Doing The Happy Dance For Bruschetta

I realized today that, what with end-of-school chaos and a variety of other distractions, I’ve fallen a little behind in getting our weekly columns from The Forum posted here on the blog. So, this week I’ll be posting the last few for your enjoyment. Please let us know if you try any of our recipes, and the results you experience. We love to hear from our readers! 🙂

Featured in The Forum on May 13, 2014
There are few appetizers that make us happier than the ever-versatile bruschetta. Like, giddy in the heart, do a little dance, kind of happy. We love everything about this traditional Italian antipasto, whether we’re eating it or preparing it.

Bruschetta has been a mainstay in Italian cuisine since the times of ancient Rome, and its name derives from a Roman dialect verb bruscare, meaning “to roast over coals,” which refers to the grilled bread, or bruschetta. While many Americans associate the word with the common tomato relish typically served with bruschetta, the mainstay of this appetizer is the grilled bread, which can be topped with an endless variety of foods.

Recently we attended a party hosted by our friends, Jon and Nikki Anderson of Fargo. Nikki’s food theme for the evening was a “bruschetta bar,” which consisted of several different types of breads and crackers and an equally generous variety of toppings.

There was something so delightful about this idea – as guests we loved working our way around the table, sampling the different combinations and trying to choose a favorite. This was no easy task as Nikki is an artist skilled in several mediums, food included, and her bruschetta bar featured about six different toppings. But the one that edged out all the others for us was her olive tapenade, a Provencal dish consisting of finely chopped olives, olive oil, capers, and anchovies.

What made Nikki’s tapenade so memorable was her creative use of orange juice and orange zest in the mix, which brightened up the entire dish with color and a punch of flavor. We’ve added this to our own tapenade recipe, and it just made everything about it better.

Making traditional bruschetta (properly pronounced “broo-SKET-ta” but also called “bru-SHET-ta” in America) is easy. Start with a loaf of good, crusty French bread or other artisan loaf, and cut it into half-inch slices. Brush a thin coating of extra virgin olive oil over each piece and grill on each side for one to two minutes, until the grill marks are visible on each slice. Rub the grilled bread lightly with a clove of garlic and top with nearly anything you desire.

Grilling the bread is the traditional way to make bruschetta, and it definitely brings more flavor to the final dish, but you can also bake the bread in a 350 degree oven for about 5 to 8 minutes until it is a light golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside.

Inspired by Nikki, we’re sharing two delicious recipes to feature at your own bruschetta bar this summer. In addition to Tony’s olive tapenade, our second recipe is a variation of a recipe from my aunt and uncle, Jean and John Sherman, of Colorado Springs, CO, whose tomato bruschetta was a major hit at our family’s biennial Schmeckfest reunion last year.

Both recipes feature anchovies, which makes Tony very happy because they are also a staple in Sicilian cuisine. Anchovies are a terrific flavor-builder as they enhance the main ingredient with a wonderful layer of saltiness and tang, and used in small amounts you shouldn’t detect any fishy flavor.

The summer party season is about to kick off over the next few weekends with graduation parties and barbecues, and we think a bruschetta bar is a great way to engage your guests and bring them into the party. They might even reward you with their own happy dance.

Grilled Bruschetta

Ingredients:
1 loaf of French bread or baguette, cut into half-inch slices
½ cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled

Directions:
Use a bread knife to cut the bread into half-inch slices. Brush both sides of each slice with a light, even coating of extra virgin olive oil. Place on a hot grill (direct, high heat) for approximately one minute per side, until golden brown, with some char marks on the edges and center.

Remove from the grill and lightly rub the clove of garlic over one side of each slice.

OTHER FEATURED RECIPES:
Tony’s Green Olive Tapenade
Tomato Anchovy Bruschetta Topping