There is nothing simpler than toast… or as the Italians lovingly call it, Fettunta. And there is no more direct way to savor the flavors and aromas of a good extra-virgin olive oil- especially the Olio Nuovo.
Olio Nuovo, or “new” oil is just that- the olives are picked, sorted, placed in brine, and pressed. That’s it- just as soon as it has been pressed it is Olio Nuovo.
What is so great about Olio Nuovo? Olio Nuovo is the air, gray spring rain, new green shoots, the summer, the long slanted rays of a late day in the fall, hay, grass, and stone all in one bottle. On a practical level the Olio Nuovo is piquant- peppery, actually. It has a bit of a bite; This is just the start of your addiction.
To make a proper Fettunta, you’ll need:
- Slices of good white peasant or “Italian” bread.
- 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic. (This really needs to be fresh)
- Coarse salt
- Newly pressed extra-virgin olive oil (ahem… think Bosca…)
- Slice your bread in thick pieces- about 1/3 to ½ inches thick.
- Toast the bread lightly. Many recipes say to “toast to a golden brown” etc. Admittedly “golden brown” sounds good- especially for breakfast in my experience, however, Fettunta is lightly toasted.
The toasting is best done over a wood fire if possible. Here is a case where the wood fire really does impart a detectable flavor. Plus it is fun if you can do it. Don’t let it stop you if you don’t have a wood fire though- use the broiler. Set the rack about 6-8 inches from the heat source so that the toasting occurs gently.
- Rub one (toasted) side thoroughly with garlic.
- Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt. After that… my advice is to simply enjoy the fragrance of this food as much as the taste in your mouth. It can make your senses swirl and dance. Really. Bread, garlic, oil, and salt. That’s it.
SPECIAL NOTES: If you are toasting the bread in the broiler toast both sides of the bread lightly and remove. If you are toasting over a wood fire toast one side, rub this side with garlic and oil, then toast the other side. This accomplishes heating the garlic and oil slightly.
The taste of all olive oil varies greatly depending on its origin. Tuscany is famously one of the best regions in all the world. Oil from this region has a distinctive and strong taste, which is even more pronounced when the oil is new. The strong tastes of Olio Nuovo all mellow and soften with time. After about three months the oil is no longer “Olio Nuovo.”
I have not read this in any other book, but I always put the toast back on the heat very briefly. Here I have to emphasize that this needs to be very quick. I like for the heat to just activate the aroma of the garlic and shift it from a purely fresh and vegetal taste to a taste that hints of having been cooked.