Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Good, The Bad & The Bruschetta

When you make the decision to stop buying bread and start baking it at home, you have to find ways of using up the failed loaves. Because no matter how many times you make it, there will be failed loaves. It's designed that way so we learn humility. Croutons are always an option, as are breadcrumbs (and I'll tell you, it's a whole lot easier to grind up a failed loaf for breadcrumbs now, than to demolish a beautiful loaf later because you didn't realize you were out). A friend of ours sparked an idea that sounded so much better this time: bruschetta. She had been watching Julie & Julia on DVD the other day and called me up to ask if I had the recipe for the bruschetta Julie makes in the beginning of the movie.* A quick search online showed that there were a gazillion other people wanting to recreate that same bruschetta, but there were zero actual official recipes. Turns out, you don't really need one.

Bruschetta is one of those wonderful "peasant" foods that are infinitely adaptable to anything and everything you have on hand (like un-risen sourdough bread). I have one cookbook with a whole section on bruschetta and not one of the toppings uses tomato! We wanted the tomato-laden version though, and while it's a little early in the year for fabulous flavorful toms, that's what we were craving... tomato-basil goodness. That, and... um, the bread pan-fried in olive oil! After all, that was the part that made everybody sit up and notice. Normal bruschetta calls for a light brushing of olive oil, or at most a "drizzle" prior to toasting or broiling the bread. This was calling for the swimming-and-sizzling kind of approach. Of course, it's o.k. because you are using olive oil which is a "good" fat... a really really good fat.

I took care of prep duties while the Hubs made beautiful use of my failed sourdough. We learned a few things along the way, observation-wise...
  1. Kitchen knives in movies are sharper than regular kitchen knives.
  2. Actors in movies are much neater eaters than my husband and I.
  3. Bruschetta and a glass of wine makes for a fine dinner... just like in the movies.
  4. Husbands may mock the gusto with which the movie-husband ate his bruschetta, but in the end, they wind up quoting his lines word for word without even realizing it.
Movie-Night Bruschetta
Dice six of the most fabulous tomatoes you can get your hands on. If they're excessively juicy, throw them into a strainer for a few minutes. Roughly chop a good-sized handful of fresh basil leaves and toss with the tomatoes. Chop up a handful of your favorite olives, removing any pits along the way. Cut a half onion into a small dice and add it the mix if you think you'll like that. Heat up a skillet over medium heat, adding approximately a tablespoon of olive oil per slice of bread. Sourdough, a baguette, or any rustic-type loaf (preferably day-old) works really well. Add bread in a single layer and flip to coat both sides with the oil. Watch bread closely and flip it again once the first side is a nice golden brown. When the second side is done, move the toasts to a paper towel to cool slightly. Slice a clove of garlic in half and rub the top of the toasts all over with the cut-side of the garlic (the harder you rub, the more garlic-goodness you'll get). Place the toasts on a platter and top generously with the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with ground pepper and sea salt. Serve with big napkins; this is no dainty dish!

Notes: We used Roma tomatoes and seeded half of them (cannot wait to use real garden tomatoes!). Our bread was very dense and I knew it would end up being too crunchy and/or chewy if we cut it too thick, so we cut it quite thin. With good bread, slice it to 1/2" or 3/4" even.

Some other bruschetta recipes lurking in my bookshelf...

  • Bruschetta and lots of variations: page 265-266, How To Cook Everything, Bittman (1998)
  • Desperate Measures (Kevin Crafts, 1993) has a basic Bruschetta on page 79
  • Wonderful "non-tomato" versions (with wine recommendations) on pages 61-63 of The Perfect Match, St. Pierre (2001)
  • Bruschetta with Tomato, Black Beans and Arugula on page 34 of Gourmet's Quick Kitchen (1996)
*She knew that I had been gifted with the mother-lode of J & J-related stuff this last Christmas. However, in the movie, the bruschetta was prepared prior to Julie's blog project and so, would not be found in Julia's cookbooks.
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  1. ah-hem...that would be a "sister-load" of J&J-related Birthday and Christmas stuff! This sounds yummy. I want to grow tomatoes too (pout)!

  2. SharkBait- Don't you dare whine and pout about tomato-growing... not where you live!! Plant them, water them, pick them. It really is that easy!


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