Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cooking My Way Through Jamie Oliver's Food Writings

Julie Powell's blog inspired an insightful dramatic comedy based on her documented explorations as a beginner cook through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  365 days, 524 recipes.  A concept which has inspired me to challenge myself in a similar way, in an effort to expand my knowledge and explore the world of rustic cuisine I love so much.  So, the goal I have set for myself is to explore the food writings of Jamie Oliver, keeping as authentic and true to his ingredients as possible, starting with one of my favorites, Jamie's Italy.


Bruschette; toasted bread, usually rustic thick crusted sour dough slices topped with a variety of flavors from simple tomato and basil dressed in vinaigrette to hearty caponatas.  Now, I've found when toasting the bread using a screaming hot grill provides a crispy exterior and chewy center that hasn't lost all of its moisture.

The basic bruschette is pretty straight forward to make.  Start by slicing the bread about a half inch in thickness then grilling each slice until crisp on both sides.  Immediately rub each piece with fresh garlic and drizzle with olive oil.

Now, when it comes to toppings quality is extremely important here because a lot of the toppings are made to highlight the natural flavors of the ingredients you are using.  Jamie starts off with four recipes for toppings that simply made with ingredients easily found at local farmer's markets or grocery stores.  Each topping recipe is enough for four to six slices of bruschette.  Freshly grated parmesan or pecorino adds a little something extra.

Eggplant & Mint

2 Italian eggplants, sliced lengthwise
extra virgin olive oil
white wine or herb vinegar
2 springs of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and thinly sliced
a small handful of mint leaves, thinly sliced
1 cloves of garlic, peeled and very finely sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

*Japanese eggplant can also be used if you are unable to find the Italian variety.

Lay the sliced eggplant onto a hot griddle (or grill) until charred on both sides, about 4 minutes.  You want to get good char marks without burning for flavor.  While the eggplant is cooking, combine 8 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of vinegar, garlic, parsley and mint to make a vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper to taste.  When the eggplants are done remove then from the griddle and cut them into 1/8 of an inch thick then mix into the vinaigrette, season again with salt and pepper then divide on to each bruschette pressing into the slices making sure the flavors get sucked into the bread.

Baby Artichoke

8 baby artichokes, prepared as explained below
4 cloves of garlic, skins left on
juice of 1 lemon
extra virgin olive oil
a handful of fresh mint leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the artichokes; Jamie suggests peeling them until you reach the lighter green leaves, which are more tender, then cutting them in half to remove the choke.  Grapefruit spoons work great for this.  Then once  cleaned immersing in lemon water to keep them from to keep them from oxidizing until ready to use.

In a pan, cover artichokes with just enough water to cover, add a squeeze of lemon juice and the garlic until the stems are tender.  Remove the garlic then drain the artichokes and put back into the pan with about 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and fry until they start to color, about four minutes.  When slightly golden, remove four of the halves, squeeze the softened garlic into the pan and mash together with the artichokes, smear over toasted bread slices and tear the remaining artichoke halves over each bruschette.

Tomato & Basil

2 handfuls of nice mixed ripe tomatoes
a small bunch of fresh basil
olive oil
red wine vinegar
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Jamie notes the importance of using ripe tomatoes for this recipe.  I am using a mixture of cherry heirloom and  vine ripened tomatoes.  If your tomatoes have cores, core them and remove the seeds.  I did not remove the seeds from the cherry tomatoes.  If using the cherry or grape variety cut them in half and if using the larger sized tomatoes cut them into chunks, finely chop or scrunch them with your fingers, however you prefer.  Put the tomatoes into a bowl, tear in the basil, mix in olive oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mixed Roasted Vegetables

half of a bulb of fennel
half of a yellow bell pepper, seeds removed
half of a zucchini, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
1 tsp oregano
a handful of fresh mint
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lemon
herb vinegar
1 ear of corn (my addition, optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Chop fennel, bell pepper, zucchini into chunks then toss with oregano, mint and olive oil, season with salt and pepper then roast for half an hour until golden.  Allow to cool, then pulse mixture in a food processor (reserving some of the mixture for texture) until it reaches the consistency of salsa.  Mix in the reserved vegetable mixture, drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice and her vinegar for kick.  Smear across warm brschetta.

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