The last time I was in Italy I spent a morning browsing the outdoor market with its rows of tables full of local vegetables and fruits. Behind one of them I watched an old man preparing artichokes before roasting them as a snack for shoppers, the aroma drifting through the market, drawing shoppers to his table full of beautiful vegetables. Without a recipe in mind, I picked out whatever looked the most appealing and ideas started to flood into my mind of what I might make with them.
On the way back to our apartment I stopped in a little bakery to admire the array of freshly baked breads both sweet and savory, along with biscotti, pastry, and other treats. What caught my eye was a loaf of pane sciocco, so when I got home I sliced the bread and enjoyed it with a quick tapenade of fresh vegetables and cheese. Pane sciocco is an unsalted bread type from Tuscany, Umbria or Marche also known as Tuscan bread. I wrote about it in my journal and now as I look through my notes, I realize this could easily be made into a meal! Savory Tuscan bread dipped in egg batter, topping with tangy, freshly shredded asiago, baked until crispy and golden, and topped with spicy olive and pepper giardiniera. It tastes delicious, but what to call it?
This dish is quick and easy and can be served with a salad, and is perfect for lunch or dinner! I’ve paired mine with a simple salad of tender, nutty mâche, or lamb’s lettuce, which was a favorite of ours in Germany where it is called feldsalat. We’ve been looking for it here in the states for some time, and I recently discovered it at Whole Foods! Keep an eye out for it, and if you’re lucky enough to find it, I highly recommend you give it a try!
Tender Savory Asiago and Tapenada Pane Sciocco
2 large eggs
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup grated asiago cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons giardiniera, minced
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
6 slices Tuscan bread, (Ciabatta or Italian will work perfectly as well)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp. minced fresh oregano
Preheat oven to 425’F
Butter a baking sheet and set aside.
In a baking dish whisk together the eggs then add the milk, asiago, giardiniera, oregano, salt and pepper and mix. Place the sliced bread in the mixture, making sure to coat both sides. Place the bread on the baking sheet. With a fork, be sure to gather the cheese, giardiniera, oregano from the egg mixture, drain, and place on top of the bread slices before placing in the oven. Bake until the bottoms are golden (7-8 minutes). Flip and repeat.
3 cups Mache lettuce (Boston Lettuce, Lambs Lettuce or Butter Lettuce will do)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon meyer lemon juice
freshly cracked pepper and sea salt
In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper. Just before you serve the salad alongside of the savory bread coat the lettuce with the dressing and serve immediately.
Store bought will do, but I made my own with olives, peppers, and artichoke hearts from the antipasti bar at Whole Foods. It works just as well with ingredients from cans and jars, and feel free to create your own mixture!
5 Picquale peppers
5 artichoke hearts (in oil)
1 Tbsp. capers
1/2 cup Tuscan olives (in oil, no spices or herbs)
4 roasted red peppers (in oil)
Roughly chop all ingredients and place in a bowl and serve alongside the savory bread. Enjoy!