These charming finger sandwiches were probably the only thing I could have prepared in the tiny kitchen of the Roman apartment we rented while in the capital city of Italy last week. But it didn't stop me for preparing yummy sandwiches for Aria and me, using local products such as ricotta pannarella and black Angus bresaola meat.
Bresaola is salted lean and succulent beef that is air-dried until the meat turns dark red. It originated from the Lombardy region in Northern Italy. And I first discovered out-of-this-world ricotta pannarella while ordering a cheese platter in a restaurant in Rome. We asked the waiter to give us his best selection and I have to admit it sure was! Now I'm just hoping I'll be able to find some back in the US!
I prepared the finger sandwiches with crust-free, sliced white bread, a mixture of caramelized fennel and ricotta, sliced cucumbers and of course, freshly-made mozzarella cheese and delicious bresaola meat.
Servings: 32 square sandwiches
16 slices bread
2 tablespoons table salt
6 ounces ricotta cheese
½ cup parsley
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon honey
1 large mozzarella ball, thinly sliced
8 ounces bresaola meat, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
Prepping the cucumbers: Cut the cucumbers into 1/16-inch thick slices with a mandoline. Spread onto a flat surface. Sprinkle with table salt. Allow to rest for about 20 minutes. Pat dry with paper towels.
Keeping a bright green color: Wash the parsley (stems included, because that's where the flavor is the most potent). Quickly blanch it for about 5 seconds in boiling salted water and transfer to an ice bath, to maintain a bright green color. Drain thoroughly of all water and pat dry on paper towels. Finely chop the parsley.
For the ricotta cheese spread: In a pan, heat a bit of olive oil. Add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute, add the fennel and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add honey and let caramelize for 2 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Let cool, then finely chop. Combine the ricotta, fennel and parsley. Mix well. Season with sea salt and pepper. Set aside.
Assembly: Spread a very thin layer of ricotta on both sides of 8 slices of bread. Layer the sandwich with cucumber slices onto the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with black pepper. Add mozzrella and bresaola. Close the sandwich with a second piece of bread spread. Cut the sandwich into triangles.
Serve with chips and some crudités (crunchy vegetables such as baby carrots, celery or asparagus).
Salt draws the moisture out of things. Just sprinkle kosher salt on any vegetable, then pat dry with a paper towel. I used the same process for eggplant rollups.
I used a very sharp plastic mandoline to make even slices of cucumbers. If you don't own one, you can use a sharp chef's knife and make very thin slices.
The layer of ricotta pannarella cheese acts like an adhesive and prevents the sandwich filling from sliding once it's assembled.