Dip Bread Appetizers

Dip Bread Appetizers

Bread Appetizer Bruschetta

Tuscan Cooking and Bruschetta

When the great Italian Cook Marcella Hazan was talking about the practice of toasting bread that had been soaked with freshly pressed olive oil, flavoring it with the smoke and the spicy elements of the new oil, he claimed it to “probably as old as Rome itself.” He traced the origins of bruschetta to the Latin “bruscare” which translates to “toast over the coals.”

The Tuscans have some issues with this though as they claim that is a recipe of Etruscan, you guessed it, meaning it originated in Tuscany. Wherever it originated, it is still one of the easiest traditional Italian dishes to make. The process is quite simple. You rub toasts of break with garlic and let the coarseness of the bread open of the flavor, then soak the bread with olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt.

The addition of things such as tomatoes, anchovies and onions did not arrive until the after the 16th century. That being the case, most traditional Italians will dismiss this as part of the dish. Furthermore, when the oil is at is freshest, you would not want to cover the rich flavors with anything that would detract from it.

The creation of bruschetta is to bring about the flavors of the freshly harvested oil. When you pour it from the bottle, it flows rich and green, sending out a nose of aromatic herbs and scent of freshly mowed grass that will counter the bite that it creates in the back of your throat. When it is time to harvest, local farmers get the assistance of the whole community to help in raking the trees. They use soft nets to cash the olives as they fall so they will not be damaged.

The best olive oil is the result of pressing within 24 hours of the harvest as the olives begin oxidizing immediately upon their removal from the trees. The scarcest and most fragrant oil has traditionally come from the first pressing. In modern times, there is more oil harvested during the first press because of centrifuges. However, there are still traditional producers that create an “affiorato.” This is an oil that separates from the olive naturally and is hand ladled off.

The taste of olive oil can be affected by many things. If you are in Tuscany, they will claim that the altitude above the sea is what affects the flavor the most. If you go to Lazio, variety is the key to the flavor. If you are looking for a peppery flavored oil, Frantoio is where you need to be while a fruity taste is the characteristic of Caninese and Leccino will produce a sweeter oil. As with wines, ripeness affects the overall flavor as well, if the olives are harvested to early, they will be very harsh, later produces a much milder oil.

Before the popularity of olive oil, the harvesting season was pushed to be as late as possible and then they would let the oil sit over the winter to create a smooth, mild taste. Nowadays, British restaurants are demanding a supply that must be kept up with and harvesting is happening earlier and the oil does not age as it used to. This has created an oil with a bite, tasting of pesto, almost and even a little bit or artichoke.

Bruschetta is not the only dish that has reaped the benefits of this new, fiery oil, dishes such as ribollita, a traditional hearty bean soup that oil is added to, have enjoyed great new flavors. Lest we not forget the traditional Florentine meat dish bistecca, which has never been better as it is soaked in this wonderful new blend of olive oil.

As the weather turns warm, we are treated to a dish or artichokes, radicchio and baby vegetables (pinsimonio) that we can dip in the oil, an ideal finger food. However, nothing will replace  the dish that was meant to appreciate the true flavor of the oil, a simple piece of bread, soaked in olive oil and then toasted over the hot coals.

While most olive oil is not bottled until after Christmas, the harvesting begins in late November. As heat and light affect the flavors of the olive oil, it is an unpasteurised product, the flavors will mellow out as February rolls around. Italy is very strict about its olive oil, they demand that all bottles be fitted with a label stating its expiration date 2 years after its bottling. Of course, there are those that try and get around the law by pushing back their bottling process by as long as a couple of years.

FYI, when you are ordering bruschetta at the local Italian restaurant, it is actually pronounced: bruce-sketta.

[tag] bread appetizer, bruschetta[/tag]

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