Before I talk about the food, I must stop to give you a language lesson. I studied Italian for a year and I will not really master this language until I spend a long period of time in Italy. The correct way to say bruschetta is when it sounds like brusketta, not brushetta. You must not use the “sh” sound, as ch ignores the h. Think “Chianti” and you will always remember that rule.
Bruschetta appears to be a very simple dish, but it really is not so easy to make correctly. I chose to use Marcella Hazan as our main teacher for this group, because she and I seem to think so much alike. The best food is simple, but because there are so few ingredients, it’s really quite an art to get the composition right. Most bruschetta (with tomato) that I have tried, I have not been able to eat, because the flavorings were out of balance and too garlicky.
Italian food is very regional and while there are a few exceptions, Italian food tends to go much easier on garlic than it’s reputation in America. Marcella Hazan addresses this and in her many recipes gives very implicit instructions on cooking with garlic.
The most often made mistake when making bruschetta is to add the chopped garlic or worse garlic salt to the tomatoes creating a very overpowering, even bitter after taste.
And, the third mistake is to use a pre-seasoned, pre-flavored store bought garlic toast or bread, (which often have that awful garlic salt as an ingredient.)
Now that we have the “what not to do’s” out of the way, I want to share with you one of the most delightful, simplistic, if not rustic, ways to eat bread.
Prior to a trip to Italy and a few cooking lessons in Tuscany, I did not like tomato bruschetta and it had a lot to do with the over seasoning I mentioned above. The cooking school, Toscana Mia, shared a very similar approach as Marcella and changed my mind about bruschetta. I came back from Italy and made it all summer long. After having it tonight using Marcella’s suggestion of grilling the bread, I think we will have another summer full of bruschetta, especially now that our tomatoes are starting to come up in our garden.
Bruschetta starts with crusty bread that will toast well. I purchased this local artisan tuscan loaf at Trader Joe’s, which is from Provence thinking it would slice and grill very well, as it was soft. You can see how light this bread is, as the crumb has big holes. This is just the kind of bread that will do well under a broiler or on a grill, and has enough body and chew, that it does not fall apart once toasted. It is also ideal for toasted panini that you can make on a panini press or in a heavy pan under a kitchen weight (like a brick wrapped in foil).
The second ingredient is Roma tomatoes.
The third ingredient is basil, torn into small pieces, and this I picked from our garden.
The fourth ingredient is garlic at a ratio of 1 clove per 2 pieces of thick bread about 3” wide. The garlic is only rubbed on the bread after it is toasted. This is a very simple, yet key technique. There is no other garlic used. Garlic is not chopped into the tomatoes, nor is it mixed into the bread. It is rubbed onto hot toast and melts onto the bread, keeping the garlic taste light and smooth.
At the Toscana Mia cooking school, we mixed the tomatoes with the basil and olive oil and that is perfectly acceptable. Marcella suggests putting the tomatoes on the toasted bread and then topping with the basil and a drizzle of olive oil.
The fifth ingredient, which is very important, is the olive oil and since this is something you are going to clearly taste, this is the time to use a very good extra virgin olive oil that is fruity and young.
The last two ingredients are salt and pepper. Marcella and I both agree again that you must use a pepper mill and grind it fresh.
Bruschetta served with small salad of maché. This is made on larger pieces of bread, which can be an appetizer or perhaps lunch.
You can also use smaller bread to make a bruschetta that is two-bites.
If you serve this to your guests upon their arrival as a welcoming appetizer, they will feel instantly loved, as there is nothing quite like a big hunk of grilled bread with tomatoes, basil and olive oil. It’s even better than it looks.
- 6 garlic cloves (or 1 clove per 2 pieces of bread)
- 12 slices good, thick crusted bread, ½ to ¾ inch thick, 3-4” wide (I used wider bread)
- 8 fresh, ripe tomatoes, cut in half, seeded, and chopped into ½” cubes
- 8-12 basil leaves , torn into small pieces
- Extra virgin olive oil, fruity and young
- Sea salt
- Black pepper, ground fresh
- Chop tomatoes right before you are going to grill bread. See notes on tomatoes.
- Grill or broil bread to golden brown.
- Smash garlic with a knife, Rub on bread once it is toasted. The recipe says to rub it on one side, but I like to rub it around the crust also.
- Top with tomatoes, basil, and drizzle olive oil.
- Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately
Come back next Monday for Pasta Pesto with Fresh Green Beans, Potatoes.
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