Cheesy Garlic Bread

Growing up in a heavily Italian area of New York, I’ve had every type of garlic bread imaginable. Garlic knots, garlic rolls, French-bread-cut-in-half garlic bread… the delicious list goes on. I have two favorite garlic bread experiences in recent memory. The first was the French bread type of garlic bread at a restaurant called Parm (think old standby Italian spot meets trendy, Instagram-worthy chain). The second was from a pizza place on the Upper West Side, and it entailed six, count ’em, SIX, garlic knots smothered in a melty layer of mozzarella cheese. It was those knots that got me thinking, “I should make this myself so that I can eat them ALL THE TIME!!! Will I gain weight? Probably… but that’s a small price to pay for such a satisfying lifestyle”.

I came down a little from that initial cheese high, but was still craving more. So, you guessed it! I decided to marry these two garlic rich experiences and make my own supply.

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If you’re wondering why the end of the baguette looks like a butt, it’s because it was meant to look like a fish tail but the baker had a bad day. No need to buy a fancy loaf for this recipe– I got this butt loaf at my local supermarket!

INGREDIENTS:

1 baguette, cut crosswise and then lengthwise

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella

1/4 cup grated parmesan

6 Tbsp butter, melted

5-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

 

2 Tbsp chopped parsley

Garlic powder, to taste

Italian seasoning, to taste

1/2 cup red sauce, if desired

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DIRECTIONS:

Makes 4 large servings or 8 small servings (i.e. for a non-monster unlike myself)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the cut baguette, crust side down, on the sheet. Set aside.

Sprinkle garlic powder and Italian seasoning into the melted butter. Add the chopped garlic cloves and stir. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, or until the butter has started to harden again.

Spread the butter mixture over the doughy parts of the baguette. Sprinkle the baguette slices with mozzarella, dividing it evenly over each one. Repeat with the parmesan.

Bake for 15 minutes, then broil for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese starts to bubble and brown. If you don’t have a broiler you can skip this step, but it makes the flavor even better!

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Heat up your red sauce in the microwave or in a small saucepan.

Sprinkle the baguettes with parsley and let cool until it is nice and warm but not hot. Dip in your red sauce and enjoy!!

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Pizza Rolls

It’s hard to write a blog post when you can’t stop thinking about warm, melty cheese oozing out of a crispy, buttery roll slathered in butter and Italian herbs. Oh, and that’s stuffed with pepperoni. I just made these pizza rolls, and four have already disappeared (into my stomach). I told myself that it was okay because I made them using lite string cheese, which everyone knows is *significantly* better for you than regular string cheese…

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Ooey gooey, melty melty!

I first became mesmerized by the mythical Roni Roll when my best friend Lauren’s mom made one for Superbowl Sunday. Her recipe is slightly different; it only makes 1 large roll instead of 8 minis, and uses shredded mozzarella instead of string cheese– and perhaps most importantly, we call it a Roni Roll. Both are extremely easy to make, and insanely crowd pleasing. The recipe I used comes from Damn Delicious, an awesome blog that offers both healthy and cheesy posts.

INGREDIENTS:

1 can (8) Pillsbury crescent rolls

4 string cheeses, cut in half

About a half cup of pepperoni

1 tsp Italian herbs (I used Penzeys Pasta Sprinkle)

1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

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Such simple ingredients make such an awesome result!

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Normally I don’t line the baking sheet when working with Pillsbury crescent rolls because they’re so buttery that they don’t stick, but because these have the potential to leak cheese, it’s a good idea.

Place one of the pieces of string cheese in the wide end of the roll. Tuck in the edges of the roll around it so that it won’t escape! Lay about a tablespoon of pepperoni next to the string cheese on the roll. Try not to pile it up, or there’ll be too much in one spot. If there can ever be too much pepperoni. Roll up the crescents and double check that the cheese isn’t exposed! Keep it nice and cozy in its crescent roll blanket.

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Tuck in those corners so no cheese gets loose in your oven

Pop the baking sheet in the oven for 10-12 minutes, and remove as soon as the tops are golden brown. Whisk together the melted butter and Italian seasoning in a small bowl.

Remove them from the baking sheet and brush them with the melted butter and seasoning mixture. Eat immediately! (I know you’re thinking “lol ok, I’ll eat them once my friends get here”. If you have that much will power, I’m impressed).

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All done, and ready to eat

 

 

 

Chrissy Teigen’s Cheesy Guac

I know it’s been a while since I posted– I was moving, and then Christmas happened (our dinner was French-themed so I made bacon fat mashed potatoes with cantal cheese and it was fist pumping good). I don’t know what my excuse for January is, but I’m gonna blame it on Donald Trump and the family of hamsters masquerading as his hair.

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I especially enjoy cooking when it’s holiday specific, so I figured I’d make something for Superbowl Sunday (go Beardogs!). I’ve been eyeing Chrissy Teigen’s cheesy guacamole recipe for a couple of weeks now, and this seemed like a good excuse to make it. I get that adding cheese to an otherwise healthy dip seems like overkill, but it takes it from being just an inexplicably delicious pile of green goop to being an inexplicably delicious pile of green goop with cheese mixed in. Plus, who’s really trying to be healthy on Superbowl Sunday?

 

INGREDIENTS:

3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded, and peeled

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 medium onion, diced

1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced (jarred is fine)

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Tortilla chips (NOT “hint of lime”, unless you are a “hint of lime” eating monster)

*If you’d like to add tomatoes, Chrissy says to add 2 romas, seeded and diced. I have acid reflux so raw tomatoes are my worst nightmare. But if you can eat them, they add beautiful color and sweetness to an otherwise salty and tangy dish.

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DIRECTIONS:

Put the avocados in a medium bowl. Cover with the lime juice. Mash with a potato masher. Mash. Mash. Mash away, until there are only a few delightful little chunks left.

Mash in the spices and salt.

Gently fold in the remaining ingredients. Cover the guac in saran wrap for an hour to let those flavors dance together.

Wash your hands really well so you don’t touch your eye later and get jalapeño juice in it.

Dip your chip and enjoy.

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Brie En Croute

Halloween is over, so that means Thanksgiving and Christmas are in full swing. At least according to mall decorations and Galleries Lafayette in Paris, which already boasts a giant Christmas tree that looks like a beautiful upside down ice cream cone. With the exception of a harvest-decorated townhouse on the upper west side, I haven’t seen any indications of the imminent holiday season here in New York.

The brie and the cranberries look SO BEAUTIFUL together!!

Obviously if you’re asking me, one of the best things about the holiday season is the food. UGH. THE FOOD. The box stuffing, the turnips with butter and mounds of salt, the canned cranberry sauce, the fresh haricots verts, the buche de Noel, the parker house rolls, the pumpkin pie, the butterscotch oatmeal cookies, and not last and also not least, the brie en croute. Or as my family calls it, baked brie.

My high school was near a Whole Foods, so my mom started shopping there sometimes while waiting to pick me up after rehearsal or whatnot. One fateful day, she purchased a pre-made baked brie. And my family went NUTS. Ever since, it’s been a must-have appetizer on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And just like, casual Tuesdays.

Brie En Croute is perfect for holiday celebrations.

This past year I decided to make it from scratch, since I figured that would be cheaper and dare I say, even more delicious than the store bought version. I used the framework of Paula Deen’s recipe; the changes I made were basically omitting the nut topping and replacing it with a tart yet sweet cranberry-apple mixture, as well as cutting the amount of brown sugar added to about half, though that alteration can be left up to your palate.

You might find that you don’t need the kitchen string, which both the original and my adapted recipes call for. Sometimes the brie you find will be slightly wider, and will therefore not leave enough excess dough to tie. If this happens, it’s totally fine. Just press the dough down onto the cheese firmly so that it doesn’t open up while baking.

Before baking, tie any excess puff pastry with kitchen string.

INGREDIENTS:

1 sheet pre-packaged frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup diced and peeled granny smith apple

1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1, 8 oz. wheel of brie

1/8-1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

Special tools:

*Kitchen string*

Ingredients for Brie En Croute

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Take out a baking sheet and set aside. You do NOT need to spray it.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apples and cranberries and let cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the apples are slightly translucent and the cranberries are no longer hard. Add the cinnamon and stir until the fruit is evenly coated. Set aside.

Place the puff pastry onto the baking sheet. Place the brie in the center. Gently pour the  fruit mixture on top of the brie. If some falls off onto the puff pastry, that’s fine! Sprinkle the brown sugar over the fruit topping.

Fruit topping on Brie En Croute

Starting with a corner, roll up the puff pastry onto the brie, working in a circle. Using a pastry brush (TBH you can use your fingers if you don’t have one), lightly coat the puff pastry in the egg wash. Tie up any excess pastry with a piece of kitchen string.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

Finally done! Ooey gooey delicious Brie En Croute.

Enjoy!

Leslie

Watermelon Caprese Salad

I think it’s safe to say that summer is finally winding down. Last week I thought it was, but she gave us the old fake out and now we’re still encountering 80 and above weather. Oh, well. That just means that fall will start and end later, if all goes according to plan- my plan being controlling the tri-state area weather. Obviously.

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Anyway, when I look back on all of my summers, they all have some things in common: they’ve all taken place on Long Island (for the most part), they’ve all involved at least one dip in a salty ocean and/or chlorinated pool, and they’ve all included caprese salad. Caprese salad is simply sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and sometimes balsamic vinegar, depending on who’s making it. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that my grandma made this for us every time that we came over in the summer, or at least it felt like she did. She’s not Italian, but she lived in an Italian neighborhood for most of her life so she picked up some delicious traditions, this included. The house that she and my grandpa owned wasn’t on the water, but for some reason (probably their amazing amount of lighthouse themed paraphernalia), it felt oceanic. I think I sometimes pretended I was on a ship while I was there. They also had a pool, so maybe that contributed to the water vibe. Who really knows. But caprese salad encompasses all of those memories for me.

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Since I *tragically* cannot eat the traditional version, I decided to try mixing it up by replacing the tomatoes with watermelon. They’re relatively similar in texture; the biggest difference is that watermelon is tremendously sweet and bursts with liquid, whereas tomatoes straddle the vegetable-fruit border (though yes, they are really considered fruit).

This salad (you can call it an insalate if you’d like to stick with the Italian theme, or if you feel like being pretentious) is perfect for a barbecue, or an indoor appetizer on a hazy summer evening. I can’t say I’ll miss much about summer, but I will miss after dinner walks on the beach, sitting on my stoop eating ice cream sandwiches and drinking lemonade, and the refreshing smell of air conditioned air hitting my face after emerging from the swamp-like outdoors. But those sentiments aside, BRING ON DA AUTUMN.

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INGREDIENTS:

1/4 medium sized watermelon, cubed into 1 inch chunks

6-8 large basil leaves, torn

8 oz. “cherry sized” mozzarella balls, drained and cut in half (get the ones that are packed in water, not olive oil)

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar

1 pinch of table salt

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DIRECTIONS:

Put the cubed watermelon in a strainer. Place the strainer in a larger bowl. Toss the watermelon with the pinch of salt. Let sit for 30 minutes.

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In a small pan over medium-high heat, warm the balsamic vinegar. Add the reserved watermelon juice from the bowl underneath the strainer for sweetness. If it’s still not sweet enough for your taste, add a tsp of honey. Allow the vinegar-juice mixture to become syrupy, then remove from heat.

Take the watermelon cubes out of the strainer and put in a serving bowl. Add the mozzarella and basil, and toss with the olive oil. DO NOT add salt as you would with tomato caprese; the salt and the watermelon do not mix well. They are not friends. They should stay far apart. Drizzle with the reduced balsamic to your liking– take note that though sweeter than regular balsamic, this reduction is quite strong, so use very sparingly. Serve ASAP.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Balsamic and Basil Strawberries

I’ve loved balsamic vinegar since I was a kid. When I was four, I used to dunk raw heads of broccoli into a small glass bowl filled with the stuff. My mom said I was the only kid she ever heard of who liked vinegar that much. Even now, it’s one of my favorite condiments; it’s tangy but there’s enough sweetness to balance the strong acidity.

For my mom’s birthday tea, I made Kahlua-whipped cream filled strawberries with turbinado sugar sprinkled on top. I enjoy Kahlua, but it invokes more of a cozy, wintertime feeling than I would want to experience right now (current temp in NYC: 84 degrees, F… humidity: the papers in my desk feel moist to the touch, as do the multigrain crackers residing in my cabinet). Thus, I opted against making Kahlua strawberries this go around, and decided instead to make more savory and refreshing balsamic-whipped cream filled strawberries with a basil garnish to fulfill the savory flavor profile of the balsamic cream.

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The first time I tried whipping the cream in my hot, sticky apartment, it collapsed a few whips away from being finished, partially because of the heat, and partially because I added too much vinegar too close to the end; I think the acidity cut the fat. Expletives were yelled. Fists were brandished. I put my sweat-tainted shirt back on (yes, I was working in a sports bra with a fan aimed directly at my sweltering, cream whipping bod), and trekked back to the store. This time, I bought not one, but two pints of heavy cream, in case the same thing happened again.

I got back to my apartment and with newfound determination and beads of sweat running down my forearms, whipped the cream successfully. When I went to put the cream in my piping bag, I discovered that something atrocious had happened to it, which I shan’t get into. Anyhow, I opted to use a spoon to insert the cream into the hulled strawberries rather than spend my afternoon searching West Harlem for a new pastry tool.

If you don’t mess up the cream like I initially did, these strawberries are very easy to make, and are great for a savory dessert or appetizer on a hot summer day. With that said, they’re best served cool, or the cream will become watery. I know this firsthand because I tried to bring some downtown to my friend Melissa, and they melted on the subway. She still ate them, which I love her for.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 pound strawberries, washed and hulled

1/2 packet gelatin, dissolved in a few tbsp of boiling water, at room temp (whisk with a fork as soon as you add the water so it doesn’t become lumpy)

3 basil leaves, cut into ribbons

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (the sweeter the better)

1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar

1/2 pint heavy cream

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DIRECTIONS:

Chill a mixing bowl and a whisk in the freezer for at least an hour.

Pour the cooled gelatin-water mixture into the mixing bowl. Add the confectioner’s sugar, balsamic, and cream. Whisk until soft peaks form. Using a metal teaspoon, dollop about a tablespoon into the core of each strawberry. Top the cream with a basil ribbon. Serve immediately.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Toasty Tuna Tartlets

It’s snowing. It’s blizzarding. I’m almost out of Oreos. Consequently, I’m hungry and bored. So I decided to make these warm and toasty tuna tartlets, which is really a boujis way of saying “tuna melts”. The biggest difference between these and traditional tuna melts is the use of puff pastry as the bread component in this recipe. I didn’t have quite enough tuna to go around, so I also made a few ham and cheese tartlets, using most of the same ingredients.

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As good as these are for munching on a cold winter day in front of your computer while Netflix reloads (or after shoveling your driveway, as the case may be) they’re also great as a casual hors d’oeuvre since they’re simple but delicious. I highly recommend pairing them with a glass of lemonade or iced tea. I know that doesn’t totally make sense since it’s snowing, but it’s a great combo.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed and cut into 12 squares

Gruyere cheese, grated

Few slices low salt ham cold cuts

Honey mustard

1 scallion, green part only thinly sliced

Fresh lemon juice, plus a few pinches of zest

1 can tuna

1-2 tbsp mayonaise

Black pepper

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp heavy cream

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place puff pastry squares on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.

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Tuna Tartlets:

Combine tuna and mayo; mash together with a fork. Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice, being careful not to drop in any seeds. (Hold the lemon with the cut part facing upwards). Grate in some zest, and stir into tuna mixture. Spoon tuna evenly onto puff pastry squares. Keep the edges of the pastry clear so that it can rise around the filling. Grind some black pepper over the tuna. Cover with cheese. Set aside.

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Ham and Cheese Tartlets:

Spread a dollop of honey mustard on the remaining puff pastry squares. Rip up a few cold cuts, and place them on top of the mustard, leaving the edges of the pastry clear as you did with the tuna. Grind black pepper over the ham, and cover with remaining gruyere.

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Scramble the egg yolk in a small bowl, and add the heavy cream. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the mixture onto the bare edges of the pastry squares.

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Put baking sheet in oven and let bake for 14-16 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven. The puff pastry should be golden brown and risen when you take them out.

Put 2-3 scallions on each square.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Goat Cheese and Zucchini Tart

Autumn is my favorite season. I can’t wait for the leaves to fall and turn crisp, for everything in Trader Joe’s to be pumpkin flavored, and for it to be acceptable to make heartier, more buttery food. But, before I can dive into autumn, I must part ways with summer. Summer, though not my favorite season food-wise (or weather-wise if I’m being honest), is overflowing with fresh produce. If you live somewhere like California where there isn’t much of a season change, you maintain most of your produce quality year-round. But here in New York, there’s a relatively large disparity between what’s seasonal in the summer and autumn months. So, until Labor Day, I will be making recipes highlighting seasonal summer foods, as a sort of going away party for the season.

As a food blogger I really enjoy looking at other people’s food blogs and Instagrams to see what recipes they’re trying, and often, creating. A few months ago, I came across a food blogger (hautesucreblog.wordpress.com) whose food I’ve been itching to try. After a minute on her site, I found the perfect recipe for my going-out-of-season theme: a zucchini tart. Below is the original recipe, which actually uses feta instead of goat cheese.

Original Recipe: http://hautesucreblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/summer-zucchini-tart/

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INGREDIENTS:

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1 large, or 1 1/2 medium zucchini, sliced very thinly using a mandolin (don’t try this with a knife!)

6 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Olive oil, for drizzling

Salt

Pepper

Herbs de Provence (I used Sunny Paris Seasoning from Penzy’s)

3 sprigs rosemary

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unfold the puff pastry on the baking sheet. Top with some goat cheese and a little bit of olive oil. Put a layer of zucchini on top, leaving a border of the pastry untouched as the crust. Hit with some salt, pepper, and herbs de provence, then repeat steps.

Lay rosemary sprigs across the top. Bake for 25 minutes or until pastry is puffy and golden brown.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Simply Delicious Crostini

Sometimes I find myself surrounded by remnants of meals past; some mozzarella and basil from that lasagne I made, some tomatoes from that sauce I cooked, some bread from me eating that loaf of bread… you get the picture. I hate throwing out food since it’s wasteful and not cost effective, but it can be hard to concoct a meal out of leftovers. How are you supposed to find a recipe that uses everything you have laying around your kitchen? Often, you can’t, but if you only have to run out and  buy one new thing in order to make a recipe that involves most of your leftovers, why not?

I came up with this crostini recipe when I saw that an old loaf of Italian bread was about to be thrown out. I looked around and saw that we had some tomatoes, which we normally keep in the house to put in salads, and some basil leaves from our basil plant out back. I had never made crostinis before, but one of my classmates had made them recently, so I had a rough idea of what making them entailed. Luckily, I discovered that cooking crostinis is very simple. As long as you don’t burn the bread (which I’m sure you won’t), there’s not much that can go wrong. Since this recipe was intended as a way to use leftovers, I left the ingredient amounts loose so that you can adjust it to fit your pantry.

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INGREDIENTS:

 One loaf of few-day-old Italian bread

Olive oil

Kalamata olives

A couple of small-medium sized tomatoes (not cherry tomatoes)

Mozzarella cheese (fresh is always preferable, but feel free to use prepackaged like I did here)

Feta cheese

3-4 torn basil leaves

Garlic salt (if you don’t have garlic salt, you can use a pinch of garlic powder and coarse salt)

Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices. Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil so that the middle appears yellow and slightly moist- no need to drench them! Sprinkle each side with garlic salt and pepper.

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Lay the crostini on a baking sheet (or two, depending on how many you’re making). Put crostini in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they no longer appear moist and the crust is a deeper brown than when you put them in. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet(s).

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Chop the kalamata olives and mix with feta cheese. Take half of the bread off of the baking sheet(s) and top with kalamata-feta mixture. Set aside.

Cut tomatoes so that each piece is no larger than the size of a nickel. Do the same with the mozzarella. There should be about the same amount of mozzarella and tomatoes. Tear the basil leaves and mix with the tomato-mozzarella mixture. Put on top of the remaining crostini.

Combine both types of crostini on a serving plate, and sprinkle with a few pinches of pepper.

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Enjoy!

Leslie