Grilled Zucchini Crostini

Grilled Zucchini Crostini | Cravings & Crumbs

Summer is here and with it comes a bounty of produce.  Although my zucchini plant is just at the blossoming stage now, I know that one day i’ll blink my eyes and suddenly i’ll have more squash than I know what to do with.  So, before we get to that desperate stage when we have zucchini coming out our ears, I present to you this simple and delicious grilled zucchini crostini.

Grilled Zucchini Crostini | Cravings & Crumbs

These crostini are are great as a party snack and are particularly delicious with salty olives and a glass of wine.  We start by slicing the zucchini into ribbons and grilling them to get a little char and smokiness.  This can be done on the grill if you already have it lit, but I cooked mine in a grill pan on the stove and they were great.  Once the zucchini are cooked we briefly marinate them in balsamic vinegar to add sweetness and tang.

Grilled Zucchini Crostini | Cravings & Crumbs

Picking our bread is important here since not only is it the base of our entire dish, but since there are so few ingredients we want to pick each one with care.  Any good bread that you like will work, but try to pick one that will be nicely crunchy once toasted, so stay away from whole wheat and sandwich loaves.  A country style loaf or focaccia would be particularly nice here.  I used a rosemary focaccia for an extra layer of flavor.

Grilled Zucchini Crostini | Cravings & Crumbs

Once we have our zucchini cooked and bread toasted, we’re ready to assemble the crostini.  Drizzle the toasts with a good quality olive oil — or may I suggest the oil from garlic confit?  Then layer some torn fresh mozzarella and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add a few zucchini ribbons on top and season with another small pinch of salt and some red pepper flakes.

Grilled Zucchini Crostini | Cravings & Crumbs

Zucchini and fresh mozzarella have delicate flavors, so if you want you can add a leaf of fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic glaze for an extra pop.  You should also feel free use any cheese or other toppings you like.  I think goat cheese and prosciutto would be a welcome spin here.

Grilled Zucchini Crostini | Cravings & Crumbs

Grilled Zucchini Crostini
Yields 8
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Ingredients
  1. 3 zucchini (about 1 lb)
  2. Olive oil
  3. 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  4. Kosher salt
  5. Pepper
  6. Red pepper flakes
  7. 4 oz fresh mozzarella
  8. 1 clove garlic
  9. Good bread such as country loaf or focaccia
Instructions
  1. Slice zucchini lengthwise into strips about ½ cm thick. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a grill pan or grill over high heat and sear zucchini until it slightly chars on the edges, flipping halfway through. Remove to a plate or bowl and toss with the balsamic vinegar.
  2. Slice bread into appetizer sized portions (about 2” x 2”). Toast until just golden brown on the edges and immediately rub with the cut side of a halved garlic clove.
  3. Drizzle the toasts with olive oil, layer some hand torn mozzarella, season with a sprinkle of salt, then top with 2 folded over zucchini strips. Season with another sprinkle of salt and crushed red pepper flakes.
Notes
  1. Feel free to get creative with the toppings - different cheeses, charcuterie, fresh herbs and extra vinegar would be all be great here.
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Fig and Arugula Grilled Cheese

Fig Arugula Grilled Cheese | Cravings & Crumbs

I was recently perusing the online menus of restaurants near my work, trying to quiet my hunger, when something jumped out at me – “best ever slow-cooked grilled cheese”.  Ummm, what?  What in the world is a slow cooked grilled cheese, how does it differ from how I normally make grilled cheese, and why had nobody ever told me about this?

Fig Arugula Grilled Cheese | Cravings & Crumbs

According to my research, all that makes it a “slow-cooked” grilled cheese is that it takes 15 minutes to come to the table.  Generally when I make grilled cheese at home I take about 10 to 12 minutes, so really no revelation there. They use three cheeses (and a lot of them), including one called “dry jack”.  Back to feeling out of the loop.  Apparently dry jack was created in the 50’s, before the proliferation of modern refrigeration, as an alternative to monterey jack that could stand to be left out in the summer.  It has a texture like parmesan and a sweet flavor.

Fig Arugula Grilled Cheese | Cravings & Crumbs

They also include a seasonal fruit mostarda on the sandwich, which intrigued me.  I haven’t ever been one to really love fruit condiments on savory food, but ever since I tried the duck and pork belly sausage from SF Cajun Co. that they serve with fig preserves and whole grain mustard I haven’t been able to get that combo out of the back of my mind.

Fig Arugula Grilled Cheese | Cravings & Crumbs

All of this is just a long winded way of explaining how I got to this delicious grilled cheese sandwich.  Using fresh levain bread, we spread some fig butter on one side and whole grain mustard on the other.  We’re using syrah-soaked toscano and a gouda/parmesan blend as the cheese here and adding a layer of arugula to the middle, which will wilt as we cook the sandwich.  In a cast iron skillet (for even heat distribution) we grill the sandwich over medium-low heat, hopefully getting about 7 minutes per side without burning.  Cut it diagonally and you have perfection.

Fig Arugula Grilled Cheese | Cravings & Crumbs

What we end up with isn’t the “best ever” grilled cheese – that’s far too subjective – but I’ll be damned if it isn’t in the top 3.  The bread has a perfectly buttery and crunchy exterior.  Inside, the cheeses are salty and gooey with a nutty flavor profile which pairs perfectly with the deep flavor of the fig butter and sharpness of the mustard.  I preferred mine with an extra dollop of mustard on the side to pick up the flavor a bit more.

Fig Arugula Grilled Cheese | Cravings & Crumbs

Fig and Arugula Grilled Cheese
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Ingredients
  1. Butter, room temperature
  2. Good bread, such as pain au levain
  3. Fig butter or preserves
  4. Whole grain mustard
  5. Toscano cheese
  6. Gouda/parmesan blend cheese, or both separately
  7. Baby arugula
Instructions
  1. Slice your bread and grate the cheese. You want to grate enough to have an even proportion of each type.
  2. Preheat a heavy cast iron pan over medium heat. We don’t want it too hot since we want to grill the sandwich slowly to get it evenly browned all across.
  3. Butter the outside of each slice of bread. Then smear a layer of mustard on one of the insides and a layer of fig butter on the other inside.
  4. Put one slice of bread in the pan, butter side down. Sprinkle half the cheese over the bread, then add a handful of arugula and then sprinkle the other half of the cheese and top with the other slice of bread, butter side up. Cook the sandwich for about 7 minutes, or until golden brown, turning down the heat if it seems to be cooking too fast. Flip and toast the other side until golden brown.
Notes
  1. Feel free to use any combination of cheese that you like. Just be sure that there's one that will melt well to hold it all together.
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Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

It’s Thursday which means you’ve made it over the hump and are sailing towards the weekend.  It also means you’re still two days away from leisurely cooking and cocktail hours – enter this ridiculously fast, cheap, vegetarian dinner to sustain you until you reach weekend indulgence.

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

These tostadas are simple, but still so satisfying.  They start with shallow fried corn tortillas (you can bake them if you prefer, they’ll just be a little bit drier), then you top them with refried black beans, a cilantro and lime slaw, cotija cheese, and a chipotle crema.  They are all at once crunchy, creamy, salty, refreshing, and satisfying.  Trust me – they seem basic, but you’re going to love them.

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

Here I’ve used the smaller street taco size tortillas to make them more of a snack meal.  I have a thing about that – making my food amusing to me.  I’m entertained by anything that has a dip or topping or is otherwise interactive, and snack dinners check a lot of those boxes.  You’ve got to keep life interesting somehow!

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

The other great thing about these tostadas, besides how delicious they are, is how economical they are to make.  I usually cook my black beans from scratch on the weekend or after work for the next day.  With black beans there’s no need to soak them, in fact you end up with a thicker and richer bean broth if you don’t.  You don’t have to cook them from scratch, but if you do they are literally cents on the dollar and have so much more flavor.  Other than that, tortillas, cabbage, the tiniest sprinkling of cotija and the greek yogurt “crema” are all so cheap you could probably feed 10 people for a dollar each.  Just goes to show good food doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy.

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

All ingredients below are approximate, as this recipe is easily scaled up or down, depending on how many you’re feeding.  This recipe is also just a canvas – you can add any number of other toppings, including meat – may I suggest a chopped achiote chicken breast?

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema
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Ingredients
  1. 5-6 small corn tortillas
  2. 2 cups homemade or 1 (15 oz.) can black beans
  3. Pinch of ground cumin
  4. 3 cups green cabbage, finely shredded
  5. 2-3 limes
  6. Small handful of cilantro
  7. Cotija cheese
For the chipotle crema
  1. ¾ cup plain greek yogurt
  2. 1 garlic clove, sliced
  3. 1-2 chipotle in adobo
  4. Juice of ½ lime
Instructions
  1. First, make the crema. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until combined. Feel free to add a tablespoon or so of water to get the blender running, if needed. Making the crema first allows all the flavors to meld as we do the rest of the cooking.
  2. Add the shredded cabbage to a bowl and top with a small drizzle of oil, a pinch of salt, and the juice from about 2 limes - give it a taste to know how many. Chop the cilantro and toss with the slaw.
  3. Next, add a tablespoon of oil to a small frying pan or saucepan over medium heat. Add the beans (with liquid), a pinch of ground cumin, and a big pinch of salt and allow to cook for about 5 minutes. You want the beans to be heated first to get a smooth mash.
  4. Using a potato masher or the back of a fork, mash the bean until they are as smooth or chunky as you want them. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Turn heat to low and allow to continue cooking, adding more water if they start to get dry.
  5. Heat a small amount of neutral oil (about ¼ cup) in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the tortillas until crispy, flipping halfway through. You’ll know they’re done when the oil has all but stopped bubbling around them. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat until all the tortillas are fried.
  6. Finally, assemble! Spread a few spoonfuls of refried beans on a tortilla, add some slaw, crema, crumbled cotija, and a squeeze of lime.
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