Beef and Arugula Bruschetta

Makes 16 (8 as first course, or more as part of buffet).

Note: For an elegant starter, make this with thinly sliced cold beef tenderloin and your own homemade giardiniera. For a super-quick version, use sliced rare roast beef and giardiniera (a medley of pickled vegetables), found in the pickle aisle of most grocery stores. From Lidia Bastianich.

• 16 (1/2-in.)-thick slices hearty country bread

• 2 c. drained giardiniera, plus 2 tbsp. brine (see Note)

• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 c. loosely packed baby arugula, coarsely chopped

• Kosher salt, to taste

• 1 lb. rare beef tenderloin, cooked rare to medium, thinly sliced (or 1 lb. thinly sliced rare roast beef from the deli)

Directions

Lightly toast or grill the bread on both sides. In a large bowl, toss together the giardiniera, olive oil and brine. Add the arugula, and toss gently. Taste, and season with salt if necessary.

Layer the beef on the bread. Top with the giardiniera mixture, and drizzle with any juices left in the bowl. Serve immediately.

 

Cannellini and Pancetta Bruschetta

Makes 16.

Note: The beans can be made a day ahead; just warm them up before serving. This recipe might give more beans than you need, but they will keep for several days and also freeze well. Stir them into soup, or serve as a side dish next to a big grilled steak. In a pinch, canned cannellini can be used. Drain them and sauté them with the oil and parsley for a few minutes, until warm. If you prefer, use a can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, and seasoned with olive oil and a sprig of rosemary. From Lidia Bastianich.

• 1 lb. dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight (see Note)

• 1 large carrot, finely chopped

• 1 large rib celery, finely chopped

• 2 fresh bay leaves

• 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling, divided

• 1 tsp. kosher salt

• 1/4 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley

• 16 thin slices pancetta

• 16 slices country bread, about 3 in. long each, grilled or toasted

Directions

Drain the soaked cannellini, and put in a pot with water to cover by 2 inches. Add the carrot, celery, bay leaves and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.

Uncover the beans, and simmer to reduce the cooking liquid so it just covers the beans, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, season with the salt, and let cool until just warm.

Drain the beans, and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the parsley.

Meanwhile, lay the pancetta in a nonstick skillet (you may have to do this in batches), and cook over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels.

To serve, mound some of the warm beans on the bread slices on a platter. Drizzle with a little more olive oil. Break the pancetta into shards, and set them on top of the beans.

Bruschetta With Prosciutto and Figs

Makes 6.

Note: If you have any leftover balsamic reduction, it is good drizzled over cooked vegetables or chunks of Grana Padano. When figs aren’t in season, you can use fig jam or dried figs that you purée in a blender or food processor with the addition of a few tablespoons of lemon juice, or even bourbon. From Lidia Bastianich.

• 1 c. balsamic vinegar

• 2 tsp. honey

• 1 fresh bay leaf

• 6 thick slices country bread, grilled or toasted on both sides, still warm

• Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

• Kosher salt

• 6 ripe figs, thickly sliced (see Note)

• 12 thin slices prosciutto

Directions

Combine the vinegar, honey and bay leaf in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and cook until thick and syrupy and reduced to 1/3 cup, about 5 to 6 minutes. Let cool. Discard bay leaf.

Drizzle the warm bread with olive oil, and season with salt. Lay the fig slices over the bread. Drape the prosciutto over the figs.

Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve.