But in the oven together, these bugs become features. The briny bite of the olives tangles with the syrupy sweetness of the grapes and together, make a juicy mess that’s incredible with rosemary and sea salt, heaped on a ricotta-slathered toast.
The best part is you don’t have to go hunting for that exasperatingly overused phrase these days, “the best ingredients.” I’ve made this with everything from NYC street cart grapes on their last legs and from certified organic, just-plucked Greenmarket blocks away and both were delicious. It doesn’t care if your olives have been imported from Greece, Italy or Trader Joe’s, that I used a baguette from a nearby bodega that also sells enhancement pills and 40s, and that I didn’t even make my own ricotta (gasp!). It just works, which means you’ll have more time to do things you’ll regret seeing on Instagram the next morning and other great holiday party traditions.
In The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: These two ingredients tangle together in an easy weeknight chicken dish.
Planning a party? You’re going to need some drinks and snacks.
One year ago: Rum Campari Punch
Two years ago: Fromage Fort
Three years ago: Scallion Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Glaze
Four years ago: Milk Punch
Five years ago: Pear Bread, Parmesan Cream Crackers and Walnut Pesto
Six years ago: Pizza with Broccoli Rabe and Roasted Onions
Seven years ago: Iceberg Wedge with Blue Cheese and Caramel Cake
Eight years ago: Gougeres and Stuffed Mushrooms, Russian Tea Cakes and Coq au Vin
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Cherry Almond Dutch Baby
1.5 Years Ago: Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw
2.5 Years Ago: Chopped Salad with Feta, Lime and Mint
3.5 Years Ago: Blueberry Yogurt Multigrain Pancakes
Roasted Grape and Olive Crostini
I couldn’t resist using a pretty mix of olives and grapes, but, honestly, my favorite combination to use here are purple grapes and kalamata olives, seedless and pitted, respectively are ideal. I make it with fresh rosemary and ricotta, but other herbs and cheese would work here, such as thyme or blue cheese. The only pesky part of this recipe is that I find that the roasting time really varies. What you’re looking for is for the grapes to soften and get leaky — this can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes depending on how firm/juicy your grapes are (softer ones take less time). I have also seen many references to grapes roasting and bursting in 10 minutes in other recipes, but have never experienced this in my oven. Once these juices muddle with the herbs and briny roasted olives, it’s all unquestionably worth it. Don’t forget to spoon any messy pan juices over the toasts.
Yield: 12 crostini, a very small batch. I usually double this for a small party.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup grapes, seedless purple ones are my first choice, all will work
1 cup olives, pitted kalamata are my first choice, all will work
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary, divided
Sea salt and red pepper flakes
About 12 baguette slices, toasted
3/4 cup ricotta
Heat oven to 400°F (205°C). Combine olive oil, grapes, olives, 1 teaspoon rosemary, a couple pinches of sea salt and pepper flakes in a baking dish or roasting pan. Roast until grapes are wilted and leaking juices, about 35 to 55 minutes, rolling ingredients around in pan a few times throughout roasting time to encourage even cooking.
Slather each toast with ricotta, then heap each with grapes, olives and their pan juices. Finish with remaining rosemary and eat immediately.