If you follow my blog’s Facebook and/or Instagram accounts then you might know that I made Italian food for my Japanese friends last night. Now, how does a Persian-Kiwi learn to cook Italian? By working jobs. At 15 I worked at La Porchetta, a chain Italian restaurant then at 17 I waitress-ed at iconic Cafe Valentino which was destroyed from the devastating Christchurch earthquakes whilst I was living in Israel. When Cafe Valentino reopened on St. Asaph Street, I immediately returned, this time as Duty Manager. That’s right, GIRL BOSS. I loved the actual boss, I loved the head chef and I loved the pizza (not specifically in that order).
Working at Cafe Valentino, I learnt so much from Chef Karren. Not only is she extremely talented but also so utterly passionate and committed. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than a person who sacrifices day in and day out for their art.
During “the calm before the storm” (quiet mornings before lunch) at Cafe Valentino, I’d often have the opportunity to watch the chef’s preparations. Though I couldn’t ever know exactly how they made what they did or what exactly went into it, let’s just say, I can take a pretty accurate stab in the dark. Today I share with you an idiot-proof *stolen* recipe from the famous Cafe Valentino:
Tomato Freakin’ Bruschetta.
1 medium red onion, chopped small
about 3 medium tomatoes , chopped small – I used a punnet of mixed colored tomatoes whcih included red, maroon, green, yellow and orange ones.
bunch of fresh basil leaves – chopped small
dollop of good quality olive oil
dollop of good quality balsamic
pinch of sea salt
pinch of pepper
Bread – Cafe Valentino would use freshly baked ciabatta, I used store-bought French baguette.
Finely chop vegetables and herb.
Add a dollop of oil then balsamic – I guess Cafe Val used a balsamic reduction but I ain’t got time (or skills) for that.
Season with a little salt and pepper.
Mix well then refrigerate (you can do this well in advance to serving, if you wish).
For serving, slice bread, toast in a toaster or toaster oven then top each bread with big spoonfuls of tomato/onion mixture letting it fall everywhere (as in on the plate).
***HOT TIP from Rosie Blakely of Gaikokumama: “I usually cut a fresh garlic clove in half, rub the open-side over the bread, then lightly toast by frying the bread with a little olive oil. Yummy. Try it if you fancy!”