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10/09/2018

~The Crispy Bits about Bruschetta, Crostini and Panini~

IMG_3899Bread comes in many forms.  I am of the opinion that bread IS the staff of life, and, I average one serving of bread per day.  Sans the occasional requisite soft-textured grilled-cheese sliced white, the hot-dog roll and the hamburger bun, any humble flatbread or pita pocket, along with the breakfast-y bagel and English muffin, the display here represents a sampling of my personal artisanal favorites.  Except for one, the delicate croissant, they are all firm-textured, and, by choosing the correct shape, I can make make one of three crispy Italian-style specialties.

IMG_3916Bruschetta (broo-skeh-tah) means "oiled slice" and comes from the word "bruscare" (broo-scar-ay), which means "to roast over coals". Bruschetta is the original garlic toast.  Traditionally, large, thick slices of firm, crusty bread are toasted over a wood fire, rubbed with plenty of garlic while they are still warm, drizzled with the finest olive oil available, sprinkled lightly with salt and pepper, then served warm.  They are classically served with freshly-picked basil, tomatoes and same-day-made buffalo-milk mozzarella, but when paper-thin slices of Italian meats, cheeses and vegetables (grilled, roasted or marinated) are added, they can turn into a hearty knife-and-fork open-faced sandwich meal.

IMG_3932Crostini in Italian simply means "little toast", and also means they don't always get drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic.  Just like bruschetta, crostini are topped with any number of savory toppings. Unlike bruschetta, they are usually made using smaller, cylindrical-shaped breads, like a baguette. Crostini are almost always served as a snack or an appetizer before a meal, but, a basket of them can be served as an accompaniment to the meal.  That said, in the case of both bruschetta and crostini, any size, color or flavor of rustic bread can be used, as long as it has a firm texture and have a good crust -- ciabatta, focaccia, michetta, baguette or batard, and sourdough are prime examples.

IMG_3862Panini is the Italian word for a grilled sandwich made with the same type of firm, crusty bread (or rolls) used to make bruschetta and crostini.  "One panino, two panini" are the singular and plural forms (which derive from the Italian "pane" and Latin "panis", referring to bread), but the use of panino is uncommon and almost never used. Panini sandwiches, served hot off the grill, were traditionally filled with the same thin-sliced specialty deli-meats and cheese served with or on bruschetta and crostini (capicola, ham, mortadella, salami, soppresatta, provolone, etc.), meaning they're associated with Italian fare, but, nowadays a panini can find itself fused with any cuisine.  

IMG_2214A panini press is basically a double-sided contact grill that cooks both sides of a sandwich at once. Much like a grill pan, the grids of a panini press give these sandwiches their signature grill marks.  There are several good brands, in all price ranges, on the market.  My Cuisinart Griddler is about 5 years old.  It doesn't take up too much space, controls heat perfectly, and, I love it. This gadget has earned its rightful place on my kitchen counter.

Crispy bruschetta, crostini or panini -- your choice!

IMG_3939"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

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