Pepper Popper Crostini
One of my favorite indulgences is jalapeño poppers. When I see them on a menu, I absolutely have to order them, whether it’s at Jack in the Box or a nice burger place, and I love them all. The spiciness of the pepper contrasting with the cooling creaminess of the cream cheese, the crispy-crunchy breading, and sometimes even with bacon—there is obviously a lot there to love. And yet, I have no interest in making them. Figuring out how to keep the stuffing inside the jalapeños and then figuring out how to keep the breading clinging to their smooth exteriors is something that I will leave to professional kitchens with industrial deep fryers. But what I have come up with instead is a way to get all the awesome flavor combos—and more—of a jalapeño popper, without those complicated puzzles.
What I came up with were these pepper popper crostini! I think they look a little fancier than jalapeño poppers, and that they would be perfect for a little summer bbq now that things seem to be transitioning back to “normal” in the States. I garnished mine with pea flowers, pea tendrils, and chive blossoms that I grew in my backyard in order to make these look extra pretty and special, and I also added cilantro for some nice freshness and pepitas for extra texture. Don’t they look like a garden party for your mouth? But you can dress them up or down depending on your needs. I always think of toast recipes as guidelines rather than hard rules to dictate what you have to do, so I would encourage you to follow this recipe for the bread, cream cheese, prosciutto, and peppers to get a delicious and flavorsome base that totally elevates the flavors of a jalapeño popper…and then, get creative with the garnishes!
The spread that holds all the toppings onto the toasts is a cream cheese that has been majorly boosted in flavor by Spice Tribe’s California Love blend, which has really become a go-to chili blend for me whenever I want to quickly and easily give things some savory spiced seasoning. It has roasted chili, cumin, coriander, garlic, onion, oregano, bay leaf in it, and it truly goes great with everything. I believe this is what really gives these crostini much more depth of flavor; whereas jalapeño poppers taste exactly like the combination of their individual ingredients, using this spice blend not only ties all the ingredients together, but it enhances how good they taste together. I folded it in gently into softened cream cheese so that you can see some distinct streaks of the spices, but either way, you’ll know this seasoning blend is there when you taste it!
- Roasted Peppers
- 10 red Fresno chili peppers (about 10–12 ounces)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling pinch of salt
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temp
- 1 teaspoon Spice Tribe California Love blend
- 2–3 ounces prosciutto, torn into large pieces
- 8 baguette slices (cut about 1/2” thick on a bias)
- .25 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh soft herbs, such as cilantro
- Edible flowers (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Cut peppers on a bias into 1/4-inch slices and discard stems. Remove seeds as desired to reduce spiciness. Add the pepper slices to a medium baking tray, drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, and toss to coat. Spread out evenly and roast for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, combine garlic, lime juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
- Flip the pepper slices over and drape the pieces of prosciutto loosely on top of them. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the prosciutto is crispy and the peppers are soft with slight char on some edges
- Combine cream cheese and Spice Tribe California Love in a bowl and fold gently, so that the spice blend forms visible swirls throughout the cream cheese.
- When the peppers and prosciutto are done baking, transfer prosciutto to a separate plate and add roasted peppers into the lime juice mixture. Toss to combine and let stand for at least 10 minutes for the peppers to soak up the flavors.
- Brush baguette slices with olive oil on both sides. Bake directly on the oven rack for 3 minutes, or until desired crispness is reached
- Spread the seasoned cream cheese on the toasted crostini. Divide the crispy prosciutto among the crostini, then top with the marinated roasted peppers. Garnish with fresh herbs and pepitas, as well as edible flowers if desired. Enjoy immediately.