I have been cooking on an electric cooktop for many years. For some reason the places I rented (and then owned), always had electricity rather than gas. For years I yearned for a gas cooktop, infuriated at how slow it can be using electricity. Where we live now, we sadly do not have a gas connection so I kept on dreaming gas and cooking electric. Last year, we bit the bullet and had an induction cooktop installed. And I LOVE it. I still got to keep my trusty blue Chasseur pot (that I had received as a wedding present) and a couple of smaller frypans, that worked on induction, but I had to buy a whole lot of new pans and say good bye to several of the old beloved ones. My latest favourite one is another Chasseur product, a large and rather lovely grill, with handles on each end and a gorgeous blue colour.
The grill comes in rather handy when making crostini, which are rounds of toasted bread on which you can put any topping you choose and are eaten as appetisers in Italy. I like to grill the bread, after drizzling on some olive oil, so that it has grill lines on it and it tastes slightly smoky. My current obsession is a kind of artichoke pâte’ (crema di carciofi) mainly because I bought an enormous jar of Italian artichokes and I am trying to use them all up before we go on our Italian trip (which is now only TWO weeks away). I bought the fancy looking jar from the Mediterranean Supermarket in Brunswick and they are seriously delicious artichokes. The brand is Fattoria Sila from Calabria and the artichoke hearts are arranged decoratively in the jar with garlic and bay leaves throughout and they are marinated in olive oil: firm little artichoke hearts in a lovely yellow olive oil.
To make crema di carciofi, all you need is good quality artichoke hearts, a hefty dose of extra virgin olive oil and a food processor. It is as simple as that. If you can’t get your hands on artichokes marinated in olive oil (as many are in sunflower oil with some vinegar thrown in), I suggested you drain off the other marinade, wipe them as dry as you can and then marinate them in good quality olive oil for around 6 hours before using. The crema is not only great spread on crostini, but makes a fabulous condiment for pasta. Stir it through cooked pasta using a bit of reserved cooking water, drizzle on more EVOO if needed and scatter on plenty of Italian Parmesan cheese. However I digress…back to the crostini.
The crostini I made had a layer of crema di carciofi, proscuitto San Daniele and a thin shaving of Grano Padano (Parmesan cheese). Heaven really. A perfect and simple accompaniment to a pre-dinner drink. If you are interested in learning how to make a selection of appetisers (both simple ones like these and more complex ones like arancini), have a look at my cooking classes in Fitzroy as one of the classes later in 2015 will be devoted to making Venetian cicheti and other Italian appetisers.
crostini con crema di carciofi
6 artichoke hearts, preferibly marinated in olive oil
50ml EVOO (or to taste)
bread (baguette or a small crusty loaf but dense loaf sliced into thin rounds)
shaved parmesan cheese
sliced artichoke hearts
parsley leaves to garnish
extra EVOO for the bread
Place the artichoke hearts in a small blender and whizz briefly, then stop to add half the olive oil. Whizz again and add the rest of the EVOO until you are happy with the consistency, adding more if needed (how much you need depends on how oily they were to begin with). It should be like a pesto in consistency. Set aside and prepare the bread.
Apply EVOO to the fresh bread slices with a small brush (or drizzle on). Heat your grill and cook for a few minutes on each side until there are grill lines on the bread and it is toasted.
Spread the prepared artichokes on the warm bread rounds. Top with prosciutto, shaved Parmesan, a sliver of artichoke and a parsley leaf for garnish. Serve immediately or place covered in the fridge for ten minutes before serving. They should be eaten within an hour of preparing.
Disclaimer: The grill was a gift from Chasseur. All opinions are my own.