One of my best friends, Sarah, and I have been on many cooking adventures together. Which is to say... while I was briefly living with her last year, I decimated her Fry Daddy and nearly burned down her kitchen. This is so unlike me. Truly. The fire in the oven... not my fault. I don't know that we ever figured out what happened there. The food was still raw when that started. The Fry Daddy? Every fryer I had ever worked with... you could put the top to the unit on it even while it was frying. Not this one. Well, there was hot grease flying at my face. And, rather than searing my eyeballs with boiling grease, I grabbed the top to contain it. Not such a good idea. I killed the Fry Daddy...
Sarah was a pretty good sport about it. Although, I still owe her a new Fry Daddy. In the meantime, I'll try to make it up to her with my recipe for bruschetta. This is hands-down one of our favorite summertime meals in this house. It's light, refreshing, and super-easy to make.
While I have no specific history on bruschetta, aside from the fact that originated in Italy (no kidding, huh?)... the way that Italian foods entered the mainstream diet is rather interesting. In the 1930's, many American-born children of immigrants had built their own families and began to steer away from many of the dishes that made up their heritage. For reasons ranging from not wanting to be embarrassed to open their strangely-filled lunch sacks at school, to simply deciding that their ancestral dishes were just too heavy and spicy or too time-consuming to make... many immigrant families began to adapt their tastes to a more"Americanized" diet. The one major immigrant group to hold out against this trend? Italo-Americans. The fact that Americans came to love the Italians' "signature" dish: spaghetti and meatballs, didn't hurt either. Food editors began to pick up on the trend, and various recipes for spaghetti could be found in a variety of American publications. The interesting part? Rarely did the recipes include the (at the time) dreaded garlic clove. From the original American recipes made up of anything from tomato soup with Worcestershire sauce, to just plain ketchup for the spaghetti sauce; and a combination of beef suet, horseradish, and "bottled condiment sauce" for the meatballs... today's spaghetti and meatballs recipes have come A LONG WAY! Thank heavens that our palletes became more diverse, and our cooking skills more cutting-edge!
But, back to bruschetta! Just the ingredients look mouth-watering before even being prepared...
1 (8 oz) container cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 lg garlic cloves, minced *plus one whole clove to rub on the bread
1 handfull basil, chopped
8 oz cheese, cubed (typically, we use mozzarella but this time we used paneer)
Kosher salt, to taste
Extra-viring olive oil
1 loaf of bread, sliced (typically, we use Italian bread but this time we used a rosemary olie oil loaf from the market)
We start by quartering the tomatoes, mincing the garlic, and cubing the paneer. In comparison to mozarella, paneer is softer and a bit sticky. It is mild in flavor, but goes perfectly with this dish and melts in your mouth with every bite. If you are priveledged enough to be in North Carolina, and can make a trip to the Durham Farmers' Market... stop by Chapel Hill Creamery, and pick up some paneer. You won't regret it!
Basil. Lord, how I love basil! The smell is just heavenly. I could bury my nose in a fresh bunch of basil, and not come up for days! And, chopping basil is super easy! Grab several leaves, lay them on top of one another, then roll them up kinda' like a cigar. Start slicing, and you'll end up with lovely little "chiffonade" pieces...
Toss the cheese, basil, garlic, and cheese into a bowl. Drizzle generously with extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt. Gently toss to combine.
You can cover that dish, and put it in the fridge while you move on to the bread. Sometimes, I will make it a couple of hours ahead... especially on the girl child's cheerleading nights. By the time I come home, the flavors of the tomato dish have mingled nicely and all I have to do is fry the bread.
Start by lightly coating a frying pan with olive oil. I use a paper towel to wipe away the excess. Using a basting brush, brush on a layer of olive oil onto one side of the bread slices.
Place the slices of bread oil-side-down into the pan, and brush the side facing up with olive oil...
Fry on each side until nicely browned and toasted; remove from frying pan. Immediately slic the tip off a clove of garlic, and rub it on each side of the bread.
You will be amazed at how the garlic melts onto the bread until you have barely a stub left in your hand. Serve a bowl of the tomato mixture with several slices of bread. Use a spoon to pile a generous helping of the tomatoes onto each toasty bite of bread.
I can guarantee this will fast become one of your favorite summer meals too! Don't forget to join me on Sunday for Challenge #5 in the Next Food Network Star play-along!