Sunday, August 26, 2012

Best Appetizer Ever?

Back on July 1st, my family celebrated Father's Day, my Dad's birthday, and his retirement all in one fell swoop.  My dad did a little grilling, my mom made a delicious watermelon and feta salad, and Dan & I brought an appetizer.  Everyone asked for the recipe for our app, and my folks ended up making it for dinner a couple weeks later.

Since it was such a hit, Dan and I made it again this month for his parents and his sister Lisa.  Dan handled the pesto part and I handled the shrimp.  Again, the response was really good - something about it being the best appetizer ever :) - so I thought I better get some pictures taken and share the recipe (and give credit to a couple ladies who helped us with it).

You see, we didn't exactly invent the appetizer.  The Pea Pesto Crostini was based largely on a recipe from Giada De Laurentis, from her Giada at Home: Family Recipes from Italy and Californiacookbook.  I made a couple edits, but it was really her recipe.  The shrimp, however, was totally our idea... though, again, a Food Network celeb had a hand in it.  You see, I picked up a tip from Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) on how to make delicious shrimp by tossing them with olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper, and then roasting them in the oven.  She said it's her favorite way to make shrimp, and after trying it, it became mine.  I'll still toss shrimp in a pan with sauces or curries sometimes, but often opt for the oven roasting method.  It's easier to control the temperature and get the shrimp evenly but not overly cooked.

I really like this app myself because it's quick to make, the pesto and shrimp can be made ahead, and the flavors are so bright and light.  The color of the pea pesto is so beautiful and evokes freshness.  Also, as my Mom proved, it can be translated into a meal itself.  Dan & his Mom were talking, and thought crab would be tasty on top, or you could go with the original Giada recipe, which called for a halved cherry or grape tomato (making this a vegetarian option).  You can also use large or small shrimp/prawns.  In the photos, you can see we had smaller shrimp so put two on each crostini.  The first time we made them, one shrimp took up the whole crostini.

Pesto Pea Crostini with Roasted Shrimp
1 - 10 oz package of frozen peas
1 - loaf of French baguette, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces
2 - garlic cloves
1 lb - prawns, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup - chunk of Parmesan (or similar hard cheese)
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
A handful of basil leaves
The juice of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 350.  Fill a bowl or pot with hot tap water, and toss in the unopened bag of peas.

Lay the bread pieces on a sheet pan and place in oven for 5 minutes, or until bread has firmed up (if using day old bread, you can omit this step).  Remove from oven and gently rub a halved clove of garlic on the pieces.  Spray or drizzle olive oil (or Pam) on the bread.  Place oiled side down on a grill pan (you could also use the broiler for this) until crispy and lightly browned.  Remove from heat.

Toss shrimp with a teaspoon of olive oil and place on a sheet pan (use a silicone mat or parchment to help avoid sticking).  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and place in the oven for 5-10 minutes - until pink.  Avoid overcooking.  Remove from the oven and place in a bowl in the fridge to chill.

Put the garlic and Parmesan in a food processor and turn on until both are finely minced.  Add about 1 tspn salt and 1/4 tspn pepper and pulse.  Add thawed peas, lemon and basil and turn on again, allowing mixture to form a paste.  If the mixture looks dry, add olive oil until it is a little chunky, but mostly smooth - perhaps 1/3 to 2/3 cup.  Taste and add salt and/or pepper to taste.

To serve, put a spoonful of pesto on each crostini, and top with shrimp.

1 comment:

Kittekaat said...

I made this pesto recipe except that I used edamame beans because they did better in my garden this year than the peas. I boiled them for 5 minutes first. I served this topping on grilled tilapia and it was very popular at the dinner party.
Thank you!