At the same dinner at Root Down that inspired the beet gnocchi I posted about last week, we had a tasty salad to start our meal. The salad itself was fine, but the accompanying maple mascarpone crostini sprinkled with roasted pistachios was the real highlight of our first course. You could serve this crostini as a passed hors d'œuvre as well as alongside a salad or soup and it is incredibly easy to make. The flavors and textures work really well together - the lightly toasted crostini, the sweet maple mascarpone cheese spread, a pinch of sea salt and the crunchy, roasted pistachios on top. There is no cooking involved, just assembling ingredients, and the whole process takes no more than 15 minutes.
A few comments about this recipe. First, you can obviously make as many or as few of these as you prefer at one time. If you mix the maple mascarpone in the original mascarpone container, simply return the cheese to the fridge, store the pistachios in an airtight container, and make the crostinis again whenever you feel the urge. Second, many stores sell pre-sliced bread specifically for crostini. It is usually a bit harder (e.g., stale), which is what you want. If you purchase pre-made crostinis, omit the toasting step below.
Maple Mascarpone Crostini with Roasted Pistachios
Adapted from Root Down
1 loaf of Ciabatta bread or similar white bread, sliced into 1/4 to 1/2-inch slices (this loaf of bread should be small - you want the pieces to be no larger than 3 to 4-inches in width)
1 8-ounce container of Mascarpone cheese (available in most grocery stores)
1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios (raw is best, if available)
4-6 teaspoons real maple syrup
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pistachios on parchment paper or tin foil on a baking sheet. Roast the pistachios for 10-15 minutes until warm and fragrant but not charred. Once removed from the oven, pulse the nuts 3-5 times in a food processor (you want some to remain full size but others to be ground smaller). If you don't have a food processor, use the flat edge of knife or a mallet to accomplish the same thing.
2. While the pistachios are in the oven, mix the mascarpone cheese with 4 teaspoons of maple syrup by hand. I did this in the container that the mascarpone is purchased in. After mixing, taste the maple mascarpone and if you'd prefer it to be sweeter and more maple-y, add an additional teaspoon until the flavor suits you.
3. Lightly toast the crostini. You could accomplish this using an oven with low heat or in a conventional toaster (if you are serving a smaller number of crostini at once). Allow the toast to cool for one minute. Spread each crostini with a layer of the maple mascarpone cheese. Sprinkle each crostini with a pinch of sea salt or one grind of sea salt. Sprinkle each crostini with the roasted pistachios. Serve immediately.