Friday, 30 September 2011

Minestrone with basil gremolata, and bruschetta

I was reflecting on what have been the stand-out things, foodwise, I've tasted and/or trialled in Tuscany during our stay here, and there have been many; but four came immediately to mind.

 -  a light, crisp batter for vegetables and stuffed zucchini flowers
- salted anchovies and what to do with them
- Squid ink
- Prosecco

More on these later, but just for something different I thought I'd post these recipes, both of which I developed before coming here but 'fit' well. Incidentally there are more recipes posted in my Rowan Bishop Food Writer facebook pages, under 'discussions'.


True comfort soup, full of flavour and topped with a basil gremolata, very like the French pistou, but with basil instead of parsley to emphasize the more robust Italian style.
Serves 6.
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 ½ cups diced leek
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 rib celery, diced
1 medium – large carrot, peeled and diced
 250g potato, peeled and diced
8 –10 large tomatoes, blanched, peeled and diced
         or 2 x 400g tins peeled chopped tomatoes, with juice
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 ½ cups cooked or tinned cannelloni or baby lima beans, washed and drained
1 ½ cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped roughly
2 tsp salt or to taste
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Basil Gremolata

½ cup basil pesto
finely grated zest of 2 lemons (2 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy based saucepan over a low- medium heat. Sauté the washed, diced leek with the garlic for about three minutes, then stir in the prepared celery, carrot and potato. Turn the heat down, cover and cook about ten minutes, until the vegetables are softening.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, vegetable stock and basil leaves.
Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
Add the beans and cook for another 10 minutes, until the beans are thoroughly heated through, then stir in the spinach leaves and the salt and pepper to taste.
Bring back to simmer point for one minute.
While the soup is cooking, combine the ingredients for the gremolata in a bowl, check for seasoning and set aside.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, topped with a spoonful of gremolata and at least a tablespoonful of the parmesan.
Serve with hot, crusty ciabatta buns.


6 slices ciabatta bread, sliced 1cm thick
Oregano oil or extra virgin olive oil
½ cup well drained, diced artichoke hearts
¾ cup diced, seeded tomatoes, preferably acid free
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
1 Tbsp capers, rinsed, drained and chopped roughly
3 Tbsp roughly chopped or torn fresh basil leaves (optional)
3 Tbsp ricotta (optional)
Salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup rocket leaves

Pre heat the oven to 190 C
Brush one side of the ciabatta slices with oregano oil (or extra virgin olive). Place on an oven tray, oiled side up, leaving a space between each slice. Bake at 190 C for 7-8 minutes.
Drain the artichoke hearts well, cut into dice and transfer to a small bowl. Mix with 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil.
Add the seeded and diced tomatoes to the artichokes, then the garlic, capers and the fresh basil leaves if using.
Spread about 2 Tbsp of the tomato/artichoke mixture on each of the ciabatta slices, and grind a little rock salt and pepper over. Evenly dot each bruschetta with ricotta (if using), and drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil.
Return to the oven and bake for a further 5-7 minutes.
Transfer to a serving plate topped with rocket leaves and a further drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if wished.

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