Here’s a dish few people seem to think about outside of Italian restaurant appetizer menus. However bruschetta (technically bruschetti) are not only easily made at home, they make a handy meal for the weeknight gourmet. All bruschetta requires is a few slices of decent bread, a little garlic, olive oil and some imagination.
Bruscetta is, essentially, toast. However, you make it under the broiler since the bread needs to be drizzled with olive oil before it meets the heat. You can prepare bruschetta in a range or a toaster oven, but not a slot toaster (the oil will leak down onto the coils and smoke up your kitchen!).
To make bruschetta, first start your broiler heating. Then cut roughly half-inch-thick slices from a good loaf of bread (day-old bread is fine and great way to get more usage out of it too!). Lay them out on a sheet pan and drizzle them with olive oil. Put the sheet pan under the broiler and toast the slices until they’re golden brown, about 10 minutes. When they’re cool enough to handle, rub a clove of garlic onto the toast. The rough top will work like a cheese grater, and before you know it your olive oil toast will be perfumed with garlic. That’s a basic bruschetta.
Now for the topping. A classic bruschetta has very little on it. Thin slices of prosciutto or hard sausage, for example. Or chopped tomatoes sprinkled with kosher salt, chopped basil and olive oil. Such toppings are excellent, but just the beginning of what’s possible. Here are a few extra ideas that’ll take your basic bruschetta to a new level of tasty:
– Bruschetta with fresh mozzarella. Another classic. Lay on a few slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, a slice or two of tomato, then sprinkle on some fresh chopped basil, salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
– Bruschetta with beans. Another time-tested favorite, canned white beans (drained and rinsed), marinated in a bowl for half an hour with a chopped clove of garlic, and a tablespoon each of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and chopped fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, sage, thyme or a mixture). Spoon onto the toast and finish with a sprinkling of kosher salt.
– Bruschetta with spinach. Cook down a medium bag of fresh baby spinach in a large sauté pan along with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and a few red pepper flakes. Put on the toast, grate on a little parmesan cheese and serve.
– Bruschetta with shrimp. Sauté half a pound or so of shrimp with a chopped clove of garlic in three tablespoons of olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add about a cup of chopped fresh or canned tomatoes and sprinkle with kosher salt to taste. Spoon onto bruschetta and sprinkle with chopped basil or parsley.
You can see where this is going. Simple sautés make great toppings for bruschetta: mushrooms, eggplant, red and green peppers, squash or chicken livers. Poached eggs, canned or fresh-smoked tuna, even simple canned artichokes are terrific! Heck, what sort of leftovers are in the fridge? Heat them up, lay them on bruschetta, sprinkle on some fresh herbs and a little olive oil, and they might just have a whole new life.