So, what do you do when you are snowbound in New York City for the weekend – make a dinner reservation of course! There are definitely benefits to being held hostage in the city during a blizzard; since the streets are empty those hard to get tables at you favorite spots are very much available. Our stomping grounds these days center around the East and West Villages with too many exciting choices to begin to count. Mio Marito immediately got to work and before you knew it we were dining at Babbo. Thoughts of Gina De Palma, the late pastry chef are ever present, so it felt comforting to be there. The meal was sublime of course bringing back memories of Babbo’s iconic dishes. When the waiter presented Ceci Bruschetta as a little nibble, I suddenly realized that I had buried this recipe deep in the culinary resources of my mind. Ceci Bruschetta was my go to appetizer with a cocktail for ages. A simple to prepare combination of ceci or garbanzo beans, braced against the strong flavors of black olive spread, rosemary and red pepper flakes.
The ceci or garbanzo bean topping can be put together in an instant with ingredients that should be staples in the pantry; canned garbanzo beans, black olive spread (otherwise know as olivade or tapenade), balsamic vinegar, olive oil to name a few. Honestly, I know college students who stock these ingredients (well I know at least one).
The recipe is virtually straight from The Babbo Cookbook, without the addition of the basil leaves. I find the delicate flavor of the basil can be overpowered by the stronger taste of black olive paste, rosemary and garlic.
As for the bread – a good quality baguette with a nice hard crust does the trick. The bread merely needs to be toasted on both sides under the broiler, no seasoning required as the topping is so intense it isn’t necessary. This bruschetta recipe is vegan, dairy free, parve – whatever you dietary need may be, so understandably it does become quite popular when entertaining a crowd.
Prepare the topping early in the day and let it sit on the counter until your guests arrive. Ceci Bruschetta can be put together right before the onslaught arrives garnished with some fresh rosemary. The topping and toasted bread slices may also be brought to the table to be assembled by your guests creating a family style atmosphere. After all isn’t that what Italian food is all about?
Grazie Babbo and the entire Batalli & Bastianich group, you never fail to amaze and inspire me. Alla prossima volta….
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- 2 cups of drained cooked or canned ceci / garbanzo beans. If you are using canned, drain and rinse well with fresh water
- 8 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 4 Tbs. black olive paste sometimes referred to as tapenade or olivade
- 4 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary needles
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 slices of hearty peasant baguette cut into 1 inch slices
- Rosemary branches to garnish the serving plate
- Combine the extra virgin olive oil, black olive paste, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes, sliced garlic, and chopped rosemary in a bowl large enough to accommodate the ceci beans.
- Gently warm the drained beans and add them to the bowl, stirring well to coat them in the mixture. Having the beans warm will allow them to better absorb the flavors. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. The olive paste is rather salty, so taste carefully. Set aside until you have toasted the bread.
- Preheat the broiler and arrange the bread slices on a baking tray. Place the tray under the broiler and attentively watch as to be sure the slices are deep in color but do not burn. Turn the slices over to toast the other side and quickly remove. Place the toasted slices on a rack to cool so they do not develop condensation on the bottom side.
- Decorate a serving tray the rosemary sprigs. Carefully spoon some the the ceci bean topping on each of the bread slices and serve immediately. You may also present the topping and toasted bread slices at the table for guests to serve themselves