Bruschetta (which, by the way, should be pronounced [bru’sket:ta] ( listen) and not [bru’shet:ta], please!!!) is a snack that Italians have been enjoying for centuries. It’s a simple slice of roasted bread, rubbed with fresh garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh tomato and basil. Tuscans, always the chic minimalists of Italy, skip the tomato and stick to olive oil and garlic; they call it Fettunta, “greased slice”. Of course they use the very first and very best oil of the season, which makes everything else seem redundant!
Just like bread soups or bread puddings, bruschetta was born as a way to salvage bread that was going stale (note to Americans: real bread does get stale!), at a time when it was considered precious and nobody was watching their carbs and worrying about Atkins. Some Italian peasant, who never reached the fame of the Earl of Sandwich but remained nameless, had a culinary epiphany that would revolutionize the concept of snacking.
Who doesn’t like giving their fork a rest and eating with their hands at picnics and cocktails? Although most of us tend to think of bruschetta in terms of tomato and basil, it’s actually a great base for most Mediterranean appetizers and salads, which it turns into finger foods. Just pick your favorite summer ingredient and build your own! Here is mine:
- 1/2 ripe cantaloupe, diced
- 1/4 small ripe watermelon, diced
- 3/4 cup goat cheese, or crumbled feta
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
- fresh mint or basil
- 2-3 tbsps of the best extra-virgin olive oil you can find (not too strong or acidic)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 loaf Italian or French style bread, sliced and toasted, broiled, or grilled
- Rub the toasted or grilled bread slices with the garlic cloves while they are still hot. Discard the garlic. Brush with very little oil.
- Spread a little cheese on the slices.
- Dress the two melons (separately) with the rest of the oil, and little salt and pepper. If using feta, which is saltier, you can skip the salt.
- Top some slices with the cantaloupe and others with watermelon. Decorate with fresh mint.