In Jim Lahey's My Bread, he chronicles his decades-long process to learn to make bread. His European influence centered on bread in Rome, and his words about the Roman cooking style resonated with me: "Cooking, of course, mattered in Rome, but it was a particular kind of cooking--not fancy, no culinary showing off. It was basic and traditional, the reason that grandmothers in the kitchen are so admired there. You could create real beauty with fresh, simple ingredients and careful preparation."
Cantaloupe and Prosciutto
prosciutto, sliced into smaller pieces (about 2 x 1 inches)
fresh mint leaves (optional)
Gather a piece of prosciutto and place on top of a cube of cantaloupe. Top with a mint leaf and secure with a toothpick.
from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
6-8 fresh, ripe plum tomatoes
8 to 12 fresh basil leaves
6 garlic cloves
12 slices good, thick-crusted bread, sliced 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Wash the tomatoes, split them in half lengthwise, and with the tip of a paring knife pick out all the seeds you can. Dice the tomatoes into 1/2-inch cubes.
Wash the basil leaves, shake them thoroughly dry, and tear them into small pieces.
Mash the garlic cloves with a heavy knife handle, crushing them just enough to split them and to loosen the peel, which you will remove and discard.
Broil the bread to golden brown on both sides.
While bread is still hot, rub one side of each slice with the mashed garlic.
Top bread with diced tomato, sprinkle with basil, add salt and pepper, and lightly drizzle each slice with olive oil. Serve while still warm.