Friday, October 24, 2014

8/28 Cooking Challenge - Creamy Cheese and Basil Crostini

On my list of things to do while Christopher was gone I put doing a bunch of 8/28 Cooking Challenge items, because I figured I could just take my time, make the food, and not worry about forcing him to try something he might not like. (Not sure what an "8/28 Cooking Challenge" is? Check out the original post where I discussed them, here.)

I pulled three cookbooks off the shelf and was all excited to find that one of the recipes fell squarely into something I wanted to make for Book Club. Another was... well... a tad boring, but I bought all of the ingredients for it, anyway, since that's the whole point. The third seemed kind of basic, but I figured I have always enjoyed the author's recipes, so what the heck, I'd try it. 

I pulled all of these cookbooks out about 2 weeks ago. The cookies did get made for Book Club (and photographed for a blog post), but haven't made it in here, yet. The second... well... it was for a salad. And after I bought the ingredients I got a little distracted, to the point that - as fresh ingredients do - some of them went a bit off. But the third thing I made last night, and this is about that. 

"Creamy Cheese and Basil Crostini" come from Melissa d'Arabian's Ten Dollar Dinners. 

Honestly, those are all the ingredients you need. The background orchid is totally optional. 
I know that I usually include a photo of the actual recipe - or a link to a website - but the paper in the cookbook is a heavyweight gloss, so it just reflects instead of photographing. And the recipe isn't actually on the Food Network site. I've included it, below, but you'll have to trust me on the recipe as we go along. 

The actual recipe for making the Crostini was on the page before this. 
I make a lot of crostini for various events. Basically, it's a nifty way to say "crusty little pieces of bread." They're a great alternative to crackers, and you can put almost anything on them. I've made them where you simply slice the bread and toast them, and then rub them with a raw piece of garlic. I've made them where you drizzle them with olive oil before toasting them. And I've put everything from cheeses to meats to veg on them. 

In this version, you start by mixing equal parts of vegetable oil and olive oil (1 Tbsp each for a full baguette), with a little salt and black pepper. You slice your baguette into thin slices (at an angle gives you more slices, as well as more surface area per slice), then you brush the oil/salt/pepper mixture onto the bread, place it on a baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. 

The brush got a tad out of hand. Not gonna lie. The flavor was amazing, though, and the dog loved my shirt afterward. 
I'm a pretty quick study in the kitchen, so while those were in the toaster oven, I moved on to the "creamy cheese" part of the recipe.

Now, you'll remember that this is a cookbook for $10 dinners - for four people - so the ingredients aren't massively expensive. In this case, you're using 3/4 cup of 4% fat Cottage Cheese, which you put into a food processor until it's smooth. (The recipe said that you could add milk if it was too thick because you want it to be "the consistency of whipped cream cheese" - but I have no idea what that consistency is.)

Oh... And I didn't want to dig out our mini food processor, so I went for our hand blender. Check out the amazing before and after shots:

Ugh. Boring cottage cheese. (Kidding. I actually ate some of it off the spatula. It's one of those foods that you forget how good it is when you don't eat it that often. And I have never had the high fat version before. It was yummy.)

We're going to say this was smooth and the consistency of whipped cream cheese. 
The next step weirded me out just a tad. I'm not a big fan of lemon in savory dishes - except for Christopher's A-MA-ZING Lemon Chicken - but I've liked all of the recipes I've made from Ten Dollar Dinners, so I trusted that Ms. d'Arabian would not lead me wrong. So I added a bit of salt, and the zest of 1/4 lemon and stirred it all together.

The yellow stuff is lemon zest, not egg yolk. (I figured I should say that since most of you probably expected me to be baking...)
Okay... So... Crostini come out of the toaster oven looking all toasty (and smelling amazing - the olive oil I used was infused with garlic), and I let them cool a bit as I picked some basil leaves, rolled them up, and sliced them into ribbons. (I think that means I "chiffonaded" them, but that might not be a verb.)

If only we had smell-o-vision for blogs!
Alright. We have nifty toast. We have creamy cheese which... not gonna lie... tastes incredible. (We're talking "eat it with a spoon" incredible. The cottage cheese is completely transformed with that little bit of salt and the lemon zest. I second guess a lot of recipes, but I am so glad I did not second guess this one.) I drizzle a little extra oil on the cheese and top with the basil, and I am good to go.

Now here's the thing: This is not exactly a meal by itself. I mean... It certainly could be, but it's not intended to be. But it is incredibly inexpensive, and if you were to cut the entire baguette (I only did half), you'd probably have about 20 crostini when you were done. That's a lot of food for very little money.

And it was FAST. I realize I'm pretty handy in the kitchen, but I could never do any of those 30-minute meals in 30 minutes or less. But in the time it took to make these, I was able to do a quick re-heat on some leftover pasta with chicken and spinach.

Take a look at the following photos, and tell me which you'd rather have for dinner on a Thursday night:

a) Leftover pasta

b) Leftover pasta with fresh, flavorful, easy Creamy Cheese and Basil Crostini

Yeah. It's a no-brainer. This is one 8/28 Cooking Challenge recipe that I'm incredibly happy to have run across. I suspect it will be showing up at dinners and gatherings in the future.

(Fair disclosure: I have loved every recipe I've made from Ten Dollar Dinners - both the TV show and the cookbook. I watched the show fairly religiously when it was on, and I still follow Melissa d'Arabian on Facebook. If you're looking for a good, basic, easy-to-follow, and budget-friendly cookbook, this is a great way to go. Plus, you could get the full - exact - recipe, instead of my paraphrasing.)

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