Crostini worth toasting

The Baltimore Sun

Sight gags are jokes that rely on visual cues rather than words.

Imagine an apricot half-positioned over a puddle of plain yogurt to mimic a "fried egg." Or "sushi" made out of Rice Krispies and gummy worms, with fruit leather as a stand-in for the nori wrapper.

Food that appears to be something else is a fun way to get kids to try something new. And the ruse can work on adults, too. These Sweet-and-Sour Crostini deceive the eyes while they tease the taste buds. In this case, the chopped "olives" are really -- gotcha! -- raisins.

Why pull the ol' switcheroo? Olives are admittedly delicious, but they are high in sodium, so raisins are a smart choice for anyone with high blood pressure who is watching his salt intake. A naturally sweet source of energy, raisins are also rich in iron and potassium. They're high in antioxidants, and studies show they promote oral health.

The red peppers used in the bread topping are extremely high in vitamin C: 1 cup provides more vitamin C (232 milligrams) than the same amount of orange juice (82 milligrams), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's nutrient database at Red peppers also are loaded with phytochemicals such as beta carotene, which is believed to prevent certain cancers and diseases of the eye and heart.

Finally, we chose a whole-grain rustic bread instead of white bread, which ups the nutrition and fiber content of the crostini, an Italian word that means "little toasts."

Shopping tips: Roasting red peppers in the oven or over a gas flame can be tedious. Instead, look for jarred roasted red peppers in the produce section.

Buy an extra jar of red peppers and a stash of raisins to keep in the pantry and you'll always have something on hand to serve when unexpected guests stop by.

Cooking tip: An easy-to-prepare dish that is perfect for entertaining, the pepper mixture can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated. Just be sure to bring to room temperature before serving.

Sweet-and-Sour Crostini

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 tablespoons dark raisins

1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, well drained and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 small clove garlic, minced

pinch salt

freshly ground pepper

6 slices rustic country bread, sliced 1/2 -inch thick

Place raisins in warm water and allow to plump 5 minutes; drain well. Finely chop raisins.

Combine peppers with raisins, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper; set aside.

Toast bread. Cut bread slices in half and top with pepper mixture. Serve immediately.

Per serving (based on 6): 157 calories, 8 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, trace cholesterol, 19 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams protein, 180 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber

Recipe and analysis provided by The Kansas City Star.

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