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Burrata and Tomato Bruschetta

Looking for a quick lunch? Or munchies to have with drinks? Try these bruschette with burrata cheese and grilled tomatoes. These little tomatoes have been ripening in my garden faster than you can say “pomodori” and grilling them is one of the best ways to enjoy their intense flavor.
While you’re at it, have you got any zucchini blossoms? If you’re looking for a recipe other than frying, try grilling them — stuffed with some of that burrata cheese (or a good mozzarella).
Start with slices of Italian or French bread that have been grilled. Using some aluminum foil (or an aluminum foil pan), pour in a little olive oil, add some garlic slices and the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the tomatoes about 10 minutes or until they’ve burst open. Place slices of burrata and the tomatoes on the grilled bread, then place the bread on a part of the grill that’s away from direct flame. Close the lid to the grill for a couple of minutes until the cheese softens.
For the zucchini blossom, cut a strip of burrata and stuff the blossom with it (remove the stamen in the blossom first). Place the blossom on the aluminum foil that’s been smeared with a little olive oil. Cook for a couple of minutes, turning once, until the cheese starts to melt.

Fava Beans

Don’t you just love Spring when all those seasonal vegetables are back in the markets? Sure, you can get strawberries in December and asparagus in January, but who knows how far they had to travel. Where I live you can’t find fava beans except in the spring so when they appear you know they’ve got to be fresh. They’re sometimes called broad beans, and they have a creamy texture and distinct taste. The pods are somewhat thick and leathery with a fuzzy white interior. Shelling and cleaning the beans is somewhat of a process, but I have a trick to help make it easier. More on that later.
Fava beans are sometimes eaten raw, straight from the pod in Italy — with a chunk of pecorino and a glass of wine. That’s how I first learned to eat them, sitting around a table with my late husband’s cousins in Abruzzo. Here’s another riff on that duet – fava bean puree and pecorino bruschetta. I add mint to the puree giving it a bright springtime flavor that contrasts well with the sharp pecorino cheese.

 

I love the vibrant color that fava beans add to a dish. This salad’s got bibb lettuce, shaved fennel, red pepper, red onion, asparagus slices, fava beans and orange segments – topped with some fennel fronds and a sprig of mint – an herb that complements fava beans. Just a simple oil and vinegar dressing, but try using some of that colorful chive blossom vinegar I posted about here.
To prepare the favas, split the pod open with your fingernail (or knife) and remove the individual beans.
You’re still not home free because there’s an outer pod that you need to remove before getting to the inner bean. Most people boil the beans for a few minutes to soften the outer pod, then drop them into cold water. But if you lay the beans on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer for 10 minutes, the outer shell will slip off easily.
The beans should pop free of their outer shells with minimal effort. If you’ve left them in the freezer too long and they’ve become too frozen, just wait a few minutes and they’ll thaw a bit.
The puree couldn’t be easier to make. You’ll be done in the time it takes to grill your bread.

 

Fava Bean Puree
printable recipe here

1/2 cup cleaned and cooked fava beans
2 T. extra virgin olive oil, as needed
about 10 mint leaves or more if desired
salt, pepper

Cook the fava beans in boiling water for about 10 minutes or until softened. Drain and cool them, then place them in a blender or food processor with the olive oil, the mint leaves, a good quality sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. If the mixture is too thick, add a few spoonfuls of water or more olive oil.
Serve with shaved pecorino cheese (or parmesan).

Bruschette/Crostini Ideas

 Start with some grilled bread, rub with raw garlic and top with tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and basil. That’s what comes to mind when most people think of the word bruschetta. The word bruscare is Roman dialect for the Italian word “abbrustolire” which means “to toast.” Bruschette (plural of bruschetta) have become ubiquitous on menus here and in Italy, topped with everything from arugula to zucchini. Crostini, on the other hand, are generally smaller and crunchier like croutons and can also be a perfect base for any number of toppings. The words have almost become interchangeable and it doesn’t really matter whether you call these bruschette or crostini. Either way, they’re a great vehicle for small bits of an infinite variety of foods. Just don’t pronounce it broo-shett-a. Say broo-skett-a, please.
I gave a demonstration a couple of weeks ago on bruschetta making at Tuscan Hills, a store near Princeton, New Jersey that sells beautiful Italian furniture, pottery, linens and other irresistible items. My son Michael also participated, showing the audience how to make limoncello, a recipe he shared with Ciao Chow Linda readers a couple of years ago here.
I started with the basic bruschetta, but since summer is long gone, the only flavorful tomatoes to be found were the tiny grape tomatoes I used below. They make a decent substitute in winter.

 

 

But did you know you can make a perfectly respectable tomato bruschetta using canned tomatoes? I once ate this at an Italian restaurant in California and couldn’t believe how good it was. So I tried it at home, using a brand of tomatoes that says “fire-roasted”(Muir Glen). I drained all the liquid from them, then mixed the tomatoes with olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper and basil.

But let’s expand the bruschetta repertoire a bit. This one is made using small cubes of roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions and pine nuts, topped with a sliver of parmesan cheese and balsamic reduction.

 

 This bruschetta uses cannellini beans from a can, that are drained and rinsed, then smashed with a fork, and mixed with garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of rosemary.

 

 

 The sweet creaminess of smooth ricotta cheese is a great foil for the salty crunchiness of baked, crispy prosciutto.

 

 

 The sweet/savory contrast is also evident here, in one of my favorites: blue cheese and walnuts, topped with a pear slice and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. By the way, I don’t use my expensive aged balsamic vinegar here. I pour about 1/2 cup of a supermarket brand into a pot with a couple of tablespoons of honey and let it reduce about 10 minutes until it’s syrupy.

 

The platter below also includes bruschetta with mozzarella and roasted peppers; with fig jam, mozzarella and prosciutto; and with goat cheese and grilled zucchini. If you’re planning a party, you could even set up a bruschetta station with grilled bread and lots of toppings and let people assemble whatever  they prefer. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

 

    Buon Anno.