Here’s another easy-to-fix bite – Bruschetta, which you’ll see on virtually every menu in Abruzzo. There are countless savoury bruschetta toppings. Nothing’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – just go with whatever you fancy. The only two staple ingredients you’ll ever need are bread and oil – the rest is up to you ! Here, you’ll need:
- 200g of ripe tomatoes
- a 400g can of cannellini beans
- fresh Italian bread
- two cloves of garlic
- a dried chili
You’ll also need good olive oil, salt and pepper (no need to buy those specially – they come with your Abruzzo villa). If you’ve picked up a bottle of balsamic vinegar to take back home, a little drizzle of that would be good too.
One plus and one minus point when it comes to making this in April. The plus point is big fat bulbs of fresh garlic. This particular red-skinned variety comes from nearby Sulmona and is much-prized for its mild, sweet taste. The minus point ? No basil in the shops yet.
This is what you do…
Open the beans, tip them into a colander and give them a quick rinse. Now pour a slug of oil into a saucepan. Stick one of the garlic cloves into your villa’s garlic press and squeeze it into the oil. Crumble as much or as little of the dried chili as you want into the oil as well.
Now warm the oil, garlic and chili together for a moment or two over a low heat. Not too hot – you just want to infuse the oil with the garlic and chili flavours. Then add the drained cannelini beans. You’re not cooking them – just gently warming them through.
Start toasting two slices of bread. While they’re under the grill, slice and chop your tomatoes. Discard any seeds – they don’t taste of anything and you don’t need them. When the toast is ready, cut your remaining clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side over one of the slices.
Then drizzle on some oil. Pile on the chopped tomatoes; add another little drizzle of oil; a sprinkling of salt; and if you’ve got any balsamic vinegar handy, a drop or two of that followed by a few torn basil leaves completes Bruschetta 1.
For Bruschetta 2, take your pan of beans off the heat, crush them up a little with a spoon so that you’re left with a rough garlicy, beany, chiley puree and then pile onto the remaining slice of toast. A glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo rounds off this little ensemble rather nicely.
A quick word about Balsamic Vinegar
This is one of the great take-home staples from your Abruzzo villa holiday, but make sure you buy a really good bottle rather than something ordinary and overpriced. Ignore rustic-looking bottles dripping in red sealing wax. Italians can’t be bothered with the aggravation of chipping it all off and neither should you. And Italians don’t buy their balsamic vinegar from souvenir gift shops.
If you want a bottle of excellent, everyday balsamic vinegar, just head for the nearest supermarket, where for around €10, you’ll pick up probably the best bottle on the shelf. It’ll be thick and luscious and will last for ages and taste fantastic. And it’ll have cost you about half of what you’d have paid at home.
Or if you want something very, very special, check out this beginner’s guide to buying balsamic – but be prepared to pay for the pleasure.