Monday, May 16, 2011
Tomato Basil Bruschetta
I'm all about appetizers. Appetizers can make up a meal as far I'm concerned. The more flavors I can sample, the happier I am. We had an appetizer lunch on Sunday. Our lunch consisted of Boursin cheese and multi-grain crackers, crudite plate (a fancy word for veggie tray) with ranch dressing and tomato basil bruschetta with freshly baked roasted garlic Italian bread from La Brea Bakery.
Bruschetta is a roasted, toasted or grilled bread, typically rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil, salt and pepper. I didn't realize it was that simple. For most of my life I thought bruschetta was grilled or toasted bread topped with a delicious tomato, basil, balsamic mixture. That's the way my family always made it.
Tomato basil bruschetta is an incredibly simple dish to make, yet the flavors make your mouth sing. It's key to use ripe tomatoes. Cherry or grape tomatoes are my go to tomatoes. They have a ton of flavor, right up there with a home grown tomato. Cherry tomatoes can be a bit tedious to cut up, but the effort is worth it based on the amazing flavor packed into these petite little tomatoes.
Sea salt, pepper, aged balsamic vinegar, a bit of sugar, a splash of olive oil and freshly chopped basil bring these tomatoes to life. Freshly toasted bread is the perfect vehicle to soak up the balsamic goodness. Freshly grated parmesan cheese is the ultimate finishing touch.
Tomato Basil Bruschetta
2 cups diced grape or cherry tomatoes
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons of good quality aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of good fruity extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil
1/4 cup finely grated parmigano regiano cheese
Freshly baked baguette or bread of your choice
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and cut in half (optional)
Squeeze excess juice and seeds out of the diced tomatoes and discard. Place tomatoes in a medium bowl and season lightly with sea salt and pepper and stir. Add sugar and stir. Stir in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Let the tomatoes marinate for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour. Just before serving stir in basil.
This recipe is very flexible. If you like more balsamic, by all means, use more.
While the tomato mixture is marinating, prepare your bread. Pre-heat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with foil. Slice baguette at an angle in 1/4 inch thickness. If you like, you can brush the slices lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place bread in the oven and bake for 6-7 minutes. Turn bread over and bake for an additional 4-5 minutes until lightly toasted. I prefer my bread just slightly toasted, not crunchy. But you can adjust your baking time according to your preference of toastiness.
When bread comes out of the oven, take the cut side of one half of the garlic and rub it over the warm bread.
You can serve it family style or pre-assemble the bruschetta.
1. Family style: Place tomato basil mixture in a serving bowl and arrange bread on a plate. Place parmesan cheese in a small bowl and have your guests assemble their bruschetta, topping a piece of bread with the tomato basil mixture and sprinkling with parmesan cheese
2. Pre-assemble: If you decide to pre-assemble them take into consideration that the tomato mixture will soften the bread. I don't recommend this approach unless the bruschetta will be eaten immediately. To pre-assemble top each piece of bread with a generous spoonful of tomato basil mixture and finish with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.