The Potluck Hostess

Cannellini Bean, Arugula, and Prosciuto Bruschette

My friend Maddy is a Putlitzer prize-winning journalist, a gifted professor at two colleges, and a frequent hostess. I don’t think she can go more than two or three weeks without planning a party. So how does she manage to entertain so often with such a hectic schedule?  She has mastered the art of the potluck.

Typically, when she phones or emails to say she’s thinking about having a party, those in her circle of friends automatically respond with “what can I bring?,” for we all know how busy she is. She graciously accepts our offers for appetizers, desserts, or sometimes salads, and then spends her time concentrating on the main course.

Last Saturday night my husband and I arrived at her house with all the fixings for brushette topped with cannellini bean puree, arugula, and crispy sautéed prosciutto. My good friend Ellen provided the delectable dessert—a platter of blood oranges in a spiced sugar syrup garnished with pomegranate seeds and served with homemade butter cookies. Maddy laid out a buffet of grilled steaks on a bed of spinach (John, her husband, cooked them to a perfect rareness), and a medley of roasted winter vegetables, including red and yellow beets, carrots, onions, and potatoes. 

The evening was filled with spirited conversations about the elections, the Oscars, and Patriot football! In the midst of it all, I looked down the table at our smiling hostess who was displaying no signs of “entertaining stress.”  I wondered: is she wasn’t planning her next soiree?

Cannellini, Arugula and Prosciutto Bruschette

For the cannellini puree

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon if beans are unsalted and slightly less if salted)

For the bruschette and toppings

20 baguette slices, cut about 1/4 inch thick

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided plus more if needed

4 ounces thin prosciutto slices cut into julienne strips 1/4 inch wide by 2 to 3 inches

2 cups baby arugula, coarsely chopped or left whole if leaves are very small

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Pinch of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. For the cannellini puree, place the chopped garlic in a small bowl and mash with the back of a fork or a spoon until it has a paste-like consistency. Add garlic and beans to a food processor and process until mixture is a coarse puree. Add lemon juice and zest, olive oil, and salt (1/2 teaspoon or less), and process until mixture is smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. (Cannellini puree can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)

2. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

3. For bruschette, brush baguette slices on both sides, using about 2 tablespoons or more of olive oil, and place on a baking sheet. Bake 3 minutes, and then turn slices and bake 3 minutes more. Remove and cool to room temperature. (Bruschette can be prepared several hours ahead; place in an airtight container and leave at room temperature.)

4. Place a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-large, heavy skillet set over medium heat. When hot, add julienned prosciutto and cook, stirring, until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Watch carefully. Drain on paper towels. (Prosciutto can be prepared several hours ahead. Leave at cool room temperature.)

5. To assemble bruschette, whisk together 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice, and salt in a medium bowl. Add arugula and toss to coat lightly with dressing. Spread a tablespoon or more of cannellini puree on each toasted bread slice. Mound some arugula over the puree, and sprinkle with some prosciutto. Season each bruchetta with freshly ground pepper. Arrange on a platter and serve. Makes 20 bruschette..

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