If you are a fan of bagel and lox, you’ll love this appetizer!
A baguette is thinly sliced and toasted into crostini, the base for this bite-sized starter. The toppings are delicious layers of tangy cream cheese, pickled cucumbers, and cured salmon. The combination of crunchy toast, velvety cheese, pungent cucumbers, and briny seafood makes for a crowd-pleasing hors d'oeuvre.
What’s great is you can make the toasts, pickles, and spread several days ahead for quick and easy assembly so that you can enjoy your guests. I always save a few on the side for myself because they disappear fast!
What are Crostini?
Crostini are versatile Italian appetizers that use thinly sliced toasted bread. Whatever you can dream up, sweet, savory, or both, can be added on top. It’s meant to be eaten in a few hearty bites before the main meal.
I prefer to use slender baguettes—they are sturdy enough to hold the weight of the toppings and they bake up nice and crisp. Cut them 1/2-ich thick and brush extra virgin olive oil on top for flavor.
The oil acts as a protective layer to prevent the bread from getting soggy from the toppings. Bake them until lightly golden brown—it only takes about 10 minutes.
How to Pickle the Cucumbers
One of my favorite ways to add instant crunch and tanginess to any dish is to make quick pickles. All you need is red wine vinegar and honey. I use a ratio of 2 parts vinegar to 1 part sweetener.
The beauty of this concentrated brine is that it only takes 15 minutes to soften and infuse the flavor into the thinly sliced cucumbers. I like to make a large batch to add to sandwiches, burgers, and tacos as a flavor-packed topping.
How to Make the Cream Cheese Spread
Smoked salmon and cream cheese are a classic flavor pairing. You could keep the cream cheese plain, but I like to enhance the taste of the smoky seafood by adding lemon zest and juice, chopped capers to complement the rich slices of fish, chives for their subtle onion flavor, and dill for its grassy undertone.
If you have leftover cream cheese, I highly recommend shmearing it on your morning bagel or stirring it into your scrambled eggs. It’s so good!
How to Assemble Crostini
Assemble the crostini right before serving them. Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese spread on the toast. Drain the pickled cucumbers well and add two or three slices on top of the cream cheese. I like to roll up a small slice of smoked salmon to give it height, then place it on top.
Freshly cracked black pepper and dill makes for a pretty garnish. Enjoy within an hour for the best taste. Don’t worry, they won’t last that long!
Swaps and Substitutions
There are easy ways to modify the quick pickle and cheese spread components. Try these delicious swaps:
- Switch up the pickle brine with what you have in your pantry. White wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar works well. Equal amounts of granulated sugar or maple syrup are good substitutes for the honey.
- Instead of cucumbers, you can pickle thinly sliced beets or radishes.
- Add other herbs to the cream cheese spread like parsley, mint, or basil.
The baguette slices can be baked five days in advance. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature. You could also freeze them in a resealable plastic bag for up to a month. Bring them to room temperature before assembling them.
Assembled crostini can be made up to two hours ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Don’t leave them in any longer, the humidity in the refrigerator will soften the toast!
Smoked Salmon Crostini
- For the pickled cucumbers
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 English cucumber, cut into about 36 1/8-inch rounds
- For the crostini
- 1 baguette, cut into 12 1/4-inch slices
- Extra virgin olive oil, as needed for brushing
- For the cream cheese spread
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained and roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chives, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dill, chopped, plus more for garnish
- For assembling the crostini
- 6 ounces smoked salmon, thinly sliced
- Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
Preheat oven the oven:
Set the oven rack to the middle position and heat it to 350ºF.
Pickle the cucumbers:
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and honey. Add the sliced cucumbers, toss to coat them in the marinade, and set them aside for at least 15 minutes. Stir them once halfway through.
Toast bread slices in the oven:
Using a pastry brush, brush each side of the bread slices with olive oil. Arrange them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake them until dry, lightly browned, and crisp, about 10 minutes.
Flip the bread over halfway through baking. Remove them from the oven and cool them on the baking sheet.
Make the cream cheese spread:
In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, capers, chives, and dill. If not using right away, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it.
Assemble the crostini:
Drain the pickled cucumbers in a colander over the sink. Using a butter knife, smear a thin layer of the cream cheese spread over each piece of crostini.
Top each with three pickled cucumbers and a slice of smoked salmon. Garnish each with chopped dill and black pepper. Arrange them on a platter and serve