Bruschetta

Bruschetta is a charming dish from Italy. I love it for its fresh, wholesome taste and simplicity. It’s also one of the easiest things to make. The only caveat is that you have to use the freshest ingredients possible. Fresh bread, fresh cilantro, freshly ground pepper, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes… Really, FRESH is the mantra here. And it tastes good whether you call it Bru-she-tah or  Broo-skeh-tta.  In its most basic form it  is toasted bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil but it can be topped with a variety of herbs and veggies. For a big party which lasts late into the day or night, bruschetta is great as an appetizer.

This recipe keeps it simple yet very tasty. Prego.

Ingredients:
8-10 slices of french bread or any sourdough bread
1/4 tea spoon crushed garlic (more will be too overwhelming I think)
3 table spoon extra virgin olive oil
8-10 slices of fresh Mozzarella cheese (There are many different types available. Buy one that looks fresh, soft and moist. I love the one at costco.)
For the topping:
4 medium size ripe yet firm tomatoes chopped into medium size pieces
Juice from 2 lemons
3/4 cup fresh basil chopped
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Approx. 1/3 tea spoon salt.

Preparation:
1. Cut 1/4 inch thick slices of cheese. Keep aside.
2. Mix 3 table spoon of olive oil and crushed garlic in a cup. Keep aside.
3. Cut bread slice into two if it’s more than 4-5 inches long.
Note: Basically you need to cut it such that it’s convenient for people to eat. Not too big, not too small.
3. Brush each bread slice with olive oil-garlic mix on both sides and arrange on a baking sheet. Keep aside.

To make the topping:
In a large bowl, mix the topping ingredients listed above. Taste and add adjust spices if required.

To make bruschetta:
1. About 10 minutes before serving,  preheat oven to 300 F.
2. Put the tray with bread slices and bake for 4 minutes. The bread shouldn’t get too hard on top. Flip the slices and bake on the other side for 2-3 minutes.
3. Take each bread slice, put a slice of mozzarella cheese. Top with 2 table spoon of the tomato-basil mix and Serve.

Piadine Caprese

La scoperta di un piatto nuovo è più preziosa per il genere umano che la scoperta di una nuova stella.
(The discovery of a new dish is more precious to human being than the discovery of a new star.)
~Brillat-Savarin

Last week I had Piadine Caprese at Tomatina restaurant in Dublin. It was one of the most satisfying restaurant meals I had in a long time. Last time I was there, I had found it on the menu but didn’t  get excited about it  thinking it had too much of salad stuff in it.  Cool Crisp romaine lettuce, soft mozzarella cheese and basil pesto wrapped in a fresh-from-the-oven flat bread was so good it eased away my boredom and lifted my spirits.   As is normally the case with me, whenever I come across a good vegetarian dish like this, I try make it at home. I get all enthusiastic about  shopping for the required ingredients, picking a day to make it  and of course actually making it in my kitchen. Piadine was no exception.

Piadine Caprese

I decided to use the same roti dough that I use to make thin, gujarati style rotis called rotlis. It turned out to be just the way I wanted it. Soft, but with a hint of crispiness to it. For pesto, I used basil and cilantro combination.

Basil Pesto

Piadine Sandwich

Both flat breads and basil pesto can be bought from a grocery store.
Makes 4 Piadine.

12 slices of fresh soft mozzarella cheese
12 leaves of romaine lettuce
1/2 cup sun dried tomato OR cut 3 tomatoes in half and shallow fry in a tea spoon of oil until soft.
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup Italian vinaigrette or your favorite salad dressing
Half tea spoon crushed black pepper

For flat bread/roti dough:
3 cups of wheat flour + another 1/2 cup to roll the flat breads.
4 table spoon olive oil or any vegetable oil
half  tea spoon salt
1+1/4 cup water

Mix wheat flour, salt and oil. Add water 1/4 cup at a time and make a smooth dough. Knead further for 3-4 minutes. Cover the dough with a lid and put it away to ferment for at least 7-8 hours.

For Basil pesto:
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 small bunch cilantro leaves
3 table spoon pine nuts, roasted
1 clove of garlic (optional)
1/2 tea spoon crushed black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tea spoon salt

In a blender jar blend everything except olive oil until smooth. Add olive oil and blend for 15 more seconds. Empty basil pesto into a bowl.

To make flat bread:

  1. Make 4 equal sized balls from the roti dough.
  2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  3. Take a ball of the dough and roll it out to about 1/10 inch thick roti of about 6-8 inch diameter. Repeat for the rest of the dough.
  4. Bake each roti in the oven until lightly browned on both sides (approx. 3-5  minutes)

To make piadine:

  1. Lay a flat bread on a plate. Smear it generously with pesto sauce (about 2 table spoons)
  2. Arrange 2 lettuce leaves one side of the bread.
  3. Put 2 slices of mozzarella cheese on lettuce leaves.
  4. Spread a table spoon of sun-dried tomato on cheese. OR use 2 fried tomato halves.
  5. Drizzle salad dressing over lettuce and cheese. I also sprinkled some feta cheese but that’s only because I had some left over.
  6. Sprinkle crush black pepper on top.
  7. To eat, fold the empty side of the bread over the other half and eat like a sandwich.

Tiramisu Parfait

 

Tiramisu

Pick me up! That’s what Tiramisu means in Italian. The “Pick me up” coming from eggs, sugar and the caffeine. I think it’s called pick me up because it’s so fabulous you can’t say no to it. The uniqueness of this decadent Italian dessert  lies in the creative combination of  coffee, chocolate and the rich mascarpone cheese and cream. I have loved this dessert since the very first time I ate it. It’s rich but not too sweet, just the way I like a dessert.

The standard recipe involves sponge cake or ladyfingers dipped in coffee liqueur and then layered with a rich pudding made out of cream, marsala wine, eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese.  Ladyfinger biscuits, mascarpone cheese, and marsala wine can be replaced with pound cake squares or rounds, cream cheese and sweet wine or port.

This recipe does not include any liqueur or eggs. I have eaten many different varieties of this dessert and not including eggs or liqueur made no difference to the taste of Tiramisu. I used ladyfingers (available at Raley’s supermarket, $2 for a dozen) but I think pound cake is better as it allows you to present tiramisu in different styles. You can buy pound cake slices and cut them in squares or rounds. In any case, the idea is to create a double layer of cake and the pudding.

Here it is, the lacto-vegetarian Tiramisu!
Makes 4 individual servings.

For the pudding:
1.5 cups whipping cream
1/8 cup sugar
5 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 tea spoon vanilla extract

For the Coffee Syrup:
2 tea spoon instant coffee powder
1 table spoon coffee extract (left over coffee decoction works)
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 table spoon cocoa powder (I used ghirardelli’s unsweetened cocoa)

6 ladyfingers (Each can be separated into two, like English Muffin, so you have a total of 12)
1 tea spoon cocoa powder to sprinkle
Chocolate shavings (Optional)
10-12 berries to sprinkle on top (raspberries and/or blueberries)

To make the Pudding:
1. Beat cream and sugar until fluffy (approx. 2 minutes)
2. Remove approx. 3/4 cup and refrigerate. This is to be used later as a garnish.
3. Add mascarpone cheese to the remaining cream and blend for about 30 seconds. Add Vanilla extract. You can also add any sweet wine at this time.
4. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the coffee syrup:
In a medium size pan, combine all ingredients except vanilla.
Boil on medium heat for about 8 minutes.
Let cool completely.
Add vanilla extract and mix.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve:
1. Arrage 3 lady fingers on the sides of your individual serving bowl/parfait glass. (As shown in the picture)
2. Fill the glass with the pudding until it covers half way up the glass (about 3 table spoons.)
3. Pour approx 3 table spoon of coffee syrup on the pudding and the lady fingers.
4. Top with a dollop of the cream that you saved for garnish.
5. Sprinkle cocoa powder, chocolate shavings and berries (if you like) on top.

Note: To sprinkle cocoa powder, I put the powder in a small tea strainer (the kind used in India) and hit the side of it against my palm gently. This sprinkles the powder evenly and beautifully around the dessert.

To eat:
break a ladyfinger piece from the bottom of the glass, scoop some custard on your way up and enjoy.

Another way to assemble tiramisu:
1. Soak pound cake squares or or lady fingers in the coffee syrup and layer it on a flat serving dish.
2. Spread pudding evenly all over the lady fingers.
3. Create one more layer of lady fingers and pudding on top of the first layer.
4. Spread the garnish cream and decorate with cocoa powder, chocolate shavings and berries.