I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas, who wouldn't Tuscany is one of the most beautiful regions in Italy. Many of the worlds most famous and prized ingredients come from the Tuscany region - the white truffles of San Miniato, the extra virgin olive oils of Gaiole and Florance, the magnificent Chianina beef cattle (the essential ingredient of a good Bistecca alla Fiorentina) and who could forget the divine wines of Chianti. One of the great Tuscan favourite's is Crostini Rossi alla Chiantigiani which in it's self is a very simple dish but when you use the freshest local ingredients, as the Tuscans do, it is transformed into a magnificent dish.
As with many of Italy's greatest dishes, there is never one true recipe, ask five different Tuscans how to make a good Crostini and you will get five different answers and each of the Tuscans will probably tell you the other four are wrong, but this is the way with food throughout Italy. Some people will toast the crostini on a griddle, some in the oven and some will just use stale bread, others will use Pane Toascana (the regions famous salt-less bread) others will use sourdough or maybe even Ciabatta. Some add capers, some add peppers, some add onions the variations are truly endless, but the one thing they all have in common is they all use the finest ingredients available, probably in walking distance of their own front door.
Here is my, very rustic, recipe -
Crostini Rossi alla Chiantigiani
12 one-inch thick slices of homemade Pane Toscano
12 cherry tomatoes
a good drizzle of balsamic or red wine vinegar
Tuscan olive oil
4tbsp capers, rinsed
2 garlic cloves, peeled
few torn Basil leaves
few sprigs of Thyme, leaves only
Roughly tear two slices of the Pane Toscana into small chunks and place in a pestle. Drizzle the bread with the vinegar and stir till bread is covered then leave to soak for 10 minutes.
While the bread is absorbing the vinegar cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters, then place in the pestle with the bread and add the garlic, basil and thyme leaves. Pound the mixture with the mortar till you have a thick chunky paste, leave it chunky it makes it more rustic. Add the capers and a good drizzle of oil and stir together well then leave to rest for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
Place a griddle pan over a high heat. Rub the remaining slices of bread with a drizzle of olive oil and once the griddle is hot enough toast the slices of bread on both sides till toasted and slightly charred.
Spoon the tomato mixture on to each of the crostini and then top with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
Enjoy with a large glass of Chianti.