2019: B… A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories: Bruschetta
I’m back for “Year 4” of the A to Z… April Challenge!
My first year of this challenge had me racking my brain for a writing topic… especially as I didn’t quite understand the process. But finally I came up with 2016: Southern Foods and Memories. They said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew. 2017: Conversations with Mama was a somewhat easy one for me as I’d journaled our conversations for years so I researched some of my favorite topics to write on. 2018: All About Nancy Drew has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another to equal it. It literally had me researching every day for over six months… researching, reading and perfecting every post. I was totally consumed with Nancy Drew for months… and still am! I didn’t want to “not” participate this year, but I was drawing a blank. Finally, mid February, I came up with writing on my husband’s Italian family foods and memories. I did my Southern foods the first year, so it was time to finally give his family their due! I’m also participating in the yearly 52 Ancestors 52 Stories this year… I am really feeling over-extended this month. April is a tough month for me, as we usually are traveling to my mother’s and my son in Florida… but somehow I’ll manage!
I think I can safely say that before marrying into an Italian family, I had never eaten any of the foods I’m blogging on this month… such an underprivileged child I was! Growing up in the South where we ate fried chicken, okra, black-eyed peas, butter beans, mashed potatoes, creamed style corn and southern biscuits! Oh My…!
TomAYto … TomAHto
A simple dish of few ingredients, but oh so good! It took me years to eat this as I never ate raw tomatoes… and when I first began making this, I often cooked my tomatoes slightly, but I’ve progressed into now eating them raw… and loving them!
Unless everyone is eating this garlicky appetizer, Beware… you are going to have garlic breath, but it’s so good with all that garlic. Fresh basil adds a great flavor, but I often fall back on my “hoarded” bag of dried oregano. My son and daughter visited Italy several years ago to visit family and I was gifted a huge bag of homegrown oregano. They grow all their herbs and dry them. I was never a fan of bottle oregano, but this is certainly different… and I never hesitate to use it in my bruschetta if I’ve forgotten to buy basil. I do love the smell of basil… anytime I come near a fresh basil plant in the grocery stores, I’m just compelled to touch and smell the aroma on my hand. I guess I’m a little OCD with that attraction; Rosemary does the same thing for me. I’ve never had much luck in sustaining a rosemary plant longer than summer. I remember once while visiting my mother, we went to a restaurant where they had a “huge” rosemary plant growing outside their doors. I was so jealous and all I wanted to do was sit there and smell that plant… there must be something about their fragrances as I find them both very calming.
- Campari Tomatoes (chopped), or cherry/grape (I actually like using a package of grape tomatoes when on sale)
- garlic (minced) amount depends on you
- olive oil (EVOO)
- salt & pepper
- basil – rip the leaves for better aroma
Chop tomatoes… I tend to let them sit in my colander a bit for the seeds to run out, but It’s your choice. Mince garlic, as little, or much as you want. If you’re eating this alone at home or with hubby, then feel free to really add the garlic… no one will know! Rip those basil leaves… it releases more of the oil in the leaves…. which releases its aroma. Add salt and pepper… and you’re done. See how easy this appetizer is! (When tomatoes are in season, you can add both yellow and red for color.)
My “hoarded” bag of oregano from Italy!
Any of the tomato juices that flowed out can be frozen to throw in soups… nothing is wasted and it’s so flavorful to throw a few cubes of it in your chicken soup. I’ve always like to shop up a small tomato in my soup… it sweetens and gives it color. Ok, back to bruschetta…
You’ll need small toasts to serve the bruschetta on… either a loaf of sliced Italian or French bread works fine. I’ve even seen some served on Melba toast or varieties of specialty chips or crackers… whatever you like. I toast my bread slightly, then rub with garlic cloves and drizzle a small amount of olive oil on top. Scoop a spoonful of the tomato mix on each little crostini… “little toasts.” Have several garlic cloves ready for rubbing, as they disappear fast in rubbing on the toast; they seem to just melt into the bread. If not serving immediately leave the toasts on the side and let your guests make their own.
You can even sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese if desired, but it’s totally optional…
How many tomatoes you use depends on how much “bruschetta” you’re making. This is a great lunch dish to use if you have tomatoes in your garden – and if you don’t… make friends with everyone who does! If you do have a garden… well you know how many tomatoes at one time you can get. When we had a garden, I remember being overwhelmed with lots of veggies at one time. Luckily there was an apartment building next to us with many seniors… they loved when I took over my extras! They enjoyed telling me how they had watched my garden grow!
It was always a big decision as to what type of tomato brand my father in law planted… Big Boy, Beefsteak, or Early Girl, but he usually ended up buying the Big Boy brand… not sure why, but I wasn’t a tomato connoisseur then.
My father in law always had a garden every summer. At the first “thought” that warm weather was finally descending in Connecticut after a cold snowy winter… he could be found readying his garden every evening…. turning over the soil, adding fertilizer, and digging out the tomato cages.
Once Dad’s garden was in, he was out there every evening, like clockwork… he babied that garden… watering it almost daily… weeding and checking for new tomatoes. I’ll never forget the first time he called me over to show me a tomato hornworm… I couldn’t even find it until he showed me exactly where it was hiding… which was literally right under my nose; they blend in on the plant taking the same color. The tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) is one of the most destructive pests of tomato, potato, pepper, eggplant and even the tobacco plant. Dad checked his plants every evening… “if you don’t pull them off, he said, they will consume entire leaves, stems and sometimes even chew into the tomato itself.”
A few of dad’s tomato and zucchini plants, which flourished very well… but not so much the tomatoes.
In as much as Dad attended to his garden… it just never really produced for him. We used to laugh about that as we watched him work in the evenings… maybe he over-watered… or maybe too much pool chlorinated water splashed on them. But whatever the reason, as to why it didn’t produce as it should… it gave him an outlet to spend time outside and produced enough to supply him with tomatoes all summer.
Show up at a picnic with a tray of this toasted appetizer… and watch it disappear quickly!
Continue reading more of the A to Z… Cooking Famiglia Italian Foods and Memories
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