Bruschetta, pronounced brew-skett-uh in Italian, is both simple and exquisite, rustic and fancy at the same time. Whenever I have my grill going, I always think of pulling out a loaf of bread and garlic and making a quick snack of bruschetta. While you will get the best flavor by far on the grill, you can make this in the oven in a pinch. The key is to get the bread just a little crunchy without getting it hard.
1 thin, foot-long Italian or French baguette, sliced into 3/4″ pieces
Olive oil to brush the bread
Pinch of salt
Fig and Olive Spread
4 fresh black figs
1/4 of a small red onion, minced
8 to 10 oil-cured pitted black olives, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Drizzle of balsamic glaze
Marinated Chopped Beans and Shaved Celery
3/4 cup of cannellini beans, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Juice of 2 large lemons
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
4 to 5-inch piece of celery, shaved
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, gently smashed (used on the bread)
Black Garlic and Sel de Gris
4 bulbs of black garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil (arquebina works particularly well)
1 teaspoon of sel de gris (or a very coarse, crumbly sea salt)
Crushed red chiles to taste
To make the bruschetta, slice the bread and lightly rub olive oil on both sides. If you do this on the grill, grill the bread over medium hot coals on both sides just until the bread browns a little. The bread should be crispy, but not hard. If you do this in the oven, bake the bread at 350°F for 4 minutes. When I bake these, I put them directly on the rack, not on a baking dish. They crisp more evenly that way. Serve the bruschetta immediately with your desired topping. If it sits, it loses its crispness and gets unpleasantly tough.
“My favorite way to serve bruschetta is straight off the grill. I’m not a big fan of platters of them already pre-done because the texture of the bread is always off. It’s way more fun to have your friends on the patio, hanging out around the open flame with a glass of wine, and pulling bread fresh off the grill for them.”
To make the Fig and Olive Spread: Smash the figs into a paste and set it aside. Gently smash the minced red onion a couple times. To serve, spread about 1 1/2 teaspoons of smashed fig each slice of bread, top with a sprinkling of smashed onion, chopped olive, and black pepper and a 1/2 teaspoon drizzle of balsamic glaze.
“Really, this bruschetta is just an excuse to use fresh figs. Like I need one.”
To make the Marinated Chopped Beans and Shaved Celery: In a small, non-reactive bowl, toss the chopped beans with the olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, and salt and let it sit for at least an hour. Before cooking the bruschetta, rub it with the smashed garlic to infuse the bread with garlic flavor. Just before serving, shave the celery with a vegetable peeler as thin as you can get it and into pieces about 2 inches long. Spoon a tablespoon of bean filling onto each slice of bread, then top with two or three strands of shaved celery.
“This is a pretty straightforward bean salad. You can even add some chopped tomato, if you like, although if you do that, do that just before you serve so the lemon juice doesn’t break down the tomato. The shaved celery is for a little elegant touch and just a hint of fresh crunch.”
To make the Black Garlic and Sel de Gris: Press out all the garlic cloves from the papery bulbs. It will be messy. Pile this into a small dish and pour the olive oil on top. Lightly mash the black garlic and olive oil together. Spread just under a teaspoon of the black garlic paste onto each slice of bread and sprinkle sel de gris and crushed red chiles on top.
“Sure, black garlic may be East Asian, but wow does it bring to life a simple piece of grilled bread. A little goes a long way, so don’t spread too much on the bread. You want to taste the black garlic, but you don’t want it to be the only thing you taste.”
A Grill or Oven