The leftover baguette sitting on the counter immediately led me to bruschetta – traditional and otherwise.
This Italian antipasto or appetizer is simple; no cooking or fancy techniques required. It’s great party food, an easy appetizer that makes a big impression.
Although I would much prefer local farmers market tomatoes for a dish like this, that features tomatoes, I find that good Campari or cherry tomatoes work fine in the winter when – at least in the Mid-Atlantic states, tomatoes are not in season.
I began, as I often do, by researching to see what the tradition version is and how others vary it. My “go to” guide for traditional Italian food is the The Silver Spoon. With over 1,000 pages of definitions, recipes, menus, and other Italian food-related information, the book is comprehensive, but its recipes are often unpretentious and always a good place to start when figuring out how to make Italian dishes.
The Silver Spoon version of bruschetta is incredibly easy – broiled or toasted slices of bread, rubbed with garlic and topped with chopped tomato, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. You can do that, right?
My 2 “nontraditional” versions begin with roasted, instead of raw, garlic. Roasted garlic can be spread like butter and has a deep, rich taste without the sharpness of fresh garlic. I roasted whole heads by cutting off the bottom of the head (the narrower end, not the one that connects the cloves), placing each head on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzling it with oil, closing the foil tightly, and roasting them at 400 degrees in my toaster oven for 25 minutes. Of course, you can use your regular oven, but why bother for such a small job?
Note – When I opened up one of my garlic heads, I discovered that the insides of the cloves were green. That means the garlic was old and that the green center was going to be bitter and should be removed before using the clove. The garlic is still edible, but ideally garlic should be white all the way through.
Bruschetta with Roasted Garlic and Basil or Italian Parsley
Servings – 15-20 slices Cost – $8
- 1 baguette, cut on the diagonal into about 15-20 slices ¾ -inch thick
- ¼ cup or more of olive oil plus additional for garlic roasting
- 2 – 3 cups finely chopped tomatoes – I used Campari
- 1 head of roasted garlic
- Handful of fresh basil or Italian (flat leaf) parsley
- Salt, preferably Kosher
- Freshly ground pepper
Equipment (besides toaster oven)
- Aluminum foil
- Cutting board
- Small, sharp knife
- Bowl(s) – 1 for mashing garlic and as many other bowls as bruschetta variations as you are making (plain, with basil and/or with parsley)
- Small spoon for scooping out tomatoes
- Brush or spoon for spreading olive oil (unless you drizzle straight from bottle)
- Roast the head of garlic as noted above. Let the foil package stand until it is cool enough to handle, then take out the individual cloves and mash them with a fork.
- Cut the tomatoes in half (not through the stem), scoop out and discard the insides. You don’t want juice or seeds because they will make the bruschetta too soggy. You can save them for soups, vegetable smoothies, or other uses. Cut the tomatoes into tiny pieces by making strips then cutting bunches of the strips.
- If you are using basil or parsley, after washing and drying it (off course!), chop off stems and cut into small pieces. For the parsley, I just cut it by smooshing it together and chopping finely in one direction, then another. But for the basil, I learned a neat trick for making long, thin strips from Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond. Roll the basil leaf or a pile of leaves into a narrow cigar and slice horizontally into very narrow slices to make cool, thin ribbons when they unroll.
- Add the basil or parsley to the chopped tomatoes and mix them together.
- Place the baguette slices on the toaster oven tray and brush or drizzle with olive oil, then add a tiny bit (emphasis on the tiny) of crushed roasted garlic.
- Broil the baguette slices in the toaster oven (on broil at 400 degrees) for about 6-8 minutes, until they are golden around the edges. I only broiled one side because I like my bread a bit chewy – to make the slices crunchier, turn them over and broil on both sides.
- When the baguette slices are done, add about 2 tablespoons (⅛ cup) of chopped tomatoes with (or without) chopped basil or parsley. Lightly press down the mixture so that it doesn’t fall off easily. Don’t be compulsive about how much tomato mixture you use, just keep in mind that you don’t want to add so much that it falls off when you or your guests – move the baguette slices from to or from the serving platter.
- Sprinkle on salt and pepper and drizzle a bit more olive oil if you wish.
Bruschetta are best served soon after you make them. To make ahead, follow this technique. Broil the baguette slices earlier in the day and cut up tomatoes ahead of time. Just keep the tomatoes and basil or parsley separate until the last minute.
And bruschetta is not just an appetizer. Homemade ricotta and brushetta make a fabulous lunch.