March 5, 2013

Goat Cheese Crostini Three Ways

I told myself that I would never pay for blackberries, I mean, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, blackberries are more invasive than dandelions. When I first moved out here, I was excited at the prospects of baking blackberry cobbler and pie all summer long, and then became a bit less excited about the thorny brambles that encase them and their hard to reach locations (also the spiders, I really dislike them). Blackberries were new and exciting, a berry that I had relatively low exposure to living out east.

A few years ago, when I lived in Victoria, I would ride my bike to work. Victoria has a pretty and convenient bike trail that runs throughout the city and into the countryside. Bikers are generally non-aggressive, unless they are wearing Lycra. That seems to change things a bit. And you should always keep a close eye on drivers - in a city known for the newly wed and nearly dead.

Victoria's climate remains pretty mild all year round, gets less rain and more sun than its neighbors, Seattle and Vancouver. It's a pretty great place to live, if you don't mind being stuck on an island. There are a few ferries to get you off, but they're a little pricey and often fill up quickly in the summer months.

Biking to work was awesome. I was in great shape and avoided the effects of road rage. On my local commute to work, I passed by lakes, flowers, birds, dogs, nature etc. The trail followed a breath-taking view of the Olympic mountain range and the Pacific ocean. During the summer, the trail was lined with bushes of blackberries as far as the eye could see. 

I had been living in Victoria for a year or so, having only picked a few berries with friends for immediate consumption. One day I decided to bring a few containers to work, hoping to pick enough on my way home for a pie or two. I pulled my bike over in what looked like a great spot. I grabbed my containers and started picking. A couple of minutes had passed by, when I looked down and saw that I was standing on a red ant hill and my legs were covered. I totally freaked out, like any sane person would. I ripped off my pants and started flailing my hands like a maniac, and it's a good think I was wearing decent underwear that day and not my granny panties, because it was a show. What surprises me about the whole situation, is that no one stopped to see if I was OK. So, the moral of the story is, never rule out the unexpected, and make sure your panties are always looking good. And I guess you could leave the blackberry picking to experts or suit up in some kind of armor, cause those bushes are sharp.
This is why I now find it perfectly acceptable to purchase some fine Mexican blackberries from Trader Joes. Also, a sweet tub of tomatoes, a basil plant, goat cheese and a baguette are all delicious and reasonable impulse buys. We had a few friends over for drinks last week, and I thought it appropriate to provide some delicious snacks. This is what I like to do. The great thing about crostini is the versatility you have when preparing. I chose a soft and creamy goat cheese base, and added a few of my favorite ingredients for toppings. A little fancy, a bit of color, and we can now call it a party. 

serves 8 - 10 people as an appetizer
notes: If blackberries are not in season, you can substitute raspberries or strawberries. You could even use a little jam or preserve. 

1 crusty baguette, sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
2 tbsp olive oil
3 - 4 oz soft goat cheese, room temperature
1 firm avocado, thinly sliced
1/2 cup almond basil pesto
1 cup arugula
2 cups black berries
2 tbsp maple syrup
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch pieces. Lay the slices onto a baking sheet or serving tray.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. On a baking sheet, place the cherry tomatoes and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, and place into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tomatoes Begin to caramelize and the garlic softens. Remove from the oven and set to the side.

Spread the goat cheese onto the sliced bread.

On 1/3 of the sliced bread, scoop a generous amount of roasted tomatoes on top of the goat cheese, and then a few small slices of avocado. Season with salt and pepper.

On 1/3 of the sliced bread, spread some pesto on top of the goat cheese, and then top with a few pieces of arugula.

On the final 1/3, place a few blackberries on top of the goat cheese and then drizzle with maple syrup. Serve immediately.


  1. I now officially have a case of the itchies just thinking about all those red ants! I'm glad you've taken to buying the blackberries now...picking them just sounds scary! these crostini variations. Goat cheese is my fave.

    1. It just seems too risky. I'd rather buy them these days.

  2. Yessss please! What an awesome appetizer/lunch/snack! I'm all over this!

  3. Can't wait to make this for Friday Night Date Night!

  4. Your photos are beautiful! Love this post, it's such a simple, yet elegant idea, not to mention that I really just love crostini!

  5. I have been an admirer of your blog for a while now. your photos are absolutely stunning. Just beautiful. Today, you made me laugh out loud b/c I am new to the PNW (one year) and have seen people picking blackberries at a park close to our house and was wondering about doing this myself. . no one stopped to see if you were ok and just stared at you in your panties?! What? Anyway, loved the story. . I will stick to buying my fruit from the grocery store unless I am absolutely positive there are no art hills around. and to me, yes! crostini =versatility = party. Love this!

    1. Wow, thank you Alice. Yep, no one stopped. They all just kept biking by.

  6. Come on now all you berry lovers! Try it one more is so worth it!

    But be prepared next time. Boots, long pants, long-sleeved shirt. A glove for the non-dominant hand to pull thorny canes out of the way. And a friend or two to up the amount of berries that fall into the bucket (which, if you like, can be rigged to hang around your neck for free hands) so there is enough to bake and freeze!

    The spiders are harmless...

    1. You have now convinced me that the task is far too great - good advice though. I agree, the spiders are harmless, but totally disgusting.

  7. These crostini are the prettiest ever! Especially with those totally non-hazardous blackberries. :) I used to bike commute too, and I agree--it's super rewarding.

    1. Thank you Eileen. I miss my daily bike commute.

  8. Oh dear, these all look so delicious! I want one of each :) I went berry picking once in Ontario and came across a bear. Larger than ants, but equally terrifying. *hehe* Gorgeous photos as always. I just adore your work.

    1. Jesus, a bear. I think that would scare me off picking berries for life.

  9. These are gorgeous!! I want all three! :) Absolutely love that first photo.

  10. Those look HEAVENLY! Oh my goodness, I'm so hungry now, haha

    Your photos are beautiful, by the way!