The best bruschetta I’ve ever had was at a family-style Italian restaurant in Charlotte, N.C. Since my brother-in-law was out of town, I was my sister’s stand-in guest for a friend’s wedding. The reception was a nice sit-down dinner at this restaurant, where they brought out plates mounded with bread slices that were covered in an avalanche of delicious tomato topping. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant now, but my sister might (she is now telling me it was Frankie’s, which has since closed. Boo!).
At any rate, I’ve always loved bruschetta because it is so very easy to make and it appeals to so many people. It’s a perfect appetizer for a cocktail party menu because you can put out the toasted bread and the topping separately and let guests mound on as much as they want. Otherwise, the bread can get soggy pretty fast.
I always assumed bruschetta was defined as a toasted piece of bread with a topping of tomatoes with garlic, herbs and such. But when I read the definition in “Food Lover’s Companion,” it sounds like the bruschetta part is just the bread, which is traditionally rubbed with fresh garlic and drizzled with olive oil before being toasted or warmed.
I could eat the bread just like that with no problems, but there are so many, many options for bruschetta toppings. I’ve made the fresh tomato topping with basil and garlic, but I’ve also made a tapenade of sorts with ground olives and garlic. Obviously, this is not a good time of year for fresh tomatoes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have bruschetta! I found a few delicious-looking (and EASY) recipes in a Family Features Syndicate story that don’t call for tomatoes. They are Kalamata tapenade topping, herbed mushroom topping and balsamic red onion topping.
Next time you’re having guests over, whip up all three and have a little bruschetta buffet! See the recipes below.
Kalamata Tapenade Topping
1 jar kalamata olives (drained and pitted)
1 jar capers (drained)
2 cloves of garlic
1. Blend to a rough paste.
2. Top toasted baguette slices with mixture and serve on decorative plate.
Herbed Mushroom Topping
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms (any variety will work; mix varieties if you choose)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Crumbled goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat butter and olive oil in sauté pan and sear sliced mushroom, garlic, shallots and thyme sprigs until browned on each side.
2. Top toasted baguette slices with warm mushrooms and crumble goat cheese on top.
Balsamic Red Onion Topping
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 red onions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Coarse black pepper
1. Heat olive oil in sauté pan and cook onions down over medium high heat until soft.
2. Turn down heat to medium, add balsamic vinegar and sugar.
3. Stir constantly until vinegar is thickened.
4. Top toasted baguettes with onion mixture and garnish with coarse ground black pepper.
Recipes courtesy of Family Features Syndicate