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Crostini from the Grill

David W.
Posted by David W. on May 10, 2023


As Chicago's Spring seems to be redefined as alternating bursts of frost and scorch, I’m trying to take advantage of the occasional gorgeous night. This means grilling. Last Tuesday, I hit up the first farmers’ market of the season in Lincoln Square. I got asparagus from Klug Farm and a sourdough boule from Dorothy’s Bistro which present a great opportunity to make charred crostini with assorted toppings for a light midweek dinner.

In addition to the asparagus, I collected a few odds and ends to add to the mix: the bell of a butternut squash, a couple of portabella mushrooms, an ear of corn. It’ll all get grilled up, and we’ll bring it to the kitchen to see how the pieces align.

raw veggiesFirst I lit my coals and headed to the kitchen. I peeled the butternut squash, halved it, seeded it and cut thick wedges. These I lightly oiled and salted. I washed and trimmed the asparagus and similarly oiled and salted them; ditto for the portabellas. The bread I cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. I want them thick enough to get a robust toast without drying the interior. I also want them solid enough to support weighty and possibly wet toppings.

It’s a good idea to leave items for the grill as big as is manageable; that means less things to flip and less likelihood of falling through the grate. To oil crostini, I don’t mess with a pastry brush. For one thing I like a pretty generous dose of oil on my crostini that the brush doesn’t apply. I also make much quicker work of it by putting a slick of oil down on a tray and swiping both sides of my crostini through. Done.

By this time the coals were in good shape. Most of this grilling fare would get done over a high heat. This includes the crostini, which I’ll reiterate are labeled as ‘charred’ and shouldn’t be treated with kid gloves. This is a hearty, rustic treatment. The squash would need to finish on low heat to cook thoroughly through its dense structure and sweeten its starches.

grilled veggies-1Here’s a frustrating moment: you’ve grilled all of your food, and you realize your fire has another half hour of ideal glowing coals in it. That’s painful. I’m always grateful to be able to rustle up something from the fridge to throw on there. This time I sliced some grits we had chilled in the fridge to see how they might fare on the grill. The key here, as with many grill items, is to rid the grits (or polenta) of as much surface water as possible and to let it sit on its grill spot for long enough so it doesn’t stick to the grate any longer. I snacked on this while I finished readying dinner.

three toppingsBack in the kitchen, I started to divide my cooked ingredients into teams. The squash I diced and added some garden mint, a speck of sorghum syrup, red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. I love sorghum syrup for its rich dark depth; it’s much like molasses, though I usually get a little bitterness from molasses that I don’t taste in sorghum.

I merged the corn and the mushroom, seasoned with garden chive and balsamic. I was excited for this one because it allowed me to break in my new Corn Zipper, the best single purpose tool on the market. It removes corn kernels perfectly and effortlessly without any tough cob stubble. I truly wish I had been introduced to it thirty years ago.

The asparagus I diced and seasoned and gilded the lily with a quick coat of heavy cream, as the carton was staring at me from the fridge and that is a rare sight in there. The toppings trio came together quickly yet made for an attractive spring spread. I topped all of the crostini with thinly shaved Parmigiano. Serving alongside a simple salad would be pretty good to boot.

plated crostini

Charred Crostini

Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe

Prepare as many as your demands require, plus a bunch more for nibbling

Cook time: 10-15 minutes, not including grill heating


Slices from a loaf of hearty bread of your choosing, cut into slices 1/2 - 3/4 inches thick (Bread a couple of days old makes for better grilling.)

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper


  1. Coat a plate with a slick of olive oil.
  2. Quickly press and remove each side of the bread into the oil. We want full coverage but not gushing.
  3. Lightly salt and pepper if desired, or skip it. The bread does have salt, most likely.
  4. Place on a hot spot of your grill. Time will vary, but likely 3 minutes will be good. Be attentive! It will burn quickly. Your sense of smell is key here. We want spots and lines of black but not patches. If you get patches, let them cool a moment then whack ‘em with a utensil. They should shatter off.
  5. Flip and repeat. Best served when still warm, but they’ll be fine at room temperature.


Butternut Squash Topping

25 minutes, not including grill heating

Yield= 2-3 pint


1 small butternut squash

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil


3 Tablespoons sorghum syrup, or substitute honey or maple

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar


2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons minced serrano pepper, or substitute 1/2 tsp cayenne

4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons chopped mint


  1. Cut the neck of the squash from the bell and peel both. Slice the neck into 1 inch thick slabs. Cut the bell in half and remove the seeds. Cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges.
  2. Toss squash with enough oil to just coat and salt.
  3. Lay the squash on the hot grill, turning as it gains light charring.
  4. Once colored, move to a less hot spot and allow to fully soften. Remove to a bowl and cool.
  5. Dice into 1/2 inch pieces. Toss with remaining ingredients and adjust seasoning.


Corn and Portabella Topping

25 minutes, not including grill heating

Yield= 1 pint


1 cob of corn, unshucked

2 portabella mushrooms

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 teaspoon minced chive

3 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper


  1. Soak the unshucked corn in water for 10 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Lightly coat the mushrooms in oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Grill on hot grill until corn leaves are charred and mushrooms have char lines.
  4. Expose corn to verify it is cooked/lost its waxy appearance and is bright.
  5. Drizzle mushrooms with balsamic.
  6. Allow both to cool. Shuck corn. Remove kernels to a bowl using a Corn Zipper or carefully with a sharp knife.
  7. Slice mushrooms 1/4 inch x 1/2 inch or such.
  8. Toss everything together. Adjust seasoning.


Grilled Asparagus Topping

15 minutes, not including grill heating

Yield=1 pint


1 bunch of asparagus, washed and trimmed of tough ends

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2 Tablespoons heavy cream


  1. Lightly coat the asparagus with oil. Season.
  2. Grill a hot spot. Turn every couple of minutes to prevent burning. Remove while still firm.
  3. Cool, then cut into 1/4 inch pieces.
  4. Toss with zest and a little juice. Toss with cream. Season with salt and pepper.

At The Chopping Block, we’re heralding the return of grilling season as well. We’ve had our first patio class and will start hitting our stride out there in a couple of weeks with Date Night on the Patio on Saturday, May 27 at 6pm and then Grilling Boot Camp on Saturday, June 10 at 10am, in which there are only 2 spots left. And it won’t be long before The Chopping Block resumes its Thursday chef demos at the Lincoln Square Farmers Market. See you there!

See all of our Grilling classes

Yield: 4
Author: David Wieseneck
Charred Crostini

Charred Crostini

Prep time: 4 MinCook time: 6 MinTotal time: 10 Min


  • Slices from a loaf of hearty bread of your choosing, cut into slices 1/2 - 3/4 inches thick
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Coat a plate with a slick of olive oil.
  2. Quickly press and remove each side of the bread into the oil.
  3. Lightly salt and pepper if desired, or skip it.
  4. Place on a hot spot of your grill. Time will vary, but likely 3 minutes will be good.
  5. Flip and repeat.

Topics: Grilling, crostini, grill, bread, grilling boot camp

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