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Sunday, June 3, 2012

ijj's Bruschetta

This is a very simple, very tasty, traditional Italian appetizer with a bit of my own spin on it.

I'm sure we've all had it at one time or another.

For the uninitiated out there, however, it is basically just grilled bread slices, with raw tomatoes on top, drizzled in olive oil.

There are a couple of specific things which truly make it special, though, such as open grilling rather than simply toasting, and then gently but oh-so-lovingly rubbing them with garlic cloves.  It makes a difference!

Of course, there are many variants, and much differentiation when it comes to mixing up the ingredients.  I've seen raw onion a fair bit, and balsamic vinegar often, as well.

Many people will use basil to accompany the tomatoes, which is delicious, but can be very overpowering.  See my previous posts on dominant vs. complementary flavours, and you'll see that I believe basil often vies for centre-stage in most dishes.

I use arugula here.  It's spicy, fragrant, and in the right ratio with the tomatoes, provides excellent balance.

I wish I could take credit for that combo, but - alas - that is an old, authentically-Italian recipe which I have borrowed.

So... down to bidness.

Let me just reiterate, this is not an authentic bruschetta, this is my bruschetta.  There are a couple things that I've done which would not typically occur.  Namely, the sauteing of the onion, garlic, and tomato, not to mention the very addition of onion and garlic.  It's usually just raw, diced, tomato.  But - for me, and I imagine a select few gourmands out there like me - this way is delectable!

Firstly, chop up the arugula relatively coarsely (at least by my standards).  

Place this in a small mixing bowl.

Next, wash up your tomatoes, remove their blossom nibs, and (again, coarsely) chop them up.

The wife picked up 'heirloom' tomatoes, but I would have preferred some good, super red, roma tomatoes.  Oh well.  There will be a little bit of orange in there, no big deal.

Now, you could, at this point, mix your tomatoes and arugula, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and be good to spoon this on your grilled bread as-is.

However, I like to do it a little differently.

So... finely chop (mince) some garlic, and a green onion.  Just a little bit of each (a truly small amount by my standards).

Throw these into a pan, and saute them with a very minute amount of olive oil (as little as you can, really - non-stick pans work best to accomplish this).

Soften these up for a few minutes (I'd say about 5 minutes on medium-low), and then add the tomatoes.

Gradually bring the heat up to about medium-high, but take the whole thing off the heat after only a couple minutes, three at the most.  We don't want to cook the tomatoes, just soften them a touch.

Then, dump the whole thing in your mixing bowl (with the arugula).

Add a pinch of salt, and a dash of pepper, and that is good to go.

So start grilling the bread!

I had a half a multigrain baguette leftover, which was perfect for this.  Ideally, you actually want the bread to be a little crunchy, so a crostini or crusty italian loaf is best, or a baguette which you've let dry a bit.

So, we heated up my iron grilling pan, and then placed the bread right on without any oil at all.  We're grilling these dry.

Now comes the crazy weird, kinda fun, but really cool, part.

Once toasted on both sides, carefully (don't skimp on the love here) rub each side with a raw clove of garlic.

I like slicing the cloves in half, so as to expose their juicy innards.

If you've never done this before, it's pretty cool how the abrasive freshly-grilled bread will literally wear the cloves down.  It's like you're grating the garlic with the bread.  It's cool.

Special thanks to my wife, for being my hand-model, as she has infinitely prettier hands than I!

Anyway, that takes a little bit of time, but when you're done, the bread is positively glistening with fresh garlic juice.

After that, it's just spooning on the topping, plating them nicely, and then drizzling a good amount of olive oil over the whole thing.

These are so delicious.  So, again, to be faithful to true bruschetta, use raw tomatoes, but I urge you to at least try these once.  

They're so good!