When tomatoes and basil are in season, I make Bruschetta. A lot. It’s quick and easy to make, you can do some of the prep in advance and it’s always popular for happy hour or al fresco dining!
I’ve modified and perfected this recipe thanks to some tips from my brother Chef Kev. Thanks bro! I think I have it nailed now.
The first time I made Bruschetta was while on maternity leave and I watched a lot of cooking shows. My son was born in September so there were tomatoes in the garden, lots and lots of them. I was watching a show I loved called Caprial’s Café. That’s where I learned to “colour” the bread with garlic and how to pronounce bruschetta properly. Most people don’t.
You have to roll your “r” – it’s mandatory!
The key to making this successfully is using very fresh perfectly ripe tomatoes and basil. If you’re lucky enough to have some growing outside your door, pick them right before you make this.
Tomato Topping for Bruschetta
Start by making the tomato topping. Seed and chop the tomatoes quite small. I find the smaller pieces stay in place better and are easier to eat politely. Nothing worse than a big piece of tomato falling off your bread and landing on your clean shirt.
Now here’s the trick I learned from my brother. Put the chopped tomatoes in a strainer and leave them to sit. Over night is best but if you’re short on time, just make sure they drain as much as possible. You can press down on them to force the water out. Watery tomatoes make soggy bread.
You can also prepare the bread in advance.
Cut a baguette (this is a good way to use up some bread if it’s a bit stale, just not too stale) into slices, slightly diagonal. This makes sure you have enough surface for the tomato mixture. It looks better too! Ciabatta isn’t the best choice because it has holes big enough for the tomato mixture to fall through.
See the difference – holes, no holes.
Heat a grill pan on the stove top or use the barbecue to grill the bread. Brush each slice with olive oil, grill, turn and grill the other side. You don’t want them too hard, just lightly toasted with some char marks. That’s just for show.
You can also use a sheet pan under the broiler but you need to watch it carefully so they don’t burn.
Here’s the fun part. Peel a clove of garlic and rub each slice while hot enough to handle with the clove. Sort of like colouring. Give them a good rub! The garlic literally melts onto the bread, giving it a nice even garlic flavour. I don’t put any in the tomato mixture but you can if you want. Just make sure its very finely diced to prevent biting into big piece of raw garlic.
Pro tip – use a little fork to stab the garlic, then you won’t burn your hands on the hot bread.
Now drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the mixture and add a touch of balsamic vinegar, maybe 1/2 teaspoon, just to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. Add dried oregano and season well with salt and pepper.
Stack and roll the basil leaves like a cigar and slice them into thin ribbons.
This is called “chiffonade.”
Add it to the tomato mixture and combine well. You will still see some water in the bottom. Tip the bowl so you can keep it separate from the topping mixture.
Top each slice with a spoonful of tomato mixture, using the back of the spoon to press down to ensure the topping stays on the bread.
Finish with some grated parmesan. Place it under the broiler, just for a minute or two, just long enough to warm it up if the bread has cooled a bit and to let the cheese melt.
Yes I know, traditional bruschetta doesn’t have cheese. But I like the hint of saltiness it adds. I only use real parmesan, from Italy. Not the kind that’s already grated. Not the kind with green and red labeling that makes it look authentic but when you read the label it’s fake, not made in Italy, in the region of Parma where it’s supposed to be from. That way you can see the markings on the rind to ensure you’re getting what you paid for.
Your guests are going to love this! You’re welcome.
Here’s the recipe:
Ingredients Makes about 16 pieces 1 baguette 2-3 T extra virgin olive oil 1 large clove garlic, peeled 5-6 medium sized tomatoes, seeded and chopped ¼ C very finely diced red onion 1 T extra virgin olive oil ½ tsp balsamic vinegar 10-15 leaves fresh basil 1 tsp dried oregano salt and freshly ground pepper to taste freshly grated parmesan Method Chop tomatoes and let sit to drain. Dice onions. Add olive oil, balsamic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Slice baguette diagonally into about 16 slices. Brush with olive oil and place oil side down on preheated grill. Brush tops with the rest of the oil, turn and toast until slightly browned and charred. Remove from heat and when cooled enough to handle, rub each slice generously on top side with garlic. Top each slice with tomato mixture and grated parmesan. Broil for a few minutes until warm and cheese is slightly melted.