Cheesy Cranberry Pistachio Crostini

Cheesy Cranberry Pistachio Crostini was the snack that was served with cocktails, to make up the Aperitivo for our Halloween Italian Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.

I wasn’t planning to post this recipe because it is so simple, but during the event the guests enjoyed this snack so much, and many of them asked me for the recipe. So here it is.

Crostini means “little crusts” in Italian. They are an Italian appetizer consisting of small slices of grilled or toasted bread and toppings.

Ingredients: makes about 25

  • 1/2 loaf of cranberry pistachio bread that I bought at our local HEB supermarket. You can use your favorite fruit and nut bread if you can’t find this one.
  • Cracker cut cheese slices. I used extra sharp white cheddar and a sharp yellow cheddar so that I would have a color contrast.
  • Extra virgin olive oil to coat the bread pieces.

Prep:

Cut the bread into small slices. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on both sides. Place in a plastic storage bag. Refrigerate until you are ready to make the crostini. This can be done up to a day in advance to free up your time on the day of the party. Placed on a lined baking sheet about 30 minutes before you are ready to serve.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the tray of bread slices in the oven and bake until they are golden brown. This should take about 5 minutes. Flip the slices and brown the other side. Keep an eye on them so them so they don’t burn.
Use a pumpkin shaped cookie cutter to cut out pumpkin shapes from your cheese slices. I usually do this while the bread slices are toasting.

By the way, set aside the extra cheese that is leftover after cutting out the pumpkin shape. These can be eaten or used for other purposes. At the end of this post I will show you an example of how they can be used.

Once the bread slices are toasted, top them with the pumpkin shaped cheese slices while the bread is still warm. This way the cheese will melt a bit and make the crostini taste even better. 😋 Warm melty cheese always tastes better than cold cheese.

The day after the event, my husband decided to make a salad for his lunch. He used the left over cheese slices.

The salad turned out so cute. I thought it was very creative. 😀

I had created an ambitious menu for our cooking class/pop up supper club, so I decided to make an easy snack for the cocktail hour. This was a tasty timesaver. For the most part I make everything from scratch, but once in a while it does not hurt to make things easier by using some quality pre-made products.

Do try this simple recipe and let me what you think. 💕

Cranberry Tiramisu

Cranberry Tiramisu, is the dessert recipe I created for our up coming Halloween Italian Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry. It is a play on the classic coffee-flavored Italian Tiramisu. I used cranberry to fit the flavor profile of the the American holiday season. Using cranberry, also gave me a chance to support our local Texas South Wind Winery. They make a superb all cranberry fruit wine that sells out fast during the holiday season.

Ingredients: for 4 servings

This dessert has 3 components:

  1. The Cranberry Compote.
  2. The Cranberry Tiramisu Cream – an egg custard base with mascarpone cheese and whipped cream folded in.
  3. The cranberry wine soaked Savoiardi (Italian lady finger cookies.)

Each serving has 3 lady finger cookies, so we will need a total of 12. We will also need 8 ounces of mascarpone cheese that has been brought up to room temperature.

Ingredients for the Cranberry Compote:

  • 4 ounces of frozen cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons of cranberry wine

Making the Cranberry Compote:

Add all four of the above ingredients to a heavy duty stainless steel pan and place on a medium high flame.
Bring to a simmer
Cook for 10 minutes. The natural pectin in the cranberries will allow it to turn into a jam.
Transfer to a glass bowl. Allow it to cool to room temperature while you make the Cranberry Tiramisu Cream.

Ingredients for the Cranberry Tiramisu Custard Base:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon of fennel powder
  • 1 tablespoon of cranberry wine
  • 1 tablespoon of extra fine sugar

Making the Cranberry Tiramisu Custard Base:

Bring water to a simmer in the base of a double boiler pan. While the water is coming to a simmer whisk together the 4 egg yolks, sugar, fennel powder and cranberry wine.
Place the egg mixture on top of the simmering water and continue to whisk until it turns frothy and pale in color.
Transfer the cooked egg mixture to a glass container and let it cool to room temperature.

While the egg base is cooling make the whipped cream by whisking together a cup of heavy cream with a tablespoon of extra fine sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of fennel powder.

Once the egg base is cooled gently fold in the 8 ounces of room temperature mascarpone.

Assembling the Cranberry Tiramisu:

I used a rocks glass to serve the tiramisu. You can use any parfait glass that you like. Start by placing 3/4 cups of cranberry wine in the bottom of a glass dish. This cranberry wine will be used for soaking the lady fingers. Set up your assembly station as shown in the photo below.

ASSEMBLY SET UP: 12 lady fingers. Cranberry Compote. Cranberry Wine. Cranberry Tiramisu Cream.
Soak the lady finger cookies in the wine for 1 second on each side. The idea is to let the cookies absorb the wine without getting soggy in the center.
Add a dollop of Cranberry Tiramisu Cream to the bottom of the glass. Top with a teaspoon of Cranberry Compote.
Break the cranberry wine soaked lady fingers into thirds. Place 5 pieces up right in each glass.
Cover the cookies with a large dollop of Cranberry Tiramisu Cream and another teaspoon of Cranberry Compote.
Place 3 or 4 additional cookies pieces in each glass.
Cover with a layer of Cranberry Tiramisu Cream and place a cranberry in the center of each glass for garnish. It is best to make this dessert a day before serving. Refrigerate it overnight to allow the flavors to marry. It tastes great the next day. 😋

For the feature photo, I used a pumpkin platter and 2 servings of Cranberry Tiramisu on it. I thought it made a cute Halloween presentation similar to the one I used for my Pork Piccata last week.

I usually place each Cranberry Tiramisu on a fancy plate for a pretty presentation.

I am very proud of the Cranberry Tiramisu. I was able to cut the sugar down by using fennel powder which gives the illusion of sweetness. I have used this trick before in other recipes such as my marinara sauce and my berry zabaglione. I also used Savoiardi cookies imported from Italy. They are organic, have higher quality flour, and less sugar than American made lady fingers.

When I did the test recipe, I invited a friend over to be my taste tester. It turned out so yummy that I just had to eat one myself. I tested my fasting blood sugar the next day and it was fine. I was so happy. 😊

With this recipe, I have now posted all the recipes for my upcoming Halloween Italian Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry. I am now going to spend the next four days getting everything ready for the event. Wish me luck!

Red Lentil Pasta -Napoli Style

Red Lentil Pasta-Napoli Style, is the second of two recipes I created to show how marinara sauce can be used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes.   The first one was Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan, which I posted last Saturday.  Casseroles like this are great because they can be made in advance, and actually taste better the next day.

Red Lentil Pasta Feature

To make things easy, you can buy marinara sauce at your local supermarket.  If you would like to make it, click on Marinara Sauce – An Italian Essential for my recipe.

Marinara Sauce Feature

INGREDIENTS:

Red Lentil Pasta Ingredients

  • 10 oz box of red lentil pasta (believe it or not, I bought this at Walmart.  It only has one ingredient listed on the box–red lentil flour.  That’s it, and water Of course.)
  • 1 lb of ground pork ( we are blessed to have this special Berkshire ground pork provided to us by our neighbors, Rose and James, at Peach Creek Farm.)
  • 2 lbs of ground beef ( this Austin bred & fed ground beef is from K & C Cattle Co.  which is owned by Patrick, an Army veteran of the 1st Ranger Battalion.)
  • 20 ounces of grated Parmesan (I usually grate my  own, but I found this grated Parmigiano-Reggiano imported from Italy at Costco.  It is the real thing with absolutely no additives.)
  • 24 ounces of marinara sauce
  • 2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

COOK:

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  • Coat a heavy duty stainless steel pan with olive oil
  • Add the ground meat, break it up into bite sized pieces.
  • Saute until brown

Red Lentil Pasta Cook 4

  • Add the marinara sauce
  • Cook for about 10 minutes until the marinara sauce is bubbling

  • Add the pasta
  • Stir it in
  • Cook for 4 minutes.  At this point it will be par cooked.  It will finish cooking when we bake the casserole in the oven.
  • Adjust salt and pepper to taste

ASSEMBLY: the casserole is assembled in 4 layers using a 9 X 11 baking dish.

Layer 1 –  spread half the pasta mixture

Layer 2 – sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese

Layer 3 – spread the last half of the pasta mixture

Layer 4 – sprinkle 2/3 of the cheese

I like to make the top layer of cheese thicker so that I can get a really cheesy, golden crust.  Its the best part.

Cover with foil.  Bake in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil, and bake for another 15 minutes at 400 F to get the golden brown and delicious crust. 😋

Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.  This a great meal to pack for lunch, or make ahead for a quick supper after work.  It is filling, nutritious, and yummy.

On days when my husband is working on the ranch, he gets very hungry and will end up eating a big piece as soon as he comes indoors.  Here is a piece he plated for himself.

Red Lentil Pasta Plated

I like the way it cuts into a sturdy slice.  It almost looks like lasagna.

Please try this and let me know what you think in the comments section.

Next Saturday, I will be posting an unusual and easy Indian vegetable recipe.  Be on the lookout for it.

Ciao for now 🖐