The Fruity Mystery – Macedonia di Anna

After a few weeks of fintastic and italovely holidays, I’m back in the kitchen office again! Yes, I did spend a week in Italy too and now my mind is buzzing with new ideas on recipes to try. You can expect me to get quite a bit of inspiration from this pile of souvenirs within the next months too:
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I’m especially quite proud of this apron that I bought (ok, maybe there is a teeny bit of photoshopping included in the picture…):

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Anyway, prior to getting my hands on my fabulous new cookbooks, let’s continue with something simple to celebrate the strawberry season i.e. a fruit salad. The Italian word for fruit salad (macedonia) is somewhat baffling. Why not insalata di frutta like in all the other four languages that I know? Apparently the theory is that this word really refers to the country Macedonia and it originates from the time when the area was populated by different people (such as Albanians, Greek and Armenians in addition to the Macedonians). During that period, someone felt that drawing an analogy between a fruit salad and Macedonia would make sense as both consisted of different “pieces”. My 21st century Finnish logic may fail to see the ingenuity in this comparison but I suppose that would really be beside the point…

The recipe I’m sharing today is actually my own which I have been making during the strawberry season for quite a few years now. As far as I remember, I invented this “from scratch” but interestingly enough the first Italian recipe I glanced today seems to include almost all the elements of my recipe. Well, Italian or Finnish – does it really matter as long as you ensure that you enjoy the fabulous fruits and berries of the season?

Fruit Salad with Strawberries

Serves 4

1 liter fresh strawberries

2-3 nectarines

1 chunk of melon of your choice

juice of 1 lemon

fresh mint, chopped

icing sugar

Peel and slice the fruits and strawberries and mix them with the lemon juice. Add fresh mint and sprinkle icing sugar to your taste. This fruit salad is even more flavoursome and juicy if you store it in the fridge for a few hours before serving.

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Making Same Difference – Crostini Caldi con Funghi & Bruschette al Pomodoro e Mozzarella

Sometimes one can feel quite relaxed about Italian cooking even as a Finn. Even if you dare to try some classics as old as Rome, there are usually at least as many opinions on the proper way of making them as there are capers in my kitchen cabinets. Hence you can usually be sure that there is at least some remote Italian village with a version of the dish similar to yours (with the exception of my somewhat unusual interpretation of torta della nonna, that is).

I am a long term fan of both bruschette and crostini but it is quite unclear to me what the difference between those two really is. The English version of Wikipedia sheds very little light on the question: it defines crostini as toasted bread with toppings and bruschette as grilled bread with toppings. Toasted, roasted, grilled – all same to me when you have one oven in a city apartment to make both dishes. Fortunately with my ever improving Italian skills I was equipped to do some further Sherlock work on this – even if Benedict C wouldn’t drop by (Benedict you are still quite welcome to though!).

As usual, Italians are not exactly in unison about this. One suggests that for crostini you typically use cheese that you melt on top of the bread whilst toasting it. Another says that the only acceptable topping on a bruschetta are tomatoes, otherwise it is a crostino. What most people seem to agree on is that crostini should be crispier whereas a bruschetta has a crunchy crust but should remain soft inside. Crostini are also typically smaller served as antipasti while bruschette can also be larger and serve as a light meal.

Well, I’m not sure if I was really any wiser after this little Googtective session though, and infatti, chose these two recipes based on what I readily had in my fridge: chanterelles and mozzarella. For the mushrooms, I found this crostini recipe. I quite enjoyed the combination of a more strongly flavoured cheese with my chanterelles. For the mozzarella, I went for the usual – albeit very nice– version of bruschetta with tomatoes and basil.

All in all, while bruschette and crostini still mean about the same thing for me, I did learn one thing: if you test both bruschette and crostini at the same time, you will end up with a very full stomach!

Warm Crostini with Mushrooms

4-5 slices of white bread

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

olive oil

3-4 dl mushrooms (e.g. chanterelles), cleaned and sliced

~50 g Gruyere cheese (or another strong cheese – I used strong English cheddar), grated

salt, pepper, red chilli (fresh or flakes)

fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the garlic cloves for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook them. When ready, season to your taste with salt, pepper and red chilli (if you like). Preheat your oven to ~200 C (use the “grill mode” if available). Place the bread slices on an oven tray and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Bake in the oven for ~5 minutes until the bread is crusty and cheese nicely melted. Add the mushroom topping and serve warm.

 

Bruschette with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Serves 2

4 slices of (white) bread

3 ripe tomatoes, deseeded and sliced into cubes

1/2 package of fresh mozzarella, sliced into cubes

1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped

olive oil

fresh basil, chopped

salt, pepper

parmesan, sliced into cubes or grated into rough flakes

In a bowl, mix the garlic, tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Season with some olive oil and salt. Toast the bread in an oven at ~200 C (or grill it) for a few minutes. Add the topping on the bread slices and complete with the parmesan and pepper. Serve immediately.