Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bruschetta, or, My Favorite Thing to Do With Tomatoes

My husband and I went to Italy for a week in April of 2007, and one of our "goals" was to find the best tasting bruschetta.  I'm not sure if we succeeded or not, but our search did spark our lingering love for the dish.

According to Wikipedia, bruschetta (pronounced "broos-ketta", not "broo-shetta" as is common in the US), is an antipasto dish from central Italy.  There are several variations of it, but its most common incarnation in the United States involves four very simple ingredients:

It amazes me, stupefies me even, that "bruschetta" is sold in jars at the supermarket.  It's such a ridiculously easy thing to make, and is so much better when prepared with fresh ingredients.  Really, if you've been buying jarred "bruschetta" at the grocery store all these years, I'm going to convert you right now.


Start with three or four good sized, ripened tomatoes.  Slice them in half horizontally, and use your little finger to remove most of the seeds.  Then chop the tomatoes into half-inch chunks, discarding the stems.  I like to use my Santoku knife; it does a wonderful job of slicing through tomato skins without mushing the fruit (or vegetable, whatever you want to call it).

Next, take two or three large cloves of fresh garlic, remove the skins, and mince them up as finely as possible.  Here's a little tip for removing garlic skins:  lay your knife flat over the clove, and slam your hand down on the blunt side of the blade.  This will "smash" the clove and the skins will slip right off.

Combine the tomatoes and garlic in a medium bowl, then sprinkle generously with basil, salt and pepper.  I prefer using fresh basil, but I didn't have any on hand.  Drizzle good quality olive oil over the top.  Use a large spoon to toss everything together, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit while you prepare your bread.

You can use any kind of bread you like, but crusty Italian bread works the best.  Cut the bread into slices no thinner than a half-inch.  Arrange the slices on a baking sheet, brush them with olive oil (you can also rub them with a slice of garlic if you like), and toast in a 425 degree oven for a few minutes until they're golden brown.

From this point, you can serve the bread and tomatoes together and let your guests assemble the bruschetta as preferred, or you can top the bread slices with the tomatoes and serve on a pretty platter. To serve as a warm appetizer, spoon the tomatoes onto the bread slices and sprinkle the top with shredded mozzarella.  Return the baking sheet to the oven and toast under the broiler for about five minutes or so, until the cheese gets melty, bubbly, and maybe a little toasted.

There you go! Mangia!

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