Pesto Mozzarella Crostini

The Easiest Appetizer Ever

Let me set a scene for you: I’ve invited friends over for dinner at 7 pm. I inevitably end up being stuck late at work, the subway is delayed and there’s a long line at the bakery, where it seems the entire neighborhood is suddenly clamoring for baguettes. I get home at 6:45, finding myself with zero food ready and a mere 15 minutes before my guests arrive.

Cue the pesto mozzarella crostini.

This is the quickest appetizer in my arsenal (other than throwing out a hunk of cheese and a knife, which I usually do in tandem with this app.) Plus, these little crostini are both elegant and seriously foolproof, a rare combination in the culinary arts.

All it takes are four simple ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • One baguette
  • Pesto
  • Plain or marinated baby mozzarella balls (also known as bocconcini)

Pesto Mozzarella Crostini Ingredients

Here’s how to do it:

  • Preheat the broiler
  • Slice the bread and lightly spritz it with cooking spray
  • Broil the bread till golden

(Note: Watch the crostini like a hawk. They can go from perfectly toasted to blackened hockey pucks in a matter of seconds.)

Crostini

  • Cut the mozzarella balls in half
  • Spread pesto on each crostini

Pesto Mozzarella Crostini

  •  Top with two mozzarella halves

Pesto Mozzarella Crostini

  • Sprinkle with pepper, if so desired

(Note: I only add pepper if I’m using plain mozzarella balls because they just look too naked. If I have marinated mozzarella, the herbs and red pepper provide a little extra flavor and give the balls a shot of pretty.)

Pesto Mozzarella Crostini

The whole shebang takes under ten minutes, dirtying only a baking sheet and cutting board, which I can quickly clean and stash away before anyone arrives. Plus, gobbling up these little guys typically distracts my guests from the fact that I haven’t yet started dinner. Wine also helps with that.

Wang da Gang

World’s Oldest Cheese Found On Mummies

Scientists have discovered that yellow clumps found on the bodies of Chinese mummies are actually samples of the world’s oldest cheese — dating back to 1615 BC. 

USA Today reports that the cheese, which is lactose-free, was able to be preserved due to the dry desert air and salty soil in Small River Cemetery Number 5 in northwestern China.

While it’s not clear why people were buried with bits of cheese on their necks and chests, the newspaper quotes an analytical chemist as saying it could have been food for the afterlife.

Click here for USA Today’s full story.

(Photo: Wang da Gang)

Paski Sir

Paski Sir

  • Milk type: Pasteurized sheep
  • Style: Hard
  • Made in: Croatia
  • Purchased at: Whole Foods
  • Price: $22.99/lb on sale
  • Try pairing with: Merlot

What first drew me to this cheese was its Lord of the Rings-esque description: “Produced exclusively from the milk of sheep on the island of Pag.”

It turns out that Pag is located in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia, a country which has held a special place in my heart since I represented it in the United Nations in middle school. I have a very poor memory — the sole piece of knowledge I’ve retained from that experience is that Croatia is shaped like a croissant. Still, Paski Sir is the only cheese I’ve ever seen from the country and I felt immediately compelled to try it.

The piece that I purchased was aged for one year, giving it a caramel color and a hard and crystallized paste with a bit of crunch.

The flavor starts out mellow but finishes with a hit of tang. It also has a delicious saltiness that comes from the sea water blown over the grass eaten by the sheep. According to the cheese’s distributor, these sheep — which are native to the island of Pag — are smaller than average and it usually takes between 16 and 19 to produce a single wheel.

Croats traditionally cut the cheese into triangles, leaving the rind at the edge, which would look terrific on a cheese plate. And if you want to pair it, I would suggest going with a big red wine like a Merlot.

Even I Wouldn’t Wear This

I obviously love cheese. And if you’ve ever actually seen me, it’s immediately clear that I know nothing about fashion. (Which is how I ended up with an I Heart Cheese t-shirt.)

But even to me, this cheese-print dress seems like a really bad idea:

Rita Ora in Moschino Cheese Dress

Why singer Rita Ora would wear this is even more perplexing than why Moschino designed it in the first place. But, hey, what do I know? Maybe dairy prints are the next big thing.

Click here for the Daily Mail’s humorously serious coverage of Ora’s cheese dress.

Cheese Wedding Cake

If I Were Getting Married Again…

Cheese Wedding Cake

If I were currently planning my wedding, I would absolutely have to have one of these.

Cheese Wedding Cake

I would probably also have to be getting married in Kent, England, which is where The Cheese Box makes these amazingly cool cheese wedding cakes. Actually, Kent might be more convenient for guests to get to than the middle-of-nowhere Michigan vineyard where I did get married…

Cheese Wedding Cake

But since I think that Dave and I should wait a while before renewing our vows (after all, look at how the yearly renewal turned out for Heidi and Seal) I’ll just have to create a mini version for my birthday. Stay tuned… pictures to come.

Parmesan Crisp

Parmesan Crisps

When I was in Chicago with my mother last week, my friend Megan was kind enough to have us over for dinner. Between raising two young children, getting her home ready for a sale and freelance writing, I have no idea how she found time to not only whip up a gourmet meal but even serve it with cloth napkins (something that happens in my home only on Christmas.)

I was especially impressed by the elegant salad she made, sporting homemade dressing and a crispy parmesan topper. It was restaurant-quality presentation in what she swears was under 10 minutes.

Parmesan Crisp

The recipe, which is from Martha Stewart and which you can find here, involves simply baking a thin layer of parmesan cheese and letting it cool before topping the salad.

Parmesan Crisp Cooling

Megan’s tip: the parmesan should stay in the oven until it’s crispy enough to break with the tap of a fork.

What Type Of Cheese Are You?

I’ve never put much stock in Zodiac signs (or crystals or psychics, for that matter.) But a cheese sign? That’s something I can get behind.

In her entertaining book, “Cheese Signs,” Renee Monique Nicholson explores what a person’s favorite cheese says about their personality. Want to know about yours? Below are some highlights of each cheese personality type from Nicholson’s book.

Cheese Signs

Cheddar: the people-pleaser

“Cheddar is one of those cheese personalities that’s born with what seems like everything–grows up popular, easily attracts others, but lives every day knowing that they have a lot to give and much to accomplish. Cheddars will mold into whatever form desired to please those around them. They want to give of themselves, their time, and their talents.”

Gouda: the perfectionist

“Goudas do well with standards, rules, and following protocols. There is tremendous virtue that goes into Goudas, and their appreciation for hard work, honesty, and any means of conservation rule their life choices. The world around them needs fixing in whatever aspect it is cock-eyed, and the Gouda is here to try and perfect an imperfect world.”

Brie: the epicurean

“They search for the best in life, whether it be travel, modes of relaxation, food experiences, or sexual encounters. Pleasure is paramount for Bries, but never underestimate their success in their work. … Bries are powerful individuals. They can have an incredible influence on those around them and make effective, commanding, yet caring leaders.”

Goat: the naturalist

“You’re soft and bendable, yet enthusiastic and flexible. … People will come together for causes regarding social change because of your communal leadership and that strong sense of human nature that helps you motivate others.”

Feta: the passionate worker

“Throwing themselves into their work for the sake of their family or a segment of society is characteristic of this cheese personality. … Because of their strength, they are usually the ones to outlast, outdo, and outsmart others, in the most quiet of ways.”

Mozzarella: the performer

“Natural entertainers, Mozzarellas learn to act and give people what they want. … Mozzarellas can be brazen, but their love for life and their need to entertain can effuse delight over the staunch psyche of the most cautious and prudent. This cheese personality loves to divert others when others are stuck in what seems dismal.”

 Blue: the feeler

“Blues are deep-feeling, with an energy that tends to weight them down with emotion and a sensitivity that permeates their entire being. … They have extreme compassion and deep understanding when other people are going through troubled times. These are the people you go to when your dog dies, your lover sends you breakup texts, and you just lost your job.”

Muenster: the keen observer

“A Muenster is going to observe first, file away, and process what’s been seen into how can it be done better, faster, and with only the most critical details. … Just because pursuing independence and intellectualism are prized by Muenster doesn’t mean that their lives aren’t open to social recreation. They’ll be the first ones to cut it loose on the dance floor at the yearly insurance conference yet the very next day lead lectures on policy upgrades.”

Jack: the adventurer

“This is the thrill-seeker, adrenaline junkie, and radioactive dynamo. … They have an appeal that is immediate and an ability to woo others into action on their behalf. This is the character that can charm the pants off nearly anyone, engaging others’ hearts and souls as well as their bank accounts.”

Manchego: the idealist

“Considered by some an inspirational visionary and by others a foolish fanatic, Manchegos approach life with constant wonder, opening them up to the world as an empty canvas, inspiring others to follow their dreams and go beyond the mere surface of existence. … Manchegos are artisans and craftsmen, roaming chefs in mobile food trucks, and musicians in blues bars. They can teach and they can write; they will create and they will love.”

Swiss: the loyal skeptic

“A Swiss personality can see through just about anything, detecting people’s motives and inner workings like a doubting mind mentalist with X-ray vision goggles. … They pay attention to the details that reveal the motives of others like a detective investigating a crime scene, all the while sporting the countenance of a comic.”

Parmesan: the boss

“This is the leader with capabilities tantamount to a court judge, business mogul, and army sergeant all in one. … Parmesans will take the lead in any of life’s situations, and regardless of whether they seem overbearing or demanding, they will overcome obstacles that other cheeses may take a lifetime to surmount.”

But not everyone fits squarely within the characteristics of one single cheese. Nicholson points out that you might be a Camenzola: a Gorgonzola (Blue) and a Camembert (Brie). “It may suffice to have only one cheese that represents you, or it might take several to explain who you really are,” she writes.

At a bargain-basement price of $1 on Kindle, “Cheese Signs” is a quick and funny read. Click here to learn more about the book or to purchase it on Amazon.