Bruschetta is an Italian favorite that has become popular in the United States.
Bruschetta is a very specific recipe, however, not just the American favorite that seems to be anything served on a slice of fresh bread.
True Bruschetta calls for rustic bread grilled on a fire, rubbed with fresh garlic and anointed with fresh, green olive oil and a little sea salt.
To confuse the matter, there is another Italian recipe that calls for bread to be topped with something good to eat, called crostini.
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What's the difference, you might ask?
Well, Frances Mayes, in her new cookbook, "The Tuscan Sun Cookbook," tells us that bruschetta is made from a larger loaf of bread, like ciabatta, while crostini are made with a smaller loaf similar to a baguette.
If you want to stick by the Italian rules, then you will top your bruschetta only with very simple ingredients, such as tomatoes, basil, olive oil and sea salt. If you want to get fancy with your toppings, then you should stick with the crostini format.
I am going to throw caution to the wind and blur the two categories, so you can call the recipes that follow by any name you choose, but there is one issue that you should not dismiss. Buy the best quality ingredients you can afford. Go to a bakery and buy bread that was just made and has a thick, chewy crust. Plain white bread will just not cut it. If at all possible buy your vegetables from a farmers market and use a good quality extra virgin olive oil, first cold press.
1 large loaf crusty European-style bread
Extra virgin olive oil, first cold press
1 large toe of raw garlic
This recipe is best by far when cooked over a wood fire, but make do with the best you have. Slice the bread into thick slices. Grill the bread unadorned, when nicely browned with dark grill marks remove from the fire, rub with the garlic toe and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Do not make these in advance but serve them directly from the fire to your guests.
If you want to wander from the classic recipe you can top bruschetta with almost anything you like but these suggestions are particularly good: chopped red ripe tomatoes, prosciutto, homemade pesto or oven roasted garlic.
This is a very simple recipe, but it is so good I cannot resist including it. Gorgonzola is an Italian cow's milk blue cheese from Lombardy, perhaps Lombardy's most famous cheese and one of the best blues in the world. It has been import
ed to the United States since the second half of the 19th century. This cheese was originally allowed to age in caves, but it is now made by a more modern and quicker processes.
GORGONZOLA AND WALNUTS
1/4 pound Gorgonzola
1/2 cup shelled walnuts
1 crusty baguette
Slice the baguette into 3/4-inch slices. As should always be the case, allow the cheese to come to room temperature before eating, never eat a cheese directly from the refrigerator. Toasting the bread is optional and really just depends on your preference, but if you do decide to toast it then you must serve it immediately. Serving the bread untoasted allows it to become a first course you can have on the table when your guests arrive, it just doesn't do to have guests sit down to an empty table. Top each slice of bread with an abundant dollop of Gorgonzola and then with a few walnut pieces. This recipe also goes well with figs and apples.
1- 1/2 cups cooked black eyed peas
1/4 chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped red ripe tomatoes
1/3 cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons finely diced garlic
3/4 pound shell off shrimp
Freshly ground black pepper
Butter as needed
If you are using canned peas, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, make sure to rinse them thoroughly to remove excess salt before using. Melt a sufficient amount of butter in a sauté pan, season the shrimp and sauté quickly over high heat, 30 to 45 seconds on a side, remove and place in a large bowl. Add all of the vegetables and mix well, taste and adjust seasoning. Slice the bread into 1 inch slices, top with the mixture and serve immediately.
Balsamic vinegar reduced until it is thick and concentrated and then made whole again with the addition of olive oil is a great condiment for any bruschetta or crostini. You might also like it on pasta, your favorite sandwich, and it is also great for making those chef-like garnishes when you want to make presentation a priority.
1 bottle good quality balsamic vinegar
1-2 sprigs rosemary
1 fresh bay leaf
2 cups good quality olive oil
Empty the bottle of balsamic vinegar in a large sauté pan, add the rosemary and bay leaf and reduce by one half over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool, carefully pour into a re-sealable bottle large enough so that the reduced balsamic fills it half way. Top off with a good quality olive oil and mix well before using.
Note: there are so many choices in olive oil today the only way to find a good one is to try them until you find something you like.