And here comes another delicious bite for you... courtesy of Ronald and Katia of LoveSicily who made me one very happy person when I received their parcel in the course of Blogging by Mail. This initiative is now in its second instalment and, as per brief, saw participants send their CARE packet to an unsuspecting foodblogger, then anxiously awaiting what would be in store for them. The added challenge this time was to send ingredients out of your own kitchen or pantry for which the recipient would have to come up with a recipe...
My parcel was doubly special, I think, as it contained home-grown vegetables straight from their terrace in Southern Italy - I couldn't believe they were still in such good shape after travelling such a long distance! Apart from the veggies, there was also chocolate (never fails to please!): 4 tiny buttons of dark chocolate containing cocoa bits and two tablets of a local brand wrapped in beautiful brown wrapping paper and tied together with string. These are apparently produced following an ancient Aztec recipe and I am tempted to believe it, as the chocolate I used to have in Mexico (especially the tablets for drinking chocolate) have the same texture - it's churned cold rather than hot and therefore the sugar crystals don't dissolve completely, so it's less smooth, also because it uses much less fat... but nevertheless delicious. Next up, a roll of almond paste - never had this in my life, so am still wondering how to use it! There was also a pack of postcards - very nice touch, I think this should be madatory from now on, so people can see where their parcel is coming from... although there is the danger of me packing my things and going to Sicily, if that's the sights Ronald and Katia have just round the corner?
Given that part of the content of my parcel was perishable, I had to move quickly. I am still very much in a canape mood, so I opened up another pack of croustades (if you're at a loss as to where to find them, try IKEA) and filled them with a mixture of aubergine, peperoncino, tomatoes and pine nut, with a dash of balsamico and a sliver of Ronald's local cheese (Ragusano) to decorate. Great vegetarian finger food, bursting with flavours and dangerously moreish - thanks Ronald and Katia for your great gift!
Aubergine, tomato & pine nut croustades
24 croustade pastry shells
3 tbsp pine nuts
2 shallots (finely chopped)
1 clove garlic (crushed)
3 tbsp olive oil
200 g aubergine (cut into small dice)
1 peperoncino (mild green chilli - finely chopped)
130 tomatoes (cut into small dice)
3 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp smooth & sweet balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs thyme
24 parmesan shavings, to decorate
"Toast" the pinenuts in a non-stick pan until nicely coloured, but not too dark. Remove and reserve. Heat the olive oil in the same pan, then fry the shallots, chilli and garlic until brown and fragrant. You want them to taste almost smokey, for lack of a better word.
In the meantime, put the aubergines into a microwavable bowl and put into your microwave for 2 minutes on full power. Add to the pan, then throw in the tomatoes and tomato purée. Season with salt, pepper and the thyme leaves. Stir in the balsamico and continue to cook until the mixture is "dry" enough, to ensure the pastry shells won't get soggy.
Fill the croustades with about 1 heaped tsp each and top off with a piece of parmesan.
These canapes should ideally be assembled just before serving, but maximum an hour before.