San Francisco

Sicilian Chocolate & Simple Crostini

March 6, 2007

I’m seeing a lot of repeat visitors from the bay area, and sometimes I wonder who they are that aren’t leaving any comments. I think I know some of you, and don’t want to know some of you, and wish I knew others who I haven’t met. It’s a little disturbing when someone takes a link from yahoo searching for my real name, ends up here, and I have no idea who they are. But on with business..

So one of my very favorite simple things to make as a snack of meal is crostini. There are many, many variations of this, some more traditional than others, but the jist is this: Bruschetta (Bru-SKET-tah) is a piece of bread with stuff on it (simple; not overloaded, generally) that is fairly large, like an open-face sandwich. In America, it is used to encompass only one thing: bread with olive oil and tomatoes or some variation of this. In Italy, it refers only to the idea that it’s toasted bread with a topping and the bread is generally a particular size. Crostini, on the other hand, are smaller, usually the size of a diagnoally sliced baguette, often also thinner sliced than bruschetta. Crostini has similar toppings, often the same toppings, as bruschetta in Italy, but in the US a trendy restaurant that has crostini is probably serving you an assortment of different breads with toppings or tapanades.

A few weeks ago I made two simple crostinis:

sliced sweet Italian baguette with gorgonzola, slices of pear, and honey drizzled on top

(these are put under the broiler for a few minutes until browned and gorgonzola warmed and slightly melted: be sure to use D.O.P. Mountain Gorgonzola from Piedmonte, expect to pay about $20/lb for this in the US), the honey can be put on after the broiler if you like. I also use chestnut honey from Italy or France as it has a VERY particular flavor. I’m not a fan of the fancy honey trend that’s been going on in the US, and find many of htem taste about the same, but CHESTNUT honey is something entirely different that you should definately give a try. Some people don’t like it, but if you do, it’s wonderful. Try it also drizzled on young pecorino cheese.

the other crostini I made was Prosciutto di Parma with fresh Pecorino sliced thin and a bit of pear to brighten it up (and to get my serving of fruit). This was also put under the broiler until the prosciutto crisped up and the fat melted a bit. I drizzled olive oil on the bread of this one before putting the other toppings on, but did not on the other crostini because of the cheese.

Also, Sicilian chocolate is becoming trendy and available in the Bay Area. A readily available one is “casa don Puglisi” which you can find in several infused flavors: bergamont, ginger, cinnamon, peperoncino, and more. Sicilian chocolate is kind of like Ibarra or mexican chocolates, where it is grainy and less refined, the cocoa and the chocolate smushed together and when you open it it may look like it underwent a temperature change, but it’s normal for the cold process they use to make it. It’s delicious and the infused flavors are always subtle and not overwhelming, and only add complexity. It’s also great made into a drink with milk or water or both. So satisfying.

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