Appetizers · Basil · Mozzarella · Pesto · Tomatoes

Basil and Nasturtium Pesto Crostini with Fresh Mozzarella and Candied Cherry Tomatoes

(from my old blog…) 

Maybe they're really Bruschetta. They're sort of both and neither.

Feel free to correct me.

Anyway.  About this yummy little appetizer….

Nasturtiums are edible flowering plants that seem pretty easy to grow, based on our experience. I knew the flowers were edible (my mother used to grow them) but I didn't know the leaves were edible until this year.

For the Candied Cherry Tomatoes:

A pint or so of cherry tomatoes

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, pole to pole (stem end to the opposite end), and arrange, face-up, in a baking dish. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake until the tomatoes look kind of shrunken, about 20-30 minutes, with maybe a couple of the smaller tomatoes starting to turn dark brown at the edges. The aroma will be wonderful. Remove the pan from the oven and let the tomatoes cool in the pan.

If you make these ahead of time, store the tomatoes and oil in a sealed container in the fridge. Let them come to room temp before using.

For The Crostini or Bruschetta Things

3 long baguettes (yes, baguette is a French, not an Italian, word. So it's a multi-cultural appetizer.)

Olive oil

About 10-12 nice-sized cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed, more if desired

Place garlic in a small saucepan. Cover with a very generous amount of olive oil – a cup and a half to two cups is good. Place pan on a burner on low heat. You just want to warm the oil and coax the flavor from the garlic.

While the oil and garlic are warming, preheat the oven to 375. (Yes, this is really fun to do in the middle of a muggy summer!) Slice a baguette, on an angle, about 1/4" to 1/3" thick. Arrange slices on baking sheets. Place baking sheets on racks in the oven, and bake, about 6 minutes, until the bottom side of the bread is starting to brown. Flip all the sliced pieces over and bake again for another 6 minutes.

Remove these from the oven and flip slices over again. Brush with the garlic oil and pop them back in the oven for a couple more minutes, just to dry the bread out. Remove from the oven and cool. Store in sealed container.

For the Basil and Nasturtium Pesto

(This is very general – I didn't measure anything as I was making it. Just taste as you go and adjust as you wish) 

A BIG bunch of fresh basil. We grow basil in our garden, but I'd used a bunch of it earlier and wasn't sure I'd have enough, so I bought a bunch at the grocery store. And I mean a BIG bunch. This was wrapped in cellophane like a generous bouquet of flowers, if that gives you any indication of how much there was. Oh – here's another – the leaves, after I removed them all from the stems, pretty near filled a large salad spinner basket. There you go! That's how much you'll need.

About 20 good-sized nasturtium leaves. More if you want more peppery-ness in the pesto, less if you don't. None at all if you just want a standard pesto. (I also used a few mustard green leaves, just for fun.)

Olive oil

Pine nuts or walnuts (we had walnuts, so that's what I used) to taste (I used about half a cup

Grated parmesan cheese (about 3/4 of a cup)

Fresh garlic to taste (I used about 6 cloves)

Salt and pepper to taste

Pick all the leaves and rinse off any dirt. Pat them dry on paper towels and place in the bowl of a large food processor, a handful or two at a time. Throw in some of the walnuts and garlic to weigh down the leaves, and process. Drizzle in some olive oil if the mixture seems dry and isn't pureeing nicely. Add more leaves, walnuts, garlic, and oil, and process again. Keep repeating until everything but the cheese, salt, and peper are in the processor, and puree until smoothe. (You can leave it chunky, but for my purposes I wanted it more like a paste. Chunky is nice on pasta.)

Pour green mixture into a bowl, and stir in the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. To store, drizzle on just enough olive oil to cover the top, then seal the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge. Bring to room temp before using.

The olive oil on top keeps oxygen away and keeps the green from going brown.

~ Pesto also freezes nicely in ice cube trays. You still want to cover each compartment with a little drizzle of olive oil.

To Assemble It All You'll need:

The baguette slices

The pesto

The candied tomatoes

Two balls of fresh mozzarella, each about the size of a tennis ball

Preheat the oven to 400 again. Slice each ball of mozzarella in half, then put each half cut-side down on your cutting board and slice pieces about 1/4" thick, going the short way across. Set these aside.

Spread a generous teaspoonful or two of pesto on the oiled surface of a baguette slice. Top with one cherry tomato (cut side up) at one end of the baguette surface and a slice of mozzarella chese on the over half, with a bit of the cheese slightly overlapping the tomato. Place on a baking sheet.

Repeat until the sheet is full, and bake about 5 minutes, until the cheese is starting to melt slightly. Serve.

These were pretty yummy. The nasturtiums and mustard greens give the basil a peppery kick, which is balanced nicely by the sweetness of the cherry tomato and the creamy texture and mild flavor of the cheese. Hope you like them.

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