Saturday, 14 May 2011

You say "bruscetta" and I say "bruschetta!" (My favourite bruschetta toppings) I think....

I love the food of my native Southern Italy: it smells of the sea, the hills, the countryside and it evokes images of ancient olive trees chasing each other in fields, as they run towards the sea. How many stories would they tell, if only they could talk?
Because of my mother's obsession with food which was fresh and very healthy, I grew up idolizing some of the vegetables she loved, so much so, that I only have to look at an artichoke and  a little window opens. And... behind that window (our curtains had to be closed, when we ate! Eating was a private, family business, at our house!) sits my family... in a quiet corner, up here, in my head.

Just like in Sleeping Beauty, everything is still and asleep, but, I can tell you... a smell, just a little smell is enough to disclose a universe of voices, laughs, arguments, songs, happiness and sometimes sadness. It's the world of my Italian ME.

 "I only have to look at an artichoke..."
I took this photo in Italy

The food we ate was sometimes simple, but delicious. Other times it required the knowledge and expertise which my nonna had passed on to her daughters.
Not too long ago, someone told me they thought Italian food was "Delicious and spicy"... no spices in our food, really, except black pepper and no herbs, except parsley, basil and celery, which I LOVE!  Origano has to be the least used herb in our culinary tradition. Its pungent taste can spoil many a dish and I really only use it in dishes "Alla Pizzaiola."
I made bruschetta today and I had to force myself not to eat the whole lot, as every single kind tasted delicious! Very few, carefully chosen ingredients to achieve great flavour! Remember, the greatness of Italian food derives from the fact that in a dish you rarely use more than four or five ingredients, cleverly combined.

Needless to say, the base for bruschetta is sliced ciabatta bread, toasted. Ciabatta, in Italy, unlike the imitation you buy abroad, is a large bread and really looks like a ciabatta! (slipper)

Bruschetta con cicoria ripassata
e salsiccia
(dandelion and sausage bruschetta topping)

(Serves 2)

Two or three generous handfuls of
green vegetables
(I used dandelions
can use Swiss Chard or
broccoli instead)
 smallish glug olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
some chilli pepper, sliced
or dried chilli flakes
2 sausages, grilled and sliced
This morning I picked dandelion leaves, which I LOVE! I washed and cleaned it, then discarded any tough stems and flower buds I could find. I cooked the vegetable in hot salted water until tender, then drained.

My lovely dandelion leaves (delicious!)

In a frying pan I heated just a couple of little glugs of olive oil and, when hot, I added my garlic and chilli pepper. The smell, as expected, was unbelievable! To this I added my dandelions, stirred to combine the flavours and that was it! GORGEOUS! In Rome, they call this dish "Cicorie Ripassate"

While I did this, my sausages were cooking and browning beautifully under the grill. They smelt really delicious! Once cooked, I sliced the sausages, then arranged my greens on the toasted bread, and  topped with the sausage. Whoever said that Heaven doesn't exist?

My sausage and dandelion topping was very good

Bruschetta Caprese
(mozzarella and tomato topping for bruschetta )

(Serves 2)

1 large mozzarella, sliced
a handful of cherry tomatoes
a nice bunch of fresh basil leaves
olive oil
(as much as you like)
1 garlic glove, chopped
freshly milled black pepper

This is so easy, as you basically have to cut your tomatoes in halves or even quarters, then make a salad, by combining them with olive oil, garlic, basil leaves and salt. Arrange this on your toasted bread, together with slices of lovely, fresh, milky mozzarella. I LOVE MOZZARELLA! Drench with olive oil, some salt and plenty of black pepper. Fresh chilli always welcome, of course! My mouth is watering! HELP!

                                                   (same dish, dressed differently!)

Bruschetta con pure` di ceci
(pureed chick pea bruschetta topping)

(serves 2)

Two big handfuls uncooked chick peas
(or half a can of cooked chick peas)
1 small cup olive oil
bunch of fresh basil
delicious, fiery red chilli slices
(a few!)
2 cloves garlic
freshly milled black pepper

I cooked my chick peas from scratch, so, last night, I left them in a bowl of water to soak overnight. I knew they would need to soak for a long time, as I noticed that organic chick peas (which is what I bought) are smaller and tougher than the other kind.

This morning I cooked the pulses in salted water and basil. This took over an hour. I had to taste the chick peas to be sure they were really soft, making sure I used a wooden spoon (you only use a wooden spoon, when stirring pulses, or they will stop cooking!) When cooked, they went in a blender with 2 cloves of garlic, olive oil, some of their cooking liquid and a bunch of fresh basil.

Chick peas cooking.

They tasted so good... a cross between hummous, which I love, and something I had made up, really!The garlic made it taste just as Mediterranean as I wanted it to taste! I'm sure this is how God felt when he created MAN (slight exaggeration, as usual!)
I topped my bruschetta with the chick peas and some cucumber. It really only needed some olive oil, black pepper and hot red chilli to be as sexy as Sophia Loren, when she was twenty! But this is much cheaper... and you can make it yourself!

The pureed chick pea topping was reminiscent of a place I really love: Greece!

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