In Simple Italian (Plum), popular TV chef Silvia Colloca shares the essential dishes and techniques that are at the heart of the world’s most popular cuisine. With 100 recipes and countless tips and tricks, you’ll be cooking like a nonna in no time. Give this deelish roasted chilli and crab crostini from the book a try – it’s a great snack or starter. Over to Silvia:
I have always been a summer person. When I was little I could hardly wait for the warmer months to come. They brought with them many of the things I held dear: the end of school, my birthday and relocating to my mamma’s village in the heart of Abruzzo, far away from the chaos of city life in Milan.
A few decades may have gone by, but that little girl’s excitement for summer remains unchanged. I happily absorb all the vitamin D I can get (ever mindful of sun damage … I’ve become so Australian!) as I potter around my garden and watch my crop of seasonal goodies come to life. I love chillies and have plenty growing in my garden, dotting the landscape with their vibrant green and red hues. I’ve made sure my children are as fond of them as my husband Richard and I are, as the thought of having to cook separate meals for them clashes deeply with my Italian upbringing.
If the people you are cooking for can’t handle the heat of chilli, try roasting, peeling and seeding them. The flavours mellow beautifully, making them the perfect topping for this summer crostini – my ideal
fuss-free crowd pleaser. Crostini are very similar to bruschetta, but in Italy we only use that term for grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with tomatoes (in fact, the most traditional bruschetta simply has garlic and oregano!). Veer away from this classic combination and your preparation is instantly transformed into crostini. There is no particular reason for this; it is simply a matter of tradition and one I am happy to stick to.
10 large long red chillies
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf
parsley leaves and chives
80 ml (⁄3 cup) extra-virgin olive
oil, plus extra for brushing
300 g picked crab meat
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 day-old baguette, cut into
1 cm thick slices
small flat-leaf parsley leaves, to serve (optional)
Preheat the grill function on your oven to high and line a baking tray with foil.
Place the chillies on the prepared tray, slide under the grill and roast, turning the chillies over as they blister, for 25–30 minutes or until blackened. Remove from the tray and place in a zip-lock bag for 1 hour.Remove the chillies from the bag and scrape off the skin. Don’t rinse them or you will wash away the beautiful charred flavour you’ve just given them. If you can’t handle too much heat, scrape off the seeds. Cut the chillies into thin strips and mix with the chopped herbs, some salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Place the crab meat in a small bowl and stir through the lemon juice and remaining olive oil.
Heat a chargrill pan over high heat or your barbecue grill plate to hot. Rub the cut sides of the garlic cloves over the bread slices, then brush with some more olive oil. Grill the bread on both sides until nicely charred. Top with the crab meat mixture and roasted chilli. Crown with a few small parsley leaves, if you like, and serve.
Simple Italian by Silvia Colloca, Published by Plum, RRP $39.99, Photography by Rob Palmer