Wednesday, November 17, 2010


For those of you who know that I recently left my "homeland" in Italy and landed in Orlando, this is a big deal that I'm blogging here again. It has just been too painful to think about all the things I made weekly in Italy and how difficult that is here. We have mainly been surviving on Chipotle burritos since we arrived. However, if I am really going to put all my recipes in a cookbook for an American audience then I might as well be in the same boat as my readers and figure out how to make my passion for authentic Italian food work here.

So my boys are in an english as a second language program given that they've never attended school in english. It's a little strange being American and all but I like it. A few weeks ago the director for the ELL program calls and says "we are having an international food fair, would you like to bring something authentic from Italy." I agree, hang up the phone and ask Shad if he wants to help me make Bruschetta for the ELL food fair. He snaps to and says, "Mom, we are so going to win" To his disappointment I inform him that it isn't a contest, but I can't stop smiling thinking how great it is that he loves my food and is such a fan. A small tiny flame starts to flicker inside me. My boys need me to keep cooking Italian food.

So this how you make Bruschetta. It is really so simple that I would have never thought to write about it, but at the ELL food fair I have to say it created quite a stir. One of Shad's teachers who tried it said, "Oh my God this is so good." Another woman almost dropped it out of shock. I was pleased to see the look on her face. One said that she made it but hers didn't taste like this. When I asked her how she made it she explained that she just put it all together and put it in the oven. Oh, I guess if you hadn't grown up seeing it done, that would make sense. So for all the women who asked me for the recipe, here it is. The first thing you have to know is that it isn't pronounced brushetta with a shhh sound. I've had American's argue with me about this despite the fact that I speak Italian and they don't. I don't know why this is important to me but it is, so if you don't want to seriously tick me off say Brus-che-tta with a "k" sound in the middle.

So now on how to make Bruschetta with Pomodoro (Tomatoes)

The first step: You absolutely have to find tomatoes that have flavor. They can be cherry tomatoes or tomatoes that you seed and chop. This was easy in Italy. Very difficult where I am currently living. None of the grocery stores carry them, I have to drive to a vegetable market 20 minutes away. If you can just grow them yourself.

Second: If they are cherry tomatoes, cut them in fourths and put them in a bowl. Drizzle with a decent amount of extra virgin olive oil, add fresh basil, and sprinkle with salt. Stop. Don't try anything fancy.

Third: Buy bread that is fairly dense and you probably have to slice yourself. Something like pugliese or even ciabatta works. NOT french. It is to light and airy.

Fourth: Grill the bread. The best way to do this is in a fireplace over wood but the bbq works and for now I have to resort to a grill pan. It still works. As soon as the bread it browned on both sides pull it off and rub it with a split clove of garlic while it is still warm.

Last top the bread with the tomato mixture and if you want drizzle a little more oil on top if it is top quality. Do this right before serving, otherwise put it on a platter with the tomatoes in the middle and have guests serve themselves.

In Tuscany, meals often start with an assortment of Bruschetta or Crostini as they may be called. Tomato is always present but also tuscan beans (see previous post), and chicken liver pate' are staples. Here you might use an olive tapanade instead of liver pate' as it takes a bit of effort and well l haven't been able to find chicken livers yet.



  1. Shandra, I know in a small way, the problem of finding good tomatoes in the good ole USA. I've had my share of American roadside stand and homegrown tomatoes, so I know a good American tomato, but it doesn't even compare with the tomatoes I ate the summer we were in Italy. Mmmm! Ross said that you were in Boston for the winter conf. So sorry that I missed you. I'd love to tempt your family to move to NYC. We do have a library with Italian books and a great non tourist Little Italy,