Winter Strawberries. Tomatoes in Spring. Summer Sanma. Persimmons in Fall. Season is everything. And seasonal cooking is big, especially in Japan, where when any kind of produce stops occurring naturally, the hothouse prices set in and flavor takes a dive.
So after a slow(er) then usual Friday night, an early Saturday rise to make the dough for my weekend whiteman ciabatta, I found myself upon my bike heading towards the local farmers’ market where I found a box of the most provacatively-shaped red-as-the-Japanese-sun tomato-fruits to perfectly complement some mouth-wateringly cured Prosciutto Toscano I had found at a gourmet grocer. What began as a morning experiment in breadmaking turned into an entire day of feasting and tasting, laughter and gaiety, all thanks to the serendipitous alignment of weather, food, drink, people and the all-important Lazy Saturday Afternoon.
How To Not Cook Like An Average American
Prosciutto is ham, of course. But when I hear “ham” my body reacts differently than when I hear “prosciutto”. Upon hearing the latter I picture cured legs dangling from hooks in ancient tavernas of wood and smoke where men in hats come for a glass or two of house wine before work. When I hear “ham” my knee-jerk reaction is to picture two slabs of pasty no-name white bread slathered in cheap mayonnaise layered in overly processed slices of “cheese” and some nasty homogeneously flesh-colored square of Oscar Meyer obeisance to fat men with cans of shitty beer on Football Sunday.
You’ve probably heard of Prosciutto di Parma, which is ostensibly the most popular kind, or at least the most well-known outside of Italy. The truth is not many varieties ever even see the sunlight outside of Italy. To know Italian ham, one must go to Italy (on the way, one would be smart to taste Jamón Serrano in Spain for a true comparison of cured European ham). My idea of Prosciutto leans toward savory so I prefer Toscano (Toscano Prosciutto is cured using rosemary, pepper and garlic) to Parma, whose hams are sweeter and therefore go better with your typical (boring) melon.
Balancing 20 tomatoes on a bag-laden bike is not only fun (and good practice), but tends to remind me of college and bringing home cases of the Miller Hi Life in just the same manner. At least I know I am progressing. I get home, crank the oven up to 250 C, reshape my sticky, frothing dough into a fatty ball with black truffle olive oil and a dusting of herbs, stick it in and crack the wine for a bit of breathing room. If it’s not yet noon, you’re looking good.
I Nuovi Antipasti Italiani
Before the bread’s done, call up a friend or two (females are best). Any reason will suffice. I usually say, “Let’s have a mural painting party!” or something mysterious like, “be at mine by one with a salami, 20 water balloons and a bikini.”
At this point the sun is past its zenith, you should have roasted a few bulbs of garlic, have plucked the best and brightest leaves from your basil plant, 5 or 6 tomatoes should be mandolined and plated and your bread should be done. Open the door, let the fun young creatures of beauty and smiles into your breezy kitchen pour a couple of glasses of a nice chilled white to start it off good.
The Bruschetta You Love:
For Sauce – Refer to the Old School Pesto post or simply drizzle some extra virgin olive oil. The key is not to realize you don’t even own a can opener due to all the fresh stuff you’re using. You feel me? Also, don’t be afraid to chop. Embrace your knife and your whet stone. It’s the Sabbath somewhere so let the Cuisenart rest today.
The secret to good bruschetta is originality. Everyone’s is different. Some are main courses while others are meant as antipasti. Go crazy and try different combinations. Use cheese sparingly, though be generous with tomatoes. Add some balsamic vinegar, squeeze a lemon or better yet, use the zest. Seasalt and fresh milled pepper are great accoutrements. Basil is a must. Goat cheese is sublime. Camembert is subtle. Olives go well with most anything, as do bikinis. And wine. And lip gloss. And crumbs everywhere.
Originally posted on Eat Me Drink Me, several vintages of wine ago.