Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Tomini for you and me

Recently, we hosted guests that were celebrating a special birthday in a special way. They wanted to cook, drink and experience the culinary offerings of our slice of Piedmont. Fabrizio and I were only too happy to guide them on this journey as we navigated our way through the Pinerolo market, local vineyards with samplings of the fruits of their labor, and a hands on cheese making lesson culminating with a tasty antipasto to make again, once back home. It probably will be challenging to find a fresh, soft cheese like our Tomini when they try it back home, and they certainly won't find any quite as fresh, but they will have a good basis for appreciating the labor that goes into making cheese, I think.

We arrived at the fattoria just as the milk was ready to form curds and be ladled up, thereby missing out on the more strenuous milking and the waiting game for the milk to reach the appropriate temperature for making the magic happen. Once all these elements came together, we all had a go at gently gathering them up and depositing them into the draining forms that gives a Tomini it's name. Then after a brief rest, for the cheese, that is, we worked on mastering the more delicate process of flipping them over, before they come to rest againin order to continue draining out the remainder of the whey .

Mastering the art of the flip.
Our host and teacher made it look quite simple, but she does have the advantage of endless daily cheese making sessions of the various cheeses. The cows just keep on giving milk day in and day out, no holidays, and they just keep making the Toma, Tomini and ricotta, just to name the main ones that are produced in our part of the alps.
So when we made an antipasto with the fresh Tomino with a couple of varieties of tomatoes that we had purchased in the market, there was a small competition amongst the group as to whom had made the best plate presentation. I thought they were all good, but this is the one that seemed to translate best in a photograph. Let the taunting begin.

Simple Tomini Pomodori Antipasto

Take fresh Tomini towers and slice them into 1/2 inch/ 2 cm rounds. One Tomino will feed two people.
You could use ricotta or any other fresh soft cheese that you can find in place of this local specialty
Slice some of your favorite just barely ripe tomatoes into same size rounds. One to two tomatoes per person.
We used Cuore di Bue(Ox heart) and Camone from Sardenga, as our local tomatoes are not quite ripe yet.
These local favorites make a nice blend as the former is full flavored and mild and the small Camone are tart and juicy. Dicing a few for additional garnish is a nice touch as well.
Finely chop rucola (arugula/rocket) into a chiffonade or small bits to make a nice bed for your stacks.
Alternate tomato and cheese rounds with some finely torn fresh basil.
A sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Drizzle all with hot pepper olive oil or any other good quality oil or flavored oil.
Serve at room temperature.
A zippy start to any meal.
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