A successful appetizer is one that keeps people nervously eying their neighbors to make sure they won't finish the entire plate. With the winning combination of bright lemon, mild goat cheese, crispy toasts, and slightly bitter greens, this is one such appetizer.
We made these toasts for our housewarming party last month. I'd planned on slicing up bread and setting it out with cheeses and meats, but my partner grabbed a bunch of rapini we had in the refrigerator and started sauteéing it up, chatting on and on about his great rapini toasts. So here we are.
The nice thing about this recipe is how easy it is. It's as simple as quickly blanching the rapini to take away a little of its natural bitterness, then sautéing it in good olive oil with salt and chili flakes and a little lemon. Spread a creamy goat cheese and lay the greens on top of a toasted baguette, and sprinkle with salt. Easy, delicious, and slightly unexpected.
We actually never had a chance to even lay these out on the table; Sam was toasting the bread on the stove-top and layering the toppings while standing at the stove, and guests were eating them right there. Soon, a gathering had formed in the kitchen. People were waiting for more rapini toasts. I think you'll find the same thing happening at your next party.
Goat Cheese Rapini Toasts
1 bunch rapini (about 1 pound)
4 ounces goat cheese, softened
1 tablespoons lemon zest
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
15 (1/3-inch) slices cut from a crusty baguette
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3⁄4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, to finish
Sprinkle thick-flake salt (like Maldon), to finish
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Trim the rapini, removing the tough stems and stalks. (You can chop these up finely and save them for a stir-fry or slaw later in the week if you like.) Roughly chop the bunch of rapini.
Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Add the rapini. Blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes and then remove from stove and drain well. Allow to cool completely, about 15 minutes. Once cool, squeeze any remaining liquid from the rapini with your hands and set out on a dry plate.
In a small separate bowl, make the goat cheese spread by mixing together the goat cheese, lemon zest, salt and basil until combined. Meanwhile, arrange the baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush each side with olive oil and bake until toasty, 10 to 12 minutes.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and red chili flakes and sauté until garlic is slightly golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add rapini and salt, and cook about 5 minutes, until tender. Finish with lemon juice.
To assemble: Spread 1 teaspoon goat cheese onto one piece of toast. Add a heaping tablespoon of warm rapini. Repeat with remaining slices. Drizzle olive oil over the toasts and sprinkle with finishing salt. Serve warm.
(Image: Megan Gordon)