I had a mission today: to make bruschetta for the first time, and pesto. I've made pesto many times at home, but as I only have knives on hand in the apartment to slice and dice (no food processor), it was a challenge. Bruschetta is bascially grilled bread, often topped with chopped tomatoes, spices and olive oil. Pesto is a blend of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese, also used as a topping, or as a sauce on pasta.
First, I needed the right ingredients. I had basilico from the plant on my terrace, pomidori (tomatoes) and aglio (garlic) from the market, as well as olio d'oliva (olive oil) and Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese). I still needed pane (bread), spezie (spices) and pinoli (pine nuts). I went to the Mercato Centrale early to see what I could find. Shopping in Firenze is often like a scavenger hunt, and I enjoy the process of exploring the city to figure out where things can be found.
As a rule, I don't much care for Mercato Centrale, as many of the merchants are not Italian and the prices are often steep, plying to the tourist trade that frequents that part of town. The only thing I bought was some ground pepper, for 2 euros. The woman who sold it to me encouraged me to try a tiny bottle of salt flavored with truffles....for 9 euros. No thanks! (The non-Italian merchants often try to push the sale of other items in their stalls, something I really don't enjoy.)
On the way, I came across a special exhibit of ornamental plants in Piazza del Duomo. Many merchants had colorful of their plants on display. I lingered awhile to capture the beauty.
I was unlucky in finding pine nuts at the market, but when I ventured into a casalinghe store (things for the home), in addition to pots and pans, I discovered bins of dried beans and jars of nuts. I asked for half of an etto (about 2 ounces) of pinoli, for 2,90 euros, and the merchant was content to sell me that and no more. Grazie mille!
Still in a walking mood, I made my way across town to my favorite market, Sant'Ambrogio, where I prefer to shop. I found the bread I needed and returned home per fare pranzo (to make lunch).
I grilled the bread in the toaster oven, then slathered it with the tomato concoction I'd made. I had a few tomatoes left over to eat with the pesto. L'ho fatto! (I made it): bruschetta e pesto! The perfect pranzo for a Saturday afternoon in Firenze. Buon appetito!