Gorgonzola, Spicy Candied Walnut & Apple Crostini

A long, long time ago, I went on a blind date organized by The Washington Post. It was part of this feature that they used to do (still do?) called "Date Lab," where they would set up two single DC residents, pick a restaurant for them, pay for the meal, and give them a disposable camera to photograph the evening. The next day, a reporter would call to interview us about the date, and then a week or so later, they would run the story in the Post.

It's basically a print version of that old show "Blind Date," and because I was single and very much a "what the hell!" kind of girl, I decided to do it and blog about my experience.

The date ended up being pretty terrible. Probably in the top 3 worst dates of my life. The guy they set me up with was cute-ish, but we had nothing in common. He spent the whole date texting under the table, was super vague and evasive about everything, and went to the bathroom at least 3 times (at least once announcing that he had to "go empty out again.")

He also had weird food issues, which is what made me think of him today. I remember knowing that the date was not going to work when he started out by summarily declaring that we would NOT be ordering appetizers.

"What?!?" I kind of shouted internally.

I LOVE appetizers, you guys. Like...possibly even as much as I love dessert. It's part of the whole ritual of going out to dinner. Choosing little things to share and talk about while sipping wine or a cocktail before easing into your meal. I love the variety and the creativity; appetizers are often the most exciting things on the menu.

I probably learned this as a child. My dad is big on appetizers, occasionally going so far as to order "one of each." He always asks everyone at the table what they want and orders it. There is never any negotiating or compromising; it's more of a "if you want it, get it" kind of thing. Two people want the same thing? Get two orders! Whatever, more the merrier!

It's lavish. It's decadent. It's my favorite.

I think that feeling of freedom--of not having to choose--of there being plenty to go around, is one I love to recreate when entertaining. It's why I love to make lots of dishes so that everyone has something to choose from. It's why I usually serve things family style, so that people can feel free to help themselves to more, if they'd like. It's why I'm always encouraging people to open up another bottle, and stay as long as they'd like.

It's what I mean by always order dessert...

These crostini were actually inspired by an appetizer I ordered at a restaurant recently and I can't wait until my next party so that I can serve them. I loved the combination of the salty, slighty stinky gorgonzola dolce with the candied walnuts and decided to recreate it at home. I took mine a bit further by adding a little heat to the walnuts--just a bit of cayenne for an additional dimension of flavor and spreading the gorgonzola a bit thicker. Thinly sliced tart apples round it all out.

Give these a try at your next event, or come over to mine. I promise you can have as many as you'd like!

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Gorgonzola, Spicy Candied Walnut & Apple Crostini

1 long baguette
4oz gorgonzola dolce
2 cups halved walnuts
1 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tart apple, thinly sliced into 1" triangles. (Dip slices in a bit of lemon water to keep them from browning.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the baguette into 1/2" thick slices and spread on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven 5-7 minutes, or until slightly toasted on both sides. Remove and let cool.

Prepare the walnuts: Line a baking sheet with foil or wax paper and set aside. Combine honey, water, and olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until melted and bubbling. Add the walnuts and toss to coat. Add the cayenne, sugar, cinnamon, and salt and continue tossing to coat--about 5 minutes. Spread the nuts out on the lined baking sheet and let cool and harden.

To serve: Spread each bread slice with a generous amount of the cheese. Top with a couple walnuts and one or two thin apple slices. Serve immediately.

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