A trio of Italian starters

To Tuscany Villas have challenged bloggers to come up with a Tuscan-inspired recipe, using typical flavours and influences from Italy. Regular readers of my blog will know that I love a recipe challenge and Facebook memories have just reminded me this week that it is a year since I was at the Dorchester receiving my award for British Turkey 2015 best blogger recipe.

Although I’ve never visited Tuscany yet, I’ve enjoyed plenty of tasty Tuscan food at Italian restaurants. Some of its food and drink are irresistible. Just imagine a delicious Tuscan bean soup, followed by wild boar sausages and then gelato. Of course, served with a bottle of Chianti. Yummy.

However I only got invited to participate in this challenge yesterday, just one day before the closing date, with not a lot of time to come up with my recipe or to source my ingredients. So I’ve passed on pasta, beans, Chianti, olives and ice cream. Instead I’ve opted for a trio of Italian starters using tomatoes, peppers, olive oil, mozzarella, basil and ciabatta.

Italian starters


My first dish is an Italian Tomato and Bread Salad. Although I have blogged my Chinese variant on this previously, I hadn’t shared my Italian version. This recipe is my competition entry, but keep reading for two more recipes to compliment the theme.

Tomato and Bread Salad

Tomato and Bread Salad

Ingredients (serves 4 – 6)

600g mixed tomatoes
200g ciabatta bread, preferably stale
6 tbsp olive oil
salt
pepper
5g fresh basil

Method

Cut the ciabatta into pieces and put aside to dry out. If necessary, toast slightly in the oven.
Chop the tomatoes into pieces and put in a large serving bowl.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the bread and mix together.
Stir in the olive oil. Add extra if necessary.
Shred the basil and stir in.
Serve and enjoy.

Tomato and Bread Salad

Secondly, I decided to do a twist on the stuffed olives you see in every supermarket deli. Instead I have made my own stuffed peppers. I grilled the peppers to bring out the best flavour, but alternatively you could make this using raw mini peppers.
Cheese Stuffed Peppers

Cheese Stuffed Mini Peppers

Ingredients (serves 3 – 4)

250g mini sweet peppers
150g cream cheese

Method

Cut the ends off the peppers and remove the seeds.
Place on grill pan rack and cook under a pre-heated moderate grill for about 5 minutes until starting to soften.
Turn and grill on other side, again for about 5 minutes until starting to soften.
Allow to cool.
Using a teaspoon, fill peppers with cream cheese.
Serve and enjoy.

Cheese Stuffed Peppers


And lastly, although I had half an unused ciabatta loaf left, I thought one bread dish would be sufficient, but if you’re keen to know how to make bruschetta, you may see my recipe here. However you can never have too many tomatoes in Italian cooking, so I made a Tomato and Mozzarella Salad.
Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Ingredients (serves 2 – 3)

125g mozzarella
100g tomatoes
fresh basil leaves to garnish

Method

Cut the mozzarella into slices.
Slice the tomato.
Arrange mozzarella and tomato on a plate in an alternating pattern.
Garnish with basil leaves.
Serve and enjoy.

Mozzarella and Tomato Salad

It was just too Autumnal to eat al fresco today, but I am imagining enjoying these dishes along with a glass of Chianti outside one of the gorgeous villas in Tuscany, a region I would love to visit.

I’d love to hear your favourite Italian recipes.

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Disclosure: This is my entry for the To Tuscany Blogger Recipe Competition and I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas! Participants will have a one in ten chance of winning. Other entrants will receive a hamper of Chianti goodies.

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