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Top bruschetta off with bold flavors
Bruschetta is the toast of the appetizer table, limited only by your imagination and pantry.
By Janet K. Keeler, Times Food and Travel Editor
Published November 7, 2007
Pronouncing "bruschetta" may be the most difficult thing about making the savory Italian appetizer.
There have been times I've mumbled the last part of the word, not knowing if the "ch" in the middle is soft Champagne or hard (cantaloupe).
"It's pronounced brew-SKET-uh," says Roberto Alvarez, who teaches Italian language classes around the Tampa Bay area (call (727) 866-6892; www.learnitalian.us). "I was just at an Italian-American club meeting and had to set them straight."
In Italian, Alvarez says, the c-h letter combination almost always makes a hard k sound. Say "chianti." And, don't let this blow your mind, but bruschetta is singular and bruschette is plural. That's why Carrabba's menu lists "grilled bruschette" for its plate of toasted bread with tomato topping.
One more thing about language. Bruschetta is the bread, coming from the Roman word bruscare, which means to roast over coals. That makes sense, since bruschette are toasted slices of bread. Without toasting, the bread would get soggy and fall apart when the juicy topping is piled on.
The good news here is that you can put anything on your bruschetta. It doesn't have to include tomatoes and garlic. You don't even have to make the mixture from scratch. Marinated mushrooms, artichokes or eggplant, even prepared roasted peppers and olive tapenade are good places to start.
Alvarez likes his bruschetta with cannellini beans, a squeeze of lemon, olive oil and black pepper.
Start with the bread
A baguette or loaf of Italian or French bread works best for bruschetta. Each slice should be about 1/2 inch thick. (Thinner and you'll be making crostini. Another lesson, another time.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the sliced bread on a baking sheet and lightly brush with extra-virgin olive oil. Bake for about 6 minutes, then flip it, brush the other side and go for another 6 minutes. It should be lightly toasted. Let cool enough to handle then add topping.
The toasted slices can be made in advance, cooled, then bagged and frozen.
On top of bruschetta
Make toppings the night before your party or stir them together 30 minutes before the guests arrive. Bruschetta is cook-friendly that way.
If you're preparing the appetizer for a party, it's best to set out the topping in a bowl surrounded by the toasted bread and let guests make their own. Bruschetta should be eaten soon after it's made.
For a dinner party, where bruschetta is the first course, there will be no harm dressing the bread and bringing the pieces to the table on a platter. They are going to be gobbled right away.
The following are some free-form toppings, which don't need recipes. Five more recipes follow.
- Goat Cheese and Roasted Peppers. Soft plain or herbed goat cheese is smeared on the bread and topped with chopped, roasted peppers. For more flavor, look for marinated peppers.
- Black Olive Paste and Radish. You'll find black olive tapenade at grocery stores or Italian specialty shops. Spread a layer on the bread and top with thinly sliced radishes.
- Tomato, Basil and Pine Nut. The most familiar bruschetta topping is chopped tomatoes (without seeds) and basil, minced garlic and extra-virgin olive oil. Let the flavors meld at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Top each piece with a sprinkle of pine nuts.
- Marinated Eggplant with Lemon Zest. A jar of DeLallo's marinated eggplant along with walnut pieces gets a bright kiss from lemon zest. A couple of flecks of red pepper flakes adds zing. Look for DeLallo at Italian markets, though you can experiment with eggplant caponata, which is widely available. For garnish, drain some of the oil off the marinated eggplant and make a few long ribbons of lemon zest.
- Marinated Mushroom With Scallions and Fresh Thyme. Bella Famiglia, another company that imports Italian products, has a marinated mushroom mix that's tailor-made for bruschetta. To heighten flavor and color, add thinly sliced scallions and fresh thyme leaves (discard the woody stems).
Painting bruschetta's blank canvas is fun, especially when you know what you're talking about.
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or more to taste)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound sliced smoked salmon
12 slices bruschetta
- Mix the tomatoes, shallots, capers and garlic. Add fresh dill and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange mixture on toasted bread. Place a few slices of the smoked salmon on top and serve.
Makes 12 appetizers.
Note: Salt-packed capers are larger and taste more of the bush they come from rather than pickling brine. Look for them at specialty stores. Brined capers also can be used.
Source: St. Petersburg Times
- - -
Tomato and Fennel Bruschetta
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, seeded, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh fennel
12 tablespoons minced fennel tops
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
16 slices bruschetta
- Combine first five ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top grilled bread with tomato mixture. Serve immediately.
Makes 16 appetizers.
Source: Bon Appetit
- - -
Spicy Shrimp and Crab Bruschetta
1/4 cup bottled clam juice
6 ounces uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 ounces crabmeat, drained
12 to 16 slices bruschetta
- Bring clam juice to boil in medium saucepan. Add shrimp; reduce heat to medium, cover and cook just until shrimp are opaque in center, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to cutting board; cool. Coarsely chop shrimp.
- Mix sliced green onions, mayonnaise, lemon juice, paprika and cayenne in medium bowl. Mix in shrimp and crabmeat. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill.)
- Mound shrimp mixture atop bread. Place on platter and serve.
Makes about 16 appetizers.
Source: Bon Appetit
- - -
Pear and Prosciutto Bruschetta
2 medium, ripe pears, cored and chopped
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
32 small strips prosciutto
32 slices bruschetta
- In a small bowl, stir together pears, onion, olive oil, vinegar and thyme. Let stand for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to marinate. To prepare bruschetta, spread about 1/2 tablespoon blue cheese on each toasted baguette slice. Top with prosciutto and a small spoonful of the pear mixture. Serve immediately.
Makes 32 appetizers.
Source: California Pears
- - -
Artichoke and Carmelized Onion Bruschetta
1 small onion, caramelized (see note)
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese crumbled
12 slices bruschetta
- Mix the onion, artichoke hearts and feta together while the onion is still warm. Let sit for 30 minutes for flavors to meld.
- Top bruschetta with mixture and serve.
Makes 12 appetizers.
Note: To caramelize onions, slice thinly and saute over low heat until onion slices become limp and brown. This will take about 20 minutes. Do not saute on high heat or the onions will become crispy and possibly burn.