Even though we have visited Tuscany’s countryside, villages and cities for almost five years, through its history, monuments, and legends, I realise that this is not quite enough. As well as offering fantastic sights, Tuscany is also capable of captivating your other senses, especially through taste and smell. Gastronomy and cooking have always played a very important role in Tuscany’s age-old cultural heritage. Without delving too deep into the matter, let me say one thing – you can’t fully understand the Renaissance if you don’t know what bruschetta is!

With this in mind I would like to dedicate a few stops on the Tuscan Journey to the tastes you can find in Tuscany.

Tuscany boasts many marks of quality for the steadily increasing number of products made using typical methods, from Pecorino cheese, extra virgin olive oil, to chestnuts from Amiata and the broad beans from Sorano, to name just a few. When browsing the aisles of any supermarket or small village food stores you are sure to come across, a “DOP” (Designation of Origin) or IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) on the packaging of local goods. These marks of quality guarantee the origin of the produce, and that processing has been carried out according to traditional methods. The DOP and IGP not only have national significance but are also recognised at a European level.

I have just mentioned bruschetta to you for two reasons. The first is that this is the season in which it is traditional to eat bruschetta. The second reason is because there is bit of uncertainty amongst tourists about what bruschetta really is.

Bruschetta is a slice of Tuscan bread, lightly roasted on an open fire, brushed with a clove of garlic, drizzled with a dash of extra virgin olive oil and dusted with a pinch of salt. Nothing more and nothing less. Some insist that bruschetta has additional ingredients such as tomato, cheese, olives, or mushrooms. Of course it is possible to add these ingredients – each to their own – but the original Tuscan bruschetta is exactly as explained above.

I realise that a simple piece of bread laced with garlic, oil and salt doesn’t seem much like it should be a regional speciality. You could agree that anyone, anywhere could produce the same. But I guarantee you that, all said and done, the bruschetta is a paradigm, not only of Tuscan cooking but also of the culture of the Tuscan people.

To make a proper Tuscan bruschetta you need Tuscan bread. As many of you already know it must be the only bread in Italy (if not the world) that is tasteless. It is made in loaves that are rectangular, oval or round in shape – which you can see in many paintings representing ‘The Last Supper’ – with the dimensions of a pillow as the standard measure is 1kg. Is has a soft white texture with irregular air bubbles produced during leviation. Baking gives it s unique taste of roasted almonds and the crust is brown and very crunchy.

The cut slice of bread looks the sole of a shoe. Traditionally it is roasted lightly – only the outer layer – on a bed of coals. The fire wood (oak, chesnut and olive) gives the bread a taste similar to that of pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven, something that no electric oven could ever do.

Apart from the garlic, which old folk say you should brush only onto the outer edge of the toasted bread, the Tuscan extra virgin olive oil is the ingredient which changes the bruschetta from a piece of bread into a work of art. As I write this the oil mills in Tuscany are working away, and everyone in the area has some of this year’s new olive oil. Brought home directly from the frantoio, or oil mill, the oil is still warm, fragrant, and unfiltered, with a strong fruity smell and bitter taste. Drizzle a line of oil onto the roasted bread and spread it over the slice with your finger, on top, or also below – depending on the school of thought.

So during this period, the bruschetta, that many call by its nickname fettunta, or buttered slice, is definitely not the crostini, nor antipasto, but the dinner itself, accompanied by a few glasses of red novella wine, put aside expressly for the occasion. The bruscetta is a few, simple ingredients, unchangeable in terms of their substance and form, just like a piece of Renaissance architecture – unadorned, clear, and harmonious. A baguette smeared with butter just would not have the same taste…

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Commenti (1) | March 16, 2010

One Response to “Bruschetta”

  1. flank steak recipe Says:
    May 11th, 2012 at 15:09

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