The appetizer that I made for the cooking class was a White Bean and Garlic Crostini. Instead of using the garlic, olive oil and vinegar in step 3, we used the Parmesan Olivier dipping oil that Williams-Sonoma sells. These dipping oils are not something you'd ever find in Italy, but they really are tasty. This is the kind of short cut I don't mind taking when I'm making a big dinner. In addition to using them on the crostini, I would set out small bowls for people to dip their bread throughout the dinner. Again, not something you would see done in Italy, but a number of Italian restaurants are doing this sort of thing here. People really seem to love to dip!
White Bean and Garlic Crostini
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 14-ounce can of white beans (cannellini beans), drained and rinsed
A couple sprigs of oregano, rosemary or sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 loaf of Ciabatta or other crusty bread
1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar
1. Add a generous amount of olive oil along with one of the cloves of garlic and red pepper flakes to a small heavy saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Saute just until it sizzles.
2. Add the beans and heat gently for 5-7 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper and stir/mash the beans until you break down the beans to a spreading consistency. Add another tablespoon or so of olive oil to get a spreadable consistency.
3. Meanwhile, grill or toast slices of the bread. Mix the remaining chopped garlic with another couple tablespoons of olive oil and the vinegar and brush this mixture on the toasts. Spread some of the bean mixture on each slice and garnish with a little more of the oil and vinegar mixture and some freshly ground black pepper.
Makes about 12