April 18, 2008
I’ve been making this bruschetta—a classic tomato-basil version—for a very long time. I’d love to say that it was my first “signature dish,” but my mom might call me out. Because I’m sure she remembers the Cool Whip-Raspberry “Surprise” that I used to whip up for family BBQs, church potlucks (if you thought my story about Minnesota “bars” was amusing, you should just see the line-up at one of these potlucks) and holidays. While that “surprise” (read: horror) is probably best forgotten, the same cannot be said for the bruschetta.
Holidays at my house are almost entirely focused around food. Sure, we might throw in some gift-opening on Christmas, perhaps a quick trip to church on Easter, and definitely more than one heated game of dominoes, but besides all that, it’s about the food. And not just the eating, the cooking too.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
Take Thanksgiving, for example. For many years, my parents threw a holiday party on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving (a full dinner buffet at their house, usually anchored by at least a dozen grilled beef and pork tenderloins) and turned right around and hosted Thanksgiving the next day for at least 15 people. There was obviously a great deal of work and a great many hours in the kitchen involved in this semi-insane venture. For the better part of 36 hours, it would not be uncommon to have all four burners, the oven, the microwave, the grill, an entire knife block’s worth of knives, a slew of cutting boards, and every single family member (save for Ali, who was probably taking a nap) in use at the same time.
Participating in this madness is without a doubt one of my favorite growing-up memories. And I knew I’d truly arrived in my family when the responsibility for an entire dish was bestowed upon me: bruschetta (sure, not exactly a Thanksgiving staple, but don’t worry, we made plenty of stuffing and mashed root vegetables too). Not only that, but it went on to become something that my family would ask me to make every year at Thanksgiving. And then something that they would request at every family gathering.
I don’t make this version quite as much these days. Last month, I made a bruschetta smeared with taleggio and studded with roasted red and yellow cherry tomatoes. And before that, an ill-fated ravioli experiment turned into a spinach-ricotta bruschetta for dinner. But sometimes the urge for this classic version hits. It’s best in the heart of the summer, of course, when tomatoes and basil are at their best. But even now, in the midst of spring, it’s still pretty darn good.
5 to 7 roma tomatoes, diced (depending on size)
1/2 cup red onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (to taste)
coarse sea salt (to taste)
fresh cracked black pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup basil, sliced into thin ribbons, plus more whole leaves for garnish
1 baguette, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and up to a half a day).
Shortly before serving, heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the baguette slices for a couple minutes on each side. Divide the tomato-basil mixture among the grilled baguette slices. Garnish with additional basil leaves, if desired.