Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Toast of the Mediterranean

Pita Tostato in Stile di "Welsh Rarebit" con Ingredienti Mediterranea
Mediterranean-Styled Pita Bread "Welsh Rarebit"

I can imagine that quite a few of you may well be baffled by the name "Welsh Rarebit" and to be honest, there are so many versions of it that it is not much of a surprise to me! As with many simple dishes, many, many people claim to know and use (and always exclusively so), THE original or traditional version- which only vary rarely exists. Ask 10 housewives in Bologna for their pasta sauce and you will get 10 different versions of authentic Bolognese. This is the plain and simple truth with all recipes. Otherwise... why on earth would be need, want, or buy the many thousands of cookery books that exist? Would there simply be ONE, book filled with the absolute truths of all things culinary? And good grief... what a boring world and a boring book that would be!!!

Basically, a "Welsh rarebit" is a glorified cheese on toast. It always has egg added to it, it usually has Worcestershire sauce as a seasoning, it sometimes has mustard added, occasionally has a little beer stirred-in and more often than not it has way too much cheese and topping and is a very oozy affair! But it is the concoction of cheese and egg that holds any of the various other ingredients together- and yes, that was the basic idea behind my little suppertime treat this evening...

As you may be aware, I am not a fan of foods that have masses of melted cheese in them and plainly, from looking at these photos, you will see that, that is one of the main visual differences... the other differences are in the ingredients!

Bacon, Zucchini, egg, Feta cheese, olives, capers, cherry tomatoes, mini bell pepper and thyme were the stars of my toast- and the bread I decided to use as you can see was Pita. Basically, this was another of my "let me see what I can do with the odds and ends I have in the fridge" creations- and bearing that in consideration- it was a pretty wonderful meal by the time it was put together... which didn't take very long at all!

I began by grating the zucchini relatively finely and then squeezing out the excess juices- this is a very important little detail, because if you don't do it, your topping will be too moist, will soak through the bread and trust me... you'll be sorry!

SO- squeeze the juice out, either just using your hand (which is what I did and definitely works well enough), or by pressing it into a sieve or colander. To make enough topping for these 3 pita's, I used 1 small, round zucchini, despite what you see in the photo- only 1 egg and to help bind everything together nicely whilst at the same time not making the topping be a soft and cheesy one, I added a handful of crumbled Feta cheese. Of course if you would like a more cheesy version, you can use Cheddar, Edam or Emmentaler... or even gorgonzola if you like your cheese richer- it is purely a matter of taste!

I stirred the egg, zucchini and cheese together well and added some finely sliced Spring onion and plucked the leaves of a sprig of Thyme and added that, along with a little pepper and nutmeg- the Feta cheese, the bacon and the olives bring quite a bit of salt with them- so I held back on that a little. Once these ingredients were nicely mixed, I cut away the top of each pita bread as you can see in the photos and then spooned- in the basic cheese and egg topping.

Next, I turned on the oven to the highest setting to get it ready and began adding all of the other ingredients to the pita... tomato, olives, capers, peppers in fine slices and of course bacon. I didn't stir these into the egg and cheese mix as I wanted all of these ingredients to get some direct heat from above, from the broiler, to give them a chance not only to cook through, but also get get nicely brown.

Once I had filled the pita's, I popped them into a dry frying pan and popped them onto the stove top for 2-3 minutes before moving them to the oven. This gives he pita a chance to start baking and browning from below, which in turn, helps prevent the egg, zucchini and cheese filling from soaking through.

After 5-6 minutes of regular baking at around 400°F, the egg, zucchini and cheese will have melted together and become nice and firm- time to fetch them out of the oven and add a nice sprinkle of pepper, a light sprinkle of salt and a lighter-still drizzle of honey... and to then pop them back inside for a further and final 3-4 minutes under the broiler. 

Honey may sound strange, but trust me- it goes wonderfully with the Feta, bacon and thyme and rounds off the flavor just wonderfully- as well as giving everything a nice, gentle glaze. 

By now the kitchen is going to be smelling wonderful and your mouth is going to be watering- I promise! Add a light scattering of fresh thyme leaves before serving, but serve them up quickly and enjoy them hot, hot, hot from the oven! Just be aware... that they will be gone before you know it! So you might want to prepare a few more! Have fun improvising your own toppings- and most important of all... enjoy!

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