Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stewed Tomato and White Bean Bruschetta

Bruschetta is quintessentially Tuscan and it is not.  According to Culture Discovery, the name "Bruschetta" (broo-SKET-ta) is a word of Tuscan origin.  However, the concept of putting ingredients upon slices of toasted, rustic bread is a concept universal to all Italian regions.  People would toast the bread over hot coals, sprinkle olive oil on the bread and season it with some garlic and salt.  According to Culture Discovery, that is what led to the garlic bread that has become ubiquitous in Italian restaurants in the United States. 

While mainstream American restaurants continue to butcher a basic recipe (and I am thinking of one in particular, which offers endless garlic bread and salad), the Italians refined the bruschetta.  I like to think that, deep down, they view the bruschetta as a canvas.  They then "paint" that "canvas" with different ingredients.  Red color from tomatoes, green color from fresh basil, and white color from cheese. 

Recently, I found a recipe for such a "painting" in one of the pregnancy cookbooks that I bought so that I could cook for my beautiful, pregnant Angel.  The recipe brings stewed tomatoes, cannellini (white beans), fresh basil and feta cheese.  According to the authors of Healthy Eating During Pregnancy, the secret to the "full, rustic deliciousness of this Italian-style appetizer" is in the "sauce."  They recommend the use of vine-ripened tomatoes for the best flavor.  Ripe tomatoes obviously work well, but the best ones are usually found only in the summer.  I think that the recipe would be just as good with any ripe tomato that you can find.

Recipe from Healthy Eating During Pregnancy, at pg. 69
Serves 4

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, cut into 
     6 pieces and seeded
Generous pinch red peppers flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Generous pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped basil
3/4 cup cooked white beans, drained and rinsed
4 thin slices of crusty Italian bread or 
    8 thin baguette slices
1/4 cup pasteurized feta, crumbled

1.  Stew the tomatoes.  In a wide pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Crush 1 clove of garlic and add to the pan.  Add the remainder of the garlic, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the tomatoes start to soften.  Using a potato masher, smash the tomatoes.  Continue cooking until the tomatoes become a thick sauce and there is very little liquid remaining, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Stir in the basil and white beans.

2.  Prepare the bruschetta.  Preheat the broiler.  Rub one side of each slice of bread with the remaining garlic clove.  Transfer to a broiler safe pan, garlic-side up and toast the bread until golden.  Top with the bean and tomato mixture and the crumbled feta and broil until hot, about 5 minutes, watching to make sure it does not burn. 


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