• Nicoletta Fornaro

Bruschette with Tomatoes, Red Onions, Oregano served with panfried Friggitelli


Bruschetta, one the simplest yet yummiest antipasti of the Italian peasant cuisine. The basic version requiring only 5 ingredients: bread, tomatoes, garlic, salt and olive oil. That's it, less than five minutes for a great dish able to make everyone happy.

Perfect for summer, bruschette are exactly what I need today: fresh, super flavoursome and -mostly- quick to prepare. In fact, I need to spend time in front of the computer (rather than in front of the stoves), I've just realised it's the end of June already and we must plan our summer holidays before the prices start rising! I'm very very happy because I found an amazing deal for Naples, which we visited last year and remained in my heart, so beautiful and with so many diverse realities, where one can choose between the beach or the vibrant city, and with so many things to do that we will have to return again and again...

Summer is a great season for me because I work a little less than during the rest of the year and I have the chance to relax and read! One of the most recent books I read was a biography of Caravaggio (I'm into biographies right now, don't ask me why), so I'm mapping the only three locations (1 church, 1 museum and 1 palace) in Naples where we can see his works! I know my husband will enjoy this arty tour, in fact he often reminds me of when I was still at university and would 'use' him to repeat my art history lessons and get ready for my oral exams, guiding him through the collections, works of art and historical details of our city.

Anyway, sorry... I got a little carried away, let's go back to our bruschette. The origin dates back to the mists of time and is fought between Lazio and Tuscany; what is sure is that the word comes from the verb bruscare, which in the old Roman dialect meant to toast. The Etruscans were the first to use olive oil as a proper food, so it is likely that the dish came to be when a farmer in Lazio poured a few drops of olive oil over a slice of bread with some garlic rubbed on it, in order to taste it. In Tuscany, the dish is called 'fettunta' and is traditionally made with Tuscan bread (the one with no salt). A curiosity: some say that in Tuscany the bread has no salt because the cured meats are so flavoursome that it would be just too salty, while others suppose that the bread was made with no salt to reduce costs.

With regard to tomatoes, at the time, this plant was still unknown to Europeans and started to be widely used only around the 1700/1800. Although tomatoes had arrived in the old continent with Cortés in the mid 1500s, it took a while for people to get used to them. Tomatoes were initially considered dangerous, then they started to be seen as ornamental objects: the British called them 'love apples' and gave them to their loved ones, and the French too used to call them 'pomme d'amour'. Rumor has it that for a long period, tomatoes were used by wizards to make love potions able to make people fall in love or that were, anyway, rich in aphrodisiac properties. So we have to thank wizards if people stopped fearing this plant and now it has become part of our everyday cooking!

Below I share a simple and slightly enriched version of bruschette. Aside I prepared friggitelli, which are small sweet peppers typical of the south of Italy, rich in nutrients, vitamins and proteins too. A little addition just to get in the Neapolitan mood ;-) Enjoy!

RECIPE: BRUSCHETTE WITH TOMATOES AND OREGANO + PAN-FRIED FRIGGITELLI

Prep. Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: No Cooking

Yield: Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

6 slices of whole wheat bread (stale/leftover bread is perfect)

A bunch of ripe cherry tomatoes

2 portions of rocket salad

4 dried tomatoes

1/2 finely chopped red onion

the juice of 1/2 a lemon

6 friggitelli/small sweet peppers

3 cloves of fresh garlic

Oregano

A pinch of salt

Dried chili (optional)

Balsamic vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil (possibly unfiltered)

DIRECTIONS

1)Wash the friggitelli or sweet peppers, cut lengthwise and remove seeds. Heat a pan, pour a few drops of oil, 2 crushed cloves of garlic and a little bit of chili, add the peppers and cook at low heat for 10/12 minutes, adding drops of water with your fingers if the pan seems to get too dry.

2) Cut the dried tomatoes lengthwise in thin slices and then chop grossly. Wash and dry the rocket salad, chop roughly, add the dried tomatoes and dress with a few drops of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

3) Finely chop 1/2 red onion and leave soaking in water and lemon for 5 minutes. Slice the tomatoes into 4, put them in a bowl, combine with the onion, sprinkle a little bit of oregano and dried chili (optional) and dress with olive oil.

4) Rub the slices of bread with the garlic and toast them until golden.

5) Put the salad on a serving plate, add the crostini and top with the cherry tomatoes. Serve the friggitelli aside and enjoy!

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