With its unique climate and incredible landscape, Italy has never had an issue producing high-quality ingredients for seasonal eating. From the sweet oranges that fill every plate come February or the tangy lemons of the Italian summer, there’s a food for every time of the year – and in the winter, vegetables like violet artichokes and cavolo nero are particularly popular.
Traditionally grown in the rolling fields of Tuscany during the winter, cavolo nero (or Tuscan kale, as it’s fondly known) has earned a reputation as a bit of a superfood – not only does it taste great, but it’s also rich in vitamins and minerals. It’s the perfect ingredient, then, to top a crostini, with its tangy, bitter flavour coming to life alongside the crunch of the toasted ciabatta. A sprinkling of chilli adds a kick and draws out the cavolo nero’s natural sweetness, while grated pecorino cheese brings a hint of indulgence to the recipe. Just like the Italian climate, these crostini are versatile and full of surprises – a comforting snack for the cold weather, a unique addition to an antipasto platter, or the perfect opening to a hearty winter meal.
1 loaf of ciabatta bread, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic
100g cavolo nero
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp chilli flakes
50g of pecorino cheese
Begin by chopping and blanching the cavolo nero. Set a large bowl of ice-cold water to the side, and bring a separate large pot of water to the boil, adding a few tablespoons of salt. Roughly chop the cavolo nero before gradually placing it in the boiling water, keeping a high heat throughout. Cook for between 2-5 minutes, according to your taste. As soon as it’s cooked, remove the cavolo nero from the boiling water and plunge it into the ice-cold water. Once the cavolo nero is completely cool, remove and drain.
Next, toast the sliced ciabatta on a griddle or under a grill. Once the slices are cool, rub them with the clove of garlic.
Meanwhile, dress the blanched cavolo nero with the olive oil, chilli flakes and salt to taste.
Finally, top the toasted ciabatta slices with piles of cavolo nero, and then grate over the pecorino cheese – pecorino romano is usually the easiest variety to find, but any type of pecorino (sardo, toscano or pepato, for example) works well. Drizzle with more olive oil to suit your taste, and serve.