When you're planning a winter holiday party, crostini are the perfect appetizers to fill out a menu of savory delights. Here's how to make these easy appetizers, plus ideas for how to top them.

Crostini 101

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice a baguette into 25 slices. Rub garlic on both sides of each slice, then toss the bread with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Arrange slices on a baking sheet; toast in the oven, turning several times, for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Roasted peppers and garlic

Tear warm roasted peppers into strips and toss with fresh garlic, salt and a luxuriously thick, aged balsamic vinegar. Use the mixture to top crostini spread with fresh ricotta.

Fennel and orange-mascarpone

Mix fresh mascarpone with orange zest, fresh thyme leaves and a little orange juice, then spread the mixture over crostini and top with braised fennel, suggests Parties That Cook founder Bibby Gignilliat. (See the recipe at www.mercurynews.com/recipes/ci_17584105)

Mascarpone, speck and figs

Spread fig conserve over the crostini, add a layer of mascarpone, and top with speck or prosciutto and an arugula leaf to garnish.

Fava and feta


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In a food processor, puree blanched, skinned fava beans with fresh lemon juice, salt and just enough olive oil to form a smooth paste. Spread on crostini and top with crumbled feta cheese, say Leslie Jonath and Ethel Brennan in "At the Farmers Market With Kids" (Chronicle Books, $22.95, 168 pages).

Salami, white beans and roasted garlic

Mash warm, cooked white beans with roasted garlic, and add enough olive oil to form a smooth paste. Spread the mixture on crostini and top with a thin slice of salami, Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn suggest in "Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing" (W.W. Norton, $39.95, 286 pages).