Bookmark and Share

Tuscan treats on the dish

Crostini with olive spread, and other treats. (Photo by Barbara Lambert)

When Barbara Lambert finished her novel The Whirling Girl, she was sad to see the characters go. But one minor character (Marta Dottorelli) started haunting her, so Barbara gave her new life in the form of a recipe blog. Barbara stopped by the studio to tell the story, and share some of her recipes (see below). She spoke with guest host Kathryn Marlow.

Download Flash Player to view this content.

Green olive crostini, and/or "black" olive crostini
Crostini are favourite pre-lunch or dinner bites, in Tuscany. They are made with rounds of bread that have been toasted in the oven or on a grill, then brushed with (very good) olive oil, then spread with a variety of delicious things: chopped chicken liver paste, for example, or chopped prosciutto, or grated pecorino cheese (in this case put under the grill after the cheese is applied) or- in this case- a spread made of either green or black olives.
Green olives are actually "ripe" olives but they are picked a little earlier than the very ripe "black ones". They do not come from different sorts of trees.
The Dottorellis of course grow their own olive, and also use their own olive oil, which is "milled" at a cooperative mill down in the valley below their house. It is a very rich dark green.
So: to make the olive "paste"
Not having olive trees in my back yard, I go to my local deli, La Cucina, in Penticton, and I buy either the "spiced" olives that I'm using today (these are not in tins) or tins of pitted black olives and/or tins of green pitted ones. The beauty of this recipe is that if you have tins of appropriate olives in the house you can whip it up any time, very easily. (Of course you will also have lots of garlic already on hand.)
Marta Dottorelli would snootily use just a kitchen knife to prepare (chop) the olives and garlic. I cheat with a sweet little mini-cuisinart which makes the process so fast.

(Note that Marta is very particular that this is pronounced "broo-sketta" with a hard "k" sound (not "brushetta"). This common mispronunciation drives her nuts.)

Ideally the bruschetta would be made with typical Tuscan bread which is unsalted and very dense. Ideally too it would be toasted over an olive-wood fire. But I used a grill pan which I bought in the local supermarket near Cortona, and use for so many things. 
-heat grill pan to very hot
-cut thickish ovals of a good Italian style bread.
-grill on both sides to make crisp and nicely "marked" on the outside.
-you can rub a clove of garlic at this point, or not.
-while still warm, sprinkle with sea salt or with a sea-salt and oregano mix
-drizzle with VERY GOOD olive oil (extra virgin, "extra-fruity" is best) (this is from olives that are picked a little early, to give that fruity taste) and pick up with fingers and eat immediately.