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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Love Affair With Olive Oil and Bread

"Passami l'olio e taglia il pane!"  ("Give me the olive oil and cut the bread!")

As I wait for the 2011 extra virgin olive oil (olio nuovo) to arrive from Podere Pornanino (www.pornanino.com), my anticipation grows.  Not that I haven't been enjoying last year's oil on a daily basis, because I have.  Each year, I order 12 bottles.  We go through one per month.   And it's always delectable.  But, there's just something so so soooooo special about new oil. 

I believe I am addicted.  My love for this oil has crossed the line.

I cannot exist without Pornanino oil.  I must have my regular fett'unta fix. 

That's Tuscan for bruschetta. 

Time out for my pet peeve:  It's not pronounced "brew-shet-tah".  I don't care how many Olive Garden waiters say it that way.  (And just where is that chefs' Tuscan cooking school anyway?) 

It's pronounced "broo-sket-ta".

Romans will tell you that the name bruschetta is derived from "bruschato", which is Roman dialect for the Italian word "bruciato", meaning scorched or burned. 

When the new oil is produced, it's traditional to celebrate the harvest with bruschetta.  This is the original garlic bread...except a lot of Tuscans don't usually rub the bread with garlic or add salt.  At least not with the first tasting of the new oil. 

Slices of unsalted bread (day-old is always best) are grilled over embers in the fireplace (that's the romantic way...bread, oil, wine....sigh....  but, Italians use electric grills, too), then the toast is saturated with extra virgin olive oil.  In fact, the "true" bruschetta was immersed in the oil.  woo!....pass the napkins, please. 

The classic bruschetta starts with grilled bread, then rubbed with garlic, doused with oil and sprinkled with sea salt, but variations abound.  When tomatoes are in season, they show up chopped with garlic and basil as a topping (bruschetta al pomodoro) - an idea borrowed from the countryside long ago when a half a tomato was rubbed into stale bread in order to soften it.  All sorts of goodies are piled on top of grilled bread in the name of bruschetta - stewed white beans (fagioli), boiled black cabbage (cavolo nero), or meat pate.

The taste of real bruschetta is impossible to describe.  Never never ever think the so-called appetizer on an American menu is the authentic thing.  Unless you're lucky enough to be in an authentic Italian place.  Even then, I would recommend a certain degree of skepticism.  In the states, even some Italian cooks cater to what Americans think is authentic. 

Here's a deal you can't refuse:  You can make your own.

You know that old saying, "the devil is in the details"?  Well, remove "devil" and replace with "extra virgin olive oil".  Because it is THE detail....the peppery, green detail.  The quality of the extra virgin olive oil is key.
The bread comes next.  Unfortunately, it's not so easy to find good unsalted bread.  The bread can be hedged, but not the oil.

For those who have experienced the joy of Pornanino's oil, but haven't tried the ultimate test of a new batch:  first, try to find good bread and, when you receive your oil (which is in US customs as we speak), toast or grill the bread slices, then drizzle generously with the liquid gold. 

Then, eat.  Smile.

If you're a virgin when it comes to having this excellent extra virgin source of all kinds of good-for-your-body-not-to-mention-your-soul-absolutely-necessary condiment, go directly to the website printed above and order some.... quickly.  Pornanino oil is dispersed strictly on a first come, first served basis.  And, believe me, it is very popular.

now, leave me alone with my drug of choice.