The holidays are a special time of the year. While filled with family, friends, and celebrations, it can also be a challenging time trying to figure out what to serve that would be delicious, interesting, colorful, healthy, AND not take a lot of time or cost an arm and a leg to prepare.
Here is a great go-to appetizer that checks all of those boxes and hits all of our flavor receptors. Garlicky sauteed arugula and cherry tomatoes over crunchy crostinis (toasted slices of French baguette) and topped with tangy, pungent blue cheese crumbles. It’s sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami-rich; crunchy, creamy, and a little toothy. Check, check, check, check…and check!
The item that takes the longest to prepare is the crostinis but it’s very easy to do and you control what type of bread and everything else that may go on it; we love ours plain. Having said that, you can shave even more time by buying pre-packaged ones at your local grocery or supermarket. Keep in mind they will most likely also include preservatives, oils/fats, and/or spices and herbs that may or may not pair well with this dish.
You can make the crostinis ahead of time and store them in a resealable plastic bag. Make a bunch so you can have extra at the ready for that tasty snack you just have to have…like around midnight on Christmas Eve before Santa arrives, or on New Year’s Eve before the clock strikes 12.
Lastly, this recipe is quite versatile; try this recipe using mixed baby greens, spinach, mizuna or even dandelion leaves or broccoli raab, and top with sliced avocado. Use your imagination and enjoy!
Preparation Time: 30 minutes (20 minutes to cut and toast the baguette slices; 10 minutes to slice the cherry tomatoes, wash and spin-dry the arugula)
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 24 crostinis (a whole French baguette will yield more crostinis than what you need for this recipe but save the rest for later use; it’s always great to have extra around for snack time)
Note: The sauteed arugula and cherry tomatoes are robust enough of a dish to serve as a side dish as well.
- 1 bunch of arugula or other greens (about six cups), washed, spin-dried
- 24 cherry tomatoes, washed, sliced in half lengthwise (see photo below)
- 2 tbsp diced shallots or onions
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste (optional because the arugula may be peppery enough for you)
- Preparing the crostinis:
- Preheat the oven to 350F, set one of the racks to the second from the bottom level.
- Slice the baguettes on the diagonal into 1/4 inch wide slices, place on a baking tray.
- If you have more slices than space on your baking tray, and you don’t have a second tray, simply toast the crostinis in batches.
- Place the tray on the second from the bottom level in the oven preheated to 350F.
- Toast for 5-10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and carefully flip each of the slices over, return the tray to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
- The reason for the wide space of time is that ovens that haven’t been calibrated in a while (and most ovens haven’t) will tend to run either hotter or colder than the set temperature.
- It’s best to check the slices every minute or two for development of nice golden color, and to ensure you don’t overcook the crostinis or even burn them.
- When you have nice golden color on each side of your crostinis remove the tray from the oven and cool.
Note: It’s best to cool the crostinis on a wire rack as shown in the photo above or on a cool plate otherwise the still hot tray will continue to toast the underside of the crostinis.
- Preparing the sauteed arugula and tomatoes:
- Wash and spin dry the arugula, remove any wilted or discolored leaves; set aside.
- Wash the cherry tomatoes, slice them in half from the stem to the tip of the tomato; set aside.
- Peel and dice the shallots; set aside.
- Peel and mince the garlic; set aside.
- Place a large saute pan on a burner set to medium-high, wait a minute or two for the pan to heat up, add the oil, wait another minute for the oil to heat up, add the shallots or onions and garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the tomatoes, cut side down, cook for 1 minute.
- Reduce the heat to medium.
- Add the arugula in small handfuls at a time, carefully stirring them in between the tomatoes until they begin to wilt, repeat until you use up all the arugula.
- Season with a pinch or two of kosher salt and a couple turns of a black pepper mill.
- Remove from the pan from the burner and spoon the mixture into a separate bowl.
- Place some of the sauteed arugula onto a crostini then a tomato cut side down on top of the arugula, sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles, repeat until you have topped the number of crostinis you want.
- The sauteed arugula and cherry tomatoes can be stored in the fridge for later use.
- Your sauteed arugula and cherry tomatoes crostinis with blue cheese crumbles are ready to eat!