This is the best time of year to make bruschetta. It's late summer and tomatoes are alive and ripe, full of flavor. Good tomatoes are key in making this classic, open-faced Italian antipasto. This is Such a simple preparation means paying attention to the little details. Today I'm going to talk about how I make my favorite bruschetta and add a few simple variations too.
The importance of using good ingredients
The first rule to making a great bruschetta is to use the best ingredients you can get. They use such a short list of ingredients that it is important that they are all super flavorful. Use fragrant, golden extra virgin olive oil, delicious vinegar, and seasonal ripe tomatoes. We'll talk about bread choices next, but using good bread, tomatoes, and olive oil is everything here and will determine whether your results are "pretty good" or "omg so good".
What type of bread should you use for bruschetta?
In short, you want hearty bread that can withstand grilling. Marcella Hazan says: "The name Bruschetta comes from bruscare, which means" to roast over coals ", the original and still best way of toasting bread." She calls for whole grain Italian bread (pane integrale) that is sliced 1 1/2 inches thick. I usually use the hearty sourdough or country bread that I have on hand. If you bake homemade sourdough, be sure to use this one. Bruschetta is a great way to use up stale bread. Many sources will tell you that 1/2-inch slices are the goal, and Marcella suggests that we use bread that is sliced 1 1/2-inch thick. I find that 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick slices hit the sweet spot where you can get a good topping to bread ratio with every bite.
Nonetheless, let me step back for a minute and realize that a lot of the bruschetta I see photos of are actually crostini – small, two-bite toasts cut from white baguette bread and topped with a tomato mix. I'm not talking about that today. The bruschetta I love uses savory breadboards, preferably with a thick crumb. It is grilled, rubbed well with garlic (both sides!) And topped. These are not two-bite matters, but rather 5-6.
As for grilling the bread? The A16: Food + Wine cookbook states: "The word bruschetta, derived from bruciare," to burn "implies that some charring on the bread is desirable". Assuming both sources coincide with the origins of the name bruschetta, we'd like to grill our bread and get a kiss on the burn you get while grilling. If you don't have access to a grill, the second choice is to use a broiler. Third option: use a grill pan on the stove.
A tip for grilling bread
Brush each slice with a little extra virgin olive oil before grilling. I find this helps prevent the bread from drying out while toasting. Once you've taken the bread off the grill and it's cool enough, rub both sides vigorously with a peeled clove of garlic. Especially if you love garlic as much as I do.
Today's bruschetta recipe
It's my favorite, simple version that uses your best tomatoes. Red tomatoes are tossed with olive oil, salt, shredded basil and a dash of vinegar. I'll include the recipe for this below, but you can use the same approach for the other variations I list here.
Let's talk about the vinegar component
I see the vinegar in bruschetta as a kind of spice component. It brings acidity, merges with the olive oil and brings some balance. I will say it right away. You can't use terrible vinegar and there is plenty of it out there. I made so much hard vinegar bruschetta in my twenties, and I'm just sad that it took me a while to find the magic of the good guys. Two of the most popular vinegars right now are Katz Vinegars and Brightlands Parasol.
If you taste your vinegar and wince badly, or if it smells musty, you should invest in a new bottle. In Italy, bruschetta is encountered with a range of vinegars. I tend to use a favorite white wine vinegar (for this one and many salads), but if you have a red wine vinegar, herb vinegar, or balsamic vinegar that you love, use this one. In fact, I'd argue a squirt of lemon juice is a better choice than bad-tasting vinegar. If you're using lemon juice, add some zest while you're at it. It might not be traditional, but it will be delicious!
Some bruschetta variations
- Yellow Tomato Bruschetta with Dukkah & Lemon Zest: A version of bruschetta made with yellow teardrop tomatoes tossed with good olive oil, shredded basil and a dash of great tasting white wine vinegar. Pictured below. Finish with a lot of lemon peel and a generous pinch of dukkah. You can make your dukkah. Or I love this version of Botanica too. If you have a lemon olive oil on hand, use this for a very special version.
- Artichoke bruschetta with bubbles: Grilled bread with golden crusty baby artichokes, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil or lemon olive oil, black pepper and sprinkle with chives and / or chive flowers. Pictured in the center of the photo below.
- More ideas: I love a spicy version with red tomatoes drizzled with lots of spicy garlic-chili oil.
- Or a yellow tomato version that has been tossed with a garlic turmeric oil and finished off with lots of black pepper. This attitude is zero percent traditional, but everyone loves it.
Cold weather bruschetta
Although I write this in summer – peak tomato and grilling season – you can experiment with bruschetta all year round. Fried winter squash platters or sweet potatoes with salsa verde are great. Or sautéed garlic wintergreens or kale and some grated cheese. Think of all the toppings you can make with toasted mushrooms, roasted beets, and the like. Combine these with the last few beans you may have cooked earlier in the week. I will also note that this is the time of year when I move bruschetta making from the grill to the broiler.
Above all, I hope this post is a reminder that the simplest food can be the best. The back end of a loaf of homemade sourdough, a few tomatoes from the garden and a pinch of herbs and herb flowers, garlic and olive oil? Makes a perfect small meal or party spread (if we still had xx parties).