Feta Tomato Basil Crostini

I’m proud to sit where I’m sitting right now.

I’m sitting at the The Red and Black offices. I’m sitting at a big beautiful Apple desktop computer that makes whatever you’re working on feel way more important than it would at your own poorly constructed bedroom desk. I’m just sitting here, typing away on a slightly sticky keyboard.

I’d surmise that it’s slightly sticky because people eat here… they eat here, they work here, they goof around here, they thrive here. These ridiculously skilled/dedicated young [almost] professionals make The Red & Black the powerhouse of a collegiate publication that it is.

Which makes me proud to sit here with them. Duh.

Rightfully so, you may be wondering what my present sitting location, super fly desktops with sticky keyboards and random bouts of pride have to do with crostini. Allow me to explain… okay see, I made my own French bread for this crostini. I’ve been real into making bread products lately. And for me, making anything of a  bread-ish nature is a highly involved endeavor.

Not only is working dough  a  decent arm workout, but dude…you gotta rub heart and soul into that raw mass of flour and water.  You lovingly tend to it to make sure it’s settled in right conditions to properly rise, punch it down and observe it blossom back up with yeasty majesty, delicately morph it into loaves and wish it well as those loaves head towards baking to golden crusty perfection. It’s almost like sending your little brat off  to their first day of kindergarten. Almost.

Baking bread… highly involved, but very possibly one of the most simplistically satisfying acts a person can act. And like baking bread, the work I do here sitting at this office involves a great investment of self, but comes with a crazy feel-good sense of accomplishment.

Being here, commenting on old editor’s Facebook statuses about their new lives out in the real world… it makes me think back to my freshman year, back before I knew anything about journalism or writing or anything. All I really had to go on was that I wanted to talk about food, and I was pretty excited about that. The first editor I had here at the R&B would meet me with nothing but genuine kindness and constructive encouragement whenever I’d make the trek up Baxter Street mountain with a very rough rough draft in hand. In retrospect, what I wrote… it wasn’t very good. But being a few years older and few years more experienced, that editor was able to pull whatever potential there might have been within my out-in-left-field ideas and worked it into something publishable.

Real talk, I wrote a column about cooking in my dorm room microwave using ingredients I snuck out of the dining hall, accompanied by my own wretched  photography… it was absurd. Positively absurd.

All the same, the R&B fostered my enthusiasm, ridiculous as it was. It gave a nutty little freshman something tangible with her name on it to clip out from the paper. It was sort of a big deal.

Oh so little did I know  that two years later I’d be walking down from the opposite direction of that same Baxter Street mountain, still coming to this office, but coming to sit on the other side of the desk. Coming to write, edit, collaborate with some of the brightest and most creative stinking minds on this campus. Coming to plot as the managing editor of a publication that didn’t even exist back then. And I can’t help but think… daugm, that’s nuts.

Since first joining the staff at Ampersand Magazine, I’ve had the pleasure of working under amazing young ladies who have that same way of fostering excitement… encouraging people, inspiring them to strive for the best and making them feel legit for their efforts and ideas. That’s the type of editor I want to be.
Nah, that’s the kind of person I want to be.

Honestly… like so super honest, I had no intention of slapping an inspired declaration of love for my extracurricular activities on top of these crostini. It just kind of happened.

I reckon this works though.

Whether it’s making bread, making magazines, making music, making people feel better, making appliances function correctly or whatever else you might make, if it makes you feel good… gives you that sense of accomplishment, do it. Keep doing it until you find a way to make it work for your life. Put your heart, mind and muscle into it.

Once you have that solid foundation holding your devotion and passion, all of the vivacious colorful toppings are a breeze to toss together and plop on top. The creative details piled on distinguish style and add flavor, but everything starts with a good base.

Whether we’re talking bread or talking life, I stick to the same philosophy–  it’s way more fulfilling to create your own than to rely on someone else’s.

Feta Tomato Basil Crostini

For the Pain Ordinaire (crusty French bread)

From The New Double Day Cookbook

  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water (105-115 F)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5 1/4 to 5 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 egg white mixed with 1 Tbsp cold water (glaze)

Sprinkle the yeast over warm water and stir to dissolve. mix salt with the flour, then add to yeast mixture, a little at a time, working in enough to form a fairly stiff dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface until elastic, about 8 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk– about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down, knead lightly for 1-2 minutes, and divide in half. Shape into 2 loaves about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide, tapering the ends; arrange 3 inches apart on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Toward the end of rising, preheat oven to 425 F. Brush the loaves with the egg white glaze and make 3 diagonal slashes about 1/4 inch deep across each with a sharp knife. Bake 1/2 hour with a shallow baking pan half full of water on the rack underneath the bread, reduce heat to 350 F and bake bread 20-25 minutes longer until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped.

Cool on racks before slicing.

To assemble the crostini

  • 2 loaves crusty French bread, cut at a diagonal into 1/4 inch slices
  • olive oil (for brushing)
  • 4 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 4 ounces feta cheese (I used a cracked black pepper feta, which worked very well)
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, drained of juice and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Pour olive oil into a shallow bowl and brush the bread slices with the oil on both sides. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake until crusty and golden brown (10-12 minutes). Turn over once halfway through cooking.

Gently mix together the tomatoes, basil, feta, red peppers, 1 Tbsp olive oil and vinegar. Spoon the mixture evenly over the toasts.

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