Roasted Pear Crostini with Gorgonzola

These are extra-delicious topped with chopped toasted nuts, such as hazelnuts or walnuts. Balsamic glaze can be purchased at gourmet and well-stocked grocery stores.

Makes 24

INGREDIENTS

•2 firm red Bartlett or other red-skinned pears
•1 tablespoon olive oil
•1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
•1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
•1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
•24 pieces Herbed Crostini
•1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled gorgonzola cheese or thinly sliced Cambozola
•2 tablespoons balsamic glaze

For garnishing
•Tiny sprigs of fresh thyme

DIRECTIONS

Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F.

To roast the pears: Quarter the pears lengthwise, then core. Cut each quarter lengthwise into 6 slices (you should have 24 slices, total). In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, and thyme. Add the pears and toss to coat.

Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Lay out the pears, not touching, on the baking sheet. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden and starting to caramelize on the edges. Pears can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before serving.

When ready to serve, lay out the crostini on a baking sheet and top each piece with about 1 heaping teaspoon of gorgonzola or a slice of Cambozola, then a slice of pear. Bake until just warmed, about 4 minutes.

Drizzle each piece with about 1/4 teaspoon balsamic glaze, then garnish with thyme.

Herbed Crostini

Crostini are the must-have party basic. Use as a base for assorted toppers, such as creamy cheeses, tapenade, or spreads.

Makes 32 to 40 pieces

•1/3 cup olive oil
•1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
•1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
•Pinch of cayenne pepper
•1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
•1 long, skinny French baguette, cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices
•Kosher salt for sprinkling

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl, mix the oil, dried herbs, cayenne, and garlic. Lightly brush the baguette slices with the herb oil or, in a large bowl, drizzle the bread with the oil and toss well. Lay out the bread in a single layer on baking sheets, sprinkle with salt, and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, until just crispy.

Crostini can be made in advance, cooled thoroughly, and stored in airtight containers for up to 3 days. If necessary, recrisp them in a hot oven for a couple of minutes.

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Tuscan Rosemary Lemon Drop

Kathy Casey created this cocktail for her friends Michelle and Don’s wedding reception in Tuscany. To this day, she can picture everyone standing on the villa lawn enjoying their drinks—heels kicked off, ties loosened, and laughter fading into the Tuscan sunset.

Makes 1 drink

INGREDIENTS

•Rosemary Sugar
•1 sprig fresh rosemary
•1 1/2 ounces vodka
•1/2 ounce limoncello
•1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
•1/2 ounce Simple Syrup

For garnishing
•Fresh rosemary sprig

DIRECTIONS

Rim a large martini glass with rosemary sugar, and set aside.

Bend 1 rosemary sprig and drop into a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice. Measure in the vodka, limoncello, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Cap and shake vigorously. Strain into the sugar-rimmed glass. Float a rosemary sprig in the drink for garnish.

Rosemary Sugar

Makes 1 cup

•2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
•1 cup superfine or baker’s sugar

Mix the rosemary and sugar together, and spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet. Set in a warm dry place for about 4 days, until the rosemary is completely dried. Process in a food processor or spice grinder until finely ground. Store in a tightly sealed container for up to one month at room temperature.

Simple Syrup

This is a bar staple and the most commonly used sweetener. Though you can purchase simple syrup, it is ordinarily sweeter than I prefer, so I highly recommend making your own. Proportions vary but it is easy.

Makes 3 cups

•2 cups water
•2 cups sugar

Mix the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let boil 1 minute then immediately remove from the heat. Let cool to room temperature before using. Store in a clean glass bottle or container, at room temperature, for up to 2 weeks or, refrigerated, for up to 3 months.

Tip: If you don’t have limoncello, then increase the lemon juice and simple syrup to 3/4 ounce each.

Recipe from Sips & Apps, © 2009 by Kathy Casey, Chronicle Books.

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