It’s been a crazy couple of weeks down here in what I like to call “the other Washington,” by which I (possibly not so obviously) mean the capital of our glorious nation, as opposed to my home state. Aside from the usual political shenanigans for which we are known, the weather around here has been absolutely crazy, vacillating between warm spring(ish) days, snow days, and days where every surface is entirely covered with ice. It was one of these recent snow days that I have to thank for these perfect almond, date, and mushroom crostini. I even added a schemer of brie to a few of them. So. Good.
Last week, we had tickets to see Dunsinane performed by the National Theater of Scotland, here in Washington, but when we woke up, the city was covered in at least four inches of snow. If you know any thing about Washington, you know that this city pretty much comes to a standstill when we get anything over a centimeter, so we really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into as we stepped outside our door. In the course of about four hours, we had heavy snow, pouring rain, and so much ice that we could barely make it from the theater to the metro to make our way home.
Before the play, right as the rain started, we ducked into one of D.C.’s most recommended restaurants Zaytinya for a late lunch. I can’t even tell you the number of people who have suggested this place to us, and even in the inclement weather the dining area was nearly full. We were definitely not disappointed. Zaytinya is all about the mezze (small plates) and is inspired by some of my favorite spots along the Mediterranean, like Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon! Some of our favorite dishes were the Htipiti, a yummy red pepper and feta spread with thyme, the crispy brussels sprouts with coriander, barberries and garlic yogurt, and of course the sautéed mushrooms with dates, almonds, and cumin!
It was this last dish that really stuck with me, and it wasn’t more than 24 hours before I was on my way to the store for a few mushrooms, and then back in my kitchen creating these Almond, Date, and Mushroom Crostini! The original dish featured a few varieties of wild mushrooms, which were amazing. But I’m no Columba Bush, so I walked right past those wild mushrooms and loaded up on those of the simple cremini variety.
I’m a huge fan of anything mushroom, and these Almond, Date, and Mushroom Crostini are no exception, but I must tell you, for the texture to come out right the almonds really do need to be sliced. Someone once told me that life’s too short to stuff a mushroom. (This person obviously needs a new recipe for stuffed mushrooms, because, yum! But that’s a story for another time.) I think I can safely say that until about a week ago, this was my exact attitude towards slicing almonds. Chopping? Sure. Individually slicing? I think not. But, almonds are expensive, and I already had a costco sized bag in my fridge, so rather than shelling out my hard earned cash on pre-sliced almonds of questionably freshness, I just roasted a handful of raw almonds and sliced them myself. The recipe doesn’t call for very many, and it literally took me less than three minutes. I guess life’s not really too short for that…
Finally, the brie. Brie is good. Bread is good. Mushrooms are good. Why not add brie to these yummy crostinis? I couldn’t think of a reason, so I added some to mine. I hope you do too. You could also serve these mushrooms sans bread and brie as a side dish.
- 1 fresh french baguette
- 3 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
- 4-5 dried dates (pitted and chopped into pea sized pieces)
- ¼ cup toasted almonds (sliced)
- ⅛-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- optional: a few ounces of brie
- Slice the french bread into ½ slices. Using a pastry brush, swipe both sides of each slice of bread with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.
- In a large frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sprinkle with a large pinch of salt. (The salt draws the water out of the mushrooms, so don't skip this step.)
- Stir the mushrooms occasionally. When they begin to brown, add a few twists of freshly ground pepper and the cumin to taste.
- Place the prepared slices of bread in the oven and broil on high for about 1-2 minutes until the tops just being to brown.
- Combine the almonds and dates with the mushrooms, and spoon the mixture over the toasted breads. Serve immediately.
- These are also delicious with a schemer of brie on each crostini before the mushroom mixture.