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Eat Like an Umbrian

October 25, 2000|ABBY MANDEL

After every trip, I like to replicate in my own kitchen the food I enjoyed most. I was in Italy recently and ate at Taverna del Lupo in Gubbio in the Umbria region. Its menu features simple, fresh-tasting food--without a leaf of basil anywhere.

I'd go back in a minute just for this meal. It starts with tomato bruschetta and wedges of peasant-like fried flat bread topped with prosciutto. Whether served with drinks or as a first course at the table, this makes an upbeat antipasto with great contrast.

For the main course, serve some grilled meat or sausages along with a baby arugula salad. The following course, Pecorino Romano cheese with a marmalade of caramelized red onions, makes for good lingering around the table. It's all served family style. A full-bodied red table wine from Italy is a good choice for these two courses.

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta

Active Work Time: 35 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour plus 2 hours standing

2 cups diced, seeded tomatoes

3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Freshly ground pepper

18 baguette slices, cut 1/2 inch thick

1 clove garlic, cut in half

* Place tomatoes, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste in bowl. Toss to mix well. Let rest at room temperature 2 to 3 hours before serving.

* Lightly grill or broil 1 side of baguette slices. While still warm, rub grilled side with cut garlic. (Can be done a few hours ahead. Cover with foil; let rest at room temperature.)

* To serve, stir tomatoes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Using slotted spoon to drain excess liquid, mound tomatoes on bread, dividing evenly. Place on platter, alternating with Umbrian Fried Flat Bread With Prosciutto; serve immediately.

6 servings. Each serving: 278 calories; 533 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 43 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 1.66 grams fiber.

Umbrian Fried Flat Bread With Prosciutto

Active Work Time: 45 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

This is best made just before serving.

2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for rolling

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup boiling water

2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for frying

9 paper-thin slices prosciutto, trimmed and cut crosswise in half

* Place flour and salt in food processor fitted with metal blade. With processor turned on, pour water and oil slowly though feed tube. Process until dough balls up, releases itself from sides of bowl and is smooth and elastic, about 40 seconds.

* Cut dough into 10 equal pieces, about the size of small golf balls. Cover balls with damp towel. On floured surface, roll out each ball into thin 6-inch circle. As each piece is done, place between sheets of parchment paper. Place stack in sealed plastic food bag. (Can be made day ahead and refrigerated.)

* Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in 8-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, cook 1 flat bread until lightly browned, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer to plate. Add another 1/2 teaspoon oil to skillet and fry other side of bread until lightly browned. Repeat with remaining flat breads until all are cooked. (Keep them warm in a 200-degree oven.) For antipasti, you will need 6 flat breads. Place on cutting board and cut each round into 3 equal wedges. Drape 1/2 slice of prosciutto on each. Alternate with tomato bruschetta on platter; serve immediately.

6 servings. Each serving: 217 calories; 477 mg sodium; 8 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 37 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 0.14 gram fiber.

Sweet and Spicy Onion Marmalade With Cheese

Active Work Time: 15 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 35 minutes

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red onion, halved, thinly sliced crosswise

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 cup apple jelly

2 tablespoons water

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Ground cloves

1 (8-ounce) wedge Pecorino Romano cheese, room temperature, cut into 1/3-inch thick slabs

* Heat oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and salt. Cook, uncovered, stirring often, until softened and beginning to lightly brown, about 10 minutes.

* Add jelly, water, red pepper flakes and dash cloves. Stir well. Cook, uncovered, stirring often until thick and syrupy, about 8 minutes more. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust salt, red pepper flakes and cloves. (Can be made several days ahead and refrigerated.)

* To serve, let come to room temperature. Stir, taste and adjust seasoning. Put cheese on large platter. Put marmalade into small bowl; place beside cheese. Serve together.

1/2 cup. Each tablespoon: 214 calories; 691 mg sodium; 22 mg cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams protein; 0.15 gram fiber.

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