Have you heard the one about Italians braaing? No? So, why don’t Italians braai? Italians don’t braai because the spaghetti falls through the grill! Ha ha ha! With a plethora of beautiful and inspiring meaty dishes already hitting the blogosphere I thought that I would add my Italian flavour to our very South African, National Braai Day.
bruschette – Pronunciation: /brʊˈskɛtə/
derived from the Italian word: bruscare meaning to toast
Bruschetta is a great way to keep your guests happy while the meat is being grilled on the fire on Monday and this is the perfect opportunity to get out that extra special bottle of expensive olive oil you’ve been saving for a special occasion. You really get to enjoy all the flavour notes of a bottle of the best when it comes to bruschetta. This has to be the simplest starter in the world but I guarantee your guests will really enjoy these with a nice cold glass of vino before they tuck into their lunch.
Bruschetta with Grilled Veggies
Makes 8 bruschetta
(I served mine on quite large slices of bread – to make them go further, slice up pannini or long french loaf which will give you smaller slices to top and will give you twice the amount ie. 16 brushcetta.)
2 ripe plum tomatoes
1 large red bell pepper
1 medium sized orange bell pepper
1 bulb of garlic
1/2 cup of good olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
3tbs chopped Italian parsley
3Tbs chopped fresh basil
1/2 lemon – juiced
Shop around and find some really beautiful ripe plum tomatoes at your local. Choose ones that are as red as, well, a tomato. Buy a couple of juicy plump bell peppers; I like to go for a red one for sweetness and a yellow or orange one for some extra colour. A brinjal adds that meaty flavour and a touch of creamyness and a whole bulb of garlic, once roasted adds perfume and both are perfect for these bruschetta.
This is when I haul out my little terracotta brazier that I bought from a potter in the Natal Midlands. It’s perfect for this job. Make a small fire and let the coals burn until they are white. If you can get your hands on some nice special wood such as oak, that would be even better.
All you do is wash your veggies and dry them – as soon as the coals are white throw a few veggies on to the fire at a time, but if you have a nice big fire then throw the whole lot on at once. Keep turning them until they have been blackened all over.
Don’t be afraid of a little ash and chargrilled flesh as this is exactly what you want; the fire will hug all your ingredients leaving behind its’ beautiful smoky character and aroma like a very expensive Italian perfume, shall we call it ‘mistero di fumo’. (Mystery of the fire).
As you take each vegetable off the fire place it into a plastic back, remove all of the air and twist it closed. Once all of the veggies are grilled twist the bag closed again and leave to cool down until you can handle them. The skins which go quite hard will literally just rub off.
Simply rub off the skins and rip the flesh into small pieces; don’t use a knife this is a tactile dish that comes from the villages of Italy.
Pour just enough olive oil over the grilled veggies to wet them and add your favourite fresh soft herbs. Generally Italians use chopped parsley and chopped basil, season with some salt and pepper and a little squeeze of fresh lemon for a touch of acidity, but that’s it. The idea is enjoy
the fresh smokey flavours of the veggies with very little else. This is peasant food and it’s absolutely delicious.
If your fire is still going – toast half inch thick slices of your bread on the grill. If not – toast the bread in a dry griller pan on the stove top. Once they are brown give them a good anointing with olive oil and finally, drum roll please, crown them with your bejewelled elixir of fire kissed, olive oil bathed veggies from heaven!
I heartily recommend a glass of vino to accompany these. There will be much oooo-ing and ahhh-ing at the simple joy of really great veggies on toast, for that is all this is. It’s ridiculously simple, but my heavens …… it’s good.
And that’s it for today!
If you have any veggies left over – bottle them and store them in the fridge for up to a week.
They would make a really nice gift from your kitchen.
Max is going to love these!!!
I wish you all a ‘long-weekend favoloso’, a great National Braai day that is filled with family, friends, lots of laughter and even more fun. If you are travelling do take care on the roads.