Thursday, 15 August 2013

Nibble Me This...

Stuzzichini di Piadine con Melanzane, Olive, Feta & Sedano
Flat-Bread Snacks with Eggplant, Olives, Celery & Feta

"Stuzzichini", the little bite-sized treats you will get served up with your drinks in Italy, can be anything that is small and scrumptious. They may be mini pizzas, tiny sandwiches, chunks of sausage and olives, anything in fact that you can just nibble on- but always something that bar and restaurant owners like to re-invent and make in their own distinctive style.

This evening, I decided to whizz-together some savory little "stuzzichini" of my own, using the left-over eggplant from last night, the last bit of feta cheese, a little celery and a few olives... a great combination to eat with some nice crusty bread at any time anyway- and even more fun when enjoyed this way!

The other thing I had lying around was a couple of tortillas- the Italian equivalent of which would be the Roman "piadina", which is also a plain flour flat-bread. The old, traditional piadina recipe, used to be made of flour, water and lard, but nowadays, they are usually made from flour and water alone... which I think is a good thing! So sure- they are just tortillas! Which makes it easier for you to make these for yourselves as you will probably have more chance of getting tortillas at your local supermarket than those Roman things!

To make the shells, I simply used a cookie cutter to cut out rounds from the tortillas. I then turned a muffin tray upside down, folded the rounds of tortilla in half gently and then pressed them down into the gaps between the cups of the muffin tray... easy! Then into the oven and under the broiler they went for around 3 minutes, until the tops began to brown. I took them out, set them to one side to cool and sure enough, 5-6 minutes later, they were cooled off and crispy and ready to go!

For the eggplant filling, I made a relatively fine dice of ca. 1/2" cubes of eggplant-  (this whole serving was made of just one half of a large one), a fine dice or garlic, 1 finely chopped Spring onion, 7-8 chopped black olives and just 1 handful of feta cheese to crumble into the mix. And herbs! Rosemary and thyme- a nice handful of each, to make this into a really delicious treat! And here's how...

In just a light drizzle of olive oil, I started the eggplant frying, whilst I chopped up the rest of the ingredients. After 2-3 minutes, when it was beginning to turn brown here and there, I added the onion, garlic and olives, along with a little salt and pepper. Another 2-3 minutes later, the eggplant was beginning to soften and the onion, garlic and celery to gain a little color... as well as starting to smell really, really good!

I deglazed the pan with the juice of 1/2 a lemon and a splash of Sambuca, added a handful of plucked thyme leaves and a good pinch of finely chopped rosemary... and stirred! And I kept stirring and the eggplant kept getting softer... and after about 10 minutes of cooking time in all the eggplant was perfectly cooked, nice and soft but not too mushy and filled with wonderful flavor!

The finishing touch was just a light drizzle of honey to take away any bitterness from the eggplant and to bring together the flavors of the eggplant, olive and onion nicely and harmoniously- I did this away from the stove though, as honey tends to turn too brown and to burn very quickly... and nobody wants that!

But what they WILL want, are these little snacks! I spooned some of the mixture into each piadina shell and then sprinkled them with a little more rosemary, thyme and pepper... and didn't hesitate too long before trying them... and I DO have to say, they were pretty fantastic!

These are great fun to eat, easy to make... and pretty to boot! What's not to like? I think you should try these out next time you entertain... what do you think? ;-)

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