We start this week’s column with a pronunciation lesson: broos-KEH-tah (not broo-sheh-tah). Promise.
This most simple of appetizers can actually turn into a very tasty and light summer meal using many of the vegetables and herbs you’re growing in your garden (or buying at the farmers market) right now.
Let’s start with the basics: the bread. You need crusty bread – something like a baguette or even a loaf of country white. Slice it into one-inch thick pieces, and lay the slices on an ungreased baking sheet. Place the tray of bread slices under the broiler for just a short time until one side is golden, then flip the slices and toast the other side under the broiler.
Now brush the toasted bread with the best olive oil you have, then peel several garlic cloves (you’ll definitely need more than one) and rub the garlic directly on each slice of oiled toast.
The classic bruschetta topping is a simple mixture of chopped tomatoes, minced parsley, minced shallot, salt and pepper, chopped basil and finely chopped black olives. Some folks like to top it with a little fresh Parmesan.
That’s the basic formula and now you have the foundation to make variations on a theme. For instance, you can add sautéed sweet peppers with onions, add a little zip with crushed red pepper flakes and some sherry vinegar as well as fresh thyme leaves to the aforementioned garlic-rubbed toast with tomatoes, basil and parsley.
Or you can take one can of cannellini beans, fresh lemons, fresh rosemary and some red onion, along with balsamic vinegar to make a spread. In a food processor, add two-thirds of the beans, some olive oil, two tablespoons of water, some freshly squeezed lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Pulse until the mixture is smooth. Add remaining beans with the rosemary and pulse until incorporated.
Next, whisk oil, vinegar and finely chopped onion with salt and pepper and add to the pureed bean mixture. Spread the paste on your basic bruschetta toast. Yum!
Finally, here’s a version that most folks won’t expect: a sweet bruschetta made with cherries. It’s summer, so you can use fresh pitted cherries or, at other times of the year, canned cherry pie filling. You’ll also need a half cup of finely chopped red onion, and a half teaspoon each of basil and oregano.
In a medium saucepan, combine cherry filling, onion, basil and oregano; mix well. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat 5 minutes, or until mixture is bubbly and flavors are blended. Let cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl, combine garlic and olive oil. Brush both sides of each bread slice with oil mixture; place on an ungreased baking sheet. Broil, 4 to 5 inches from the heat, 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
Top each slice of toasted, oiled and garlic-rubbed bread with a generous tablespoon of cherry mixture.
I’ve just given you the foundation for a bruschetta cocktail party. Make and serve all four versions. What a treat. And what an easy party.
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