Posted by: acooksca | 04/03/2009

Crostini with Sicilian Pesto and Caciocavallo

California has a national treasure in Paula Wolfort, the Napa Valley based food writer. For thirty years Paula has brought food lore and reliable recipes from France and the Mediterranean <img scilian-greens-1ato our kitchens. She documents and codifies original recipes such a “jam” of greens with typical Sicilian flavors which inspired this version.

Caciocavallo (kah-choh-kuh-VAH-loh) is probably more fun to say than to try to use. It is a sharp-flavored, hard-textured cow’s milk cheese that has been aged hanging from a rope. The shape is that of a large pear with a cord around its neck. Caciocavallo comes with a medium high-price tag and a good amount of hard-to-use rind. You could substitute an equally piquant aged Provolone or Pecorino with no wasted rind.

The greens in this recipe are accented with flavors traditional to the cooking of Sicily: capers, raisins, and anchovy. The anchovy is mild and necessary for a robust foundation to the overall flavor so do not leave it out.

1 large head of Swiss chard
1 large head of fresh spinach
1 large garlic clove, slightly smashed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 anchovy filets (rinsed and chopped) or 1 tsp. anchovy paste. See Cook’s Note
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons dark raisins, soaked in warm water and drained
Pinch red-pepper flakes
Salt to taste
1/2 cup Caciocavallo, grated (or other hard cheese)
24 toasted baguette rounds or country bread crostini

Heat a large pot of salted water. Wash the greens. Remove the stalks and stems. Cook the greens in several batches for 10 minutes, until very tender. Drain and place in an ice water bath to cool quickly. When cool, drain and squeeze firmly to extract water.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the oil and garlic until the garlic browns. Remove and discard the garlic. Add the greens to the pan and cook for one minute, stirring. Add the anchovy, capers, raisins and chili flakes. Cook, stirring, for one minute.
Remove the mixture to a cutting board and allow to cool slightly. With a large knife chop to a medium-fine chop. See Cook’s note. Add salt to taste. Greens can be made ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature to proceed.

To serve, heat the oven to 400. Top the toasts with a little cheese and melt in the oven. Divide the greens between the toasts, top with a sprinkle of cheese and heat until warm through, or several minutes. Serve warm.

Cook’s Note:

1. Anchovy paste in a tube is easier to incorporate and holds well for other uses such as Caesar salad dressing.

2.. You could do the chopping by using the pulse feature on your food processor. But it is  hard to produce an even chop before it becomes a paste. It takes about 30 seconds to hand chop with a large knife on a cutting board and the texture will be correct. It should have small bits of each flavor component so that they burst in the mouth to accent the greens.

Originally published in Farmstead Cheese News by Karen Bolla, edited for A Cook’s California (A Cook’s CA)  by Karen Bolla.

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