How to Prepare Homemade Bruschetta with Fresh Seasonal Tomatoes
It’s still summer so it’s still bruschetta time. Let me start by describing what bruschetta is. Pronounced brew-SKET-ta, bruschetta is a simple Italian appetizer that starts with toasted slices of bread brushed with olive oil and rubbed with garlic and goes from there.
I know you are thinking, “where are the tomatoes?” Bruschetta must have tomatoes.
Well, actually it doesn’t. There are many ways to serve bruschetta with a variety of toppings but it seems diced seasonal tomatoes combined with chopped garlic and basil, seasoned with salt & pepper and a splash of vinegar plus a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is the way Americans like it served. Me, I love this version and when the tomatoes come straight out of my garden, even better.
Great Appetizer for Guests
Making a batch of bruschetta topping in the morning so it can marinate throughout the day is the way to go in my house. Just before guests arrive, I slice up a baguette of French or Italian bread on the diagonal to create the most surface space and toast it in a pan with a little butter or in the oven with a bit of olive oil. Spoon this beautiful tomato mixture on top of each toast, place on a platter and serve. Doesn’t get much better or easier than this.
I like that you can do most of the prep work earlier in the day and finish when guests arrive. Anything to reduce the stress with guests arrive is a bonus in my book. My wife just told me she likes to prepare the bread slices early too so all she has to do is assemble the bruschetta just before serving. Saves even more time.
Simplicity Means Fresh Ingredients
Because bruschetta uses very few unprocessed ingredients, it’s critical that you find and use the freshest ingredients you can find plus the best olive oil and vinegar your budget permits.
For example, since this is a fresh tomato bruschetta recipe, you want the tomatoes to be as seasonal as possible. I don’t care if we use beefsteak, heirloom or cherry tomatoes as long as they are fresh and ripe. This time of year in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the tomatoes are perfect and most of ours are coming out of our garden. Perfect for this dish.
Fresh basil is also coming from our garden but is easy to find in your local supermarkets year ‘round so that’s never a problem.
The toasted bread slices, also called croutes (kroots), should come from a just-baked French or Italian baguette, also easy to find in most markets these days.
I belong to an olive oil club so I always have a fresh, seasonal, quality extra virgin olive oil on hand. Most of the oils sent to me from around the world have a very strong grassy flavor but I know the olives were picked and processed in the last three months. Olive oils are tricky to purchase because they are not always labeled fully so you don’t know exactly where the olives come from or when they were processed. Try to use the best you can afford.
Some bruschetta recipes call for balsamic vinegar, others use red or white wine vinegar. There’s a huge difference between true traditional balsamic vinegar and the less expensive variety you can pick up in your supermarket. First of all, true balsamic vinegar is typically sold in smaller bottles and is pricy. It’s also usually sold by age – 10-year, 12-year, 25-year, heck, I’ve even tasted 50 year old balsamic vinegar. Great, but not worth the price in my opinion.
Since you are only adding a little vinegar in this recipe, I’d only use a traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy and stay away from the cheap stuff that may just be cheap white wine vinegar with coloring added to it. It makes a huge difference and we are striving for simple perfection for this bruschetta. If you don’t have good balsamic on hand, stick with a good white or red wine vinegar.