I consider myself very blessed that my little family still shows up for Sunday dinner. It is the highlight of my week, and I start planning my next Sunday menu almost as soon as one Sunday dinner is over.
Things have gotten a bit harder as the years go by. Grandchildren have a limited diet, weekly pasta has been voted down by those limiting carbs, and seafood is not enjoyed by all. The hardest part of weekly meal planning is deciding what to serve as an appetizer before dinner.
I tend to run out of ideas for snacks with drinks, and some of my choices are old and tired: cheese and crackers, dip with veggies and shrimp with cocktail sauce. Dates wrapped in bacon were, surprisingly to me, not a hit.
My regular readers know that I love my cookbooks. Recently, I was perusing a cookbook I just purchased called “Quick and Easy Italian Recipes.” This little book is based on the classic Italian cookbook known as the “Silver Spoon.”
At 1,263 pages and with more than 2,000 recipes, the original “Silver Spoon” has been considered the “Bible of Italian cooking” since 1950. In 2005, the “Silver Spoon” cookbook was translated into English and has become widely available in American bookstores. It is a beautiful collection of almost every Italian recipe you could ask for. A goal of mine in 2019 is to try a few more of them.
“The Silver Spoon Quick and Easy Italian Recipes” offers busy home cooks a chance to make a selection of simplified but authentic Italian recipes. It was there that I found crostini con salsiccia, a delicious accompaniment to wine and cocktails either before dinner or as part of a “heavy hors d’oeuvres” party. The extraordinarily simple recipe can be adapted to your preferences. Try different cheeses or substitute turkey or chicken sausage to reduce fat.
The recipe calls for Taleggio cheese, which is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese produced in Italy. I had never tried it before, but I liked it. It has a rather strong aroma but is a mild-tasting cheese that melts well. Fontina would be nice here too, but I would avoid any cheese that is too salty.
Sausage Crostini (Crostini con Salsiccia)
- 3 Italian sausages, casings removed (I used sweet)
- 5 ounces of Taleggio or fontina cheese chopped or grated into shreds
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 4-6 slices rustic country bread, cut about ½ inch thick and in half
- Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Crumble the sausages into a bowl, breaking them up with a fork.
- Mix in the cheese and fennel.
- Spread the mixture (about ¼ cup) on each slice of bread, mounding slightly.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly, crisp and golden.
- Serve while hot.
I was initially worried about the sausage not being fully cooked with this approach and thought about baking or sautéing it first. But it was fine—fully cooked with the cheese melted throughout.
So, March is here, but we know that our weather will likely remain winter-like for at least a little while yet. Try this savory appetizer at your next dinner party. It would also be good as a light supper or Saturday lunch with a green salad.
My little grandsons might still ask for cheese and crackers when they come on Sunday. But the rest of us will enjoy this change from the routine before dinner. I hope you do, too.