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Lynda Balslev: A bruschetta trifecta

Lynda Balslev
Columnist

Don’t underestimate the open-faced sandwich. As simple as they may sound, these topless sandwiches are often a refreshing and decorative reflection of the season and their cuisine. They range from sleek and minimal to rustic and hearty, with flourishes that reflect their culture.

The ingredients vary widely, from salads and spreads to cold meats and smoked fish to cheese and fresh vegetables. The Scandinavians are famous for smorrebrod, topped with Nordic specialties such as herring, salmon and fried plaice. The French call their creations tartines, which may include breakfast servings of toasted baguettes slathered with butter and jam. The Italians are best known for bruschetta — thick slices of toasted bread brushed with garlic and olive oil, often topped with a tumble of sweet tomatoes and bright basil.

In each case, the open sandwich begins with a piece of bread, which serves as a plate on which the toppings are layered. Toasting the bread provides structure and slows down the process of the bread becoming soggy. A smear of butter or soft cheese, or a spread such as mashed avocado or hummus, may be added. This helps to create another protective barrier from juices that will dribble down and soak the toast.



From there, a layer of greens and various toppings unfold. They can be meticulously composed or simply layered with pieces tumbling to the side. The sum is a marriage of ingredients, textures and, of course, flavor that invites hands-on eating.

This bruschetta recipe is a “threefer” — a simple bread base on which three different topping options highlight the late summer season. It’s Italian in inspiration, with a touch of California wine country, showcasing seasonal fruits and vegetables layered on crusty wedges of sourdough baguette. It’s casual yet elegant, and a perfect starter or light meal, ideally enjoyed al fresco under the setting late-summer sun.



Bruschetta

Active time: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: Makes 8 servings

Bread:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced or pushed through a press

1 sourdough or French baguette

Combine the oil and garlic in a small bowl. Cut the baguette into 4 equal sections. Halve each section lengthwise. Brush the cut sides of the baguette with the oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and broil until light golden. Alternatively, grill the bread until lightly toasted. Arrange on a platter and assemble with your desired toppings.

Tomato Corn Salsa Topping (for 8 bruschetta):

Fresh corn kernels from 1 large ear of corn

2 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded, diced

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley leaves and/or fresh cilantro leaves

1 small garlic clove

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the salsa ingredients in a bowl. Taste for seasoning. Spoon the tomato corn salsa over the bread.

Fig and Gorgonzola Topping (for 8 bruschetta)

6 to 8 ripe figs, stemmed, sliced

3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola dolce (or fresh goat cheese)

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Finely grated lemon zest

Extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Arrange the fig slices and the cheese on the bread. Sprinkle the walnuts, rosemary and lemon zest on top. Drizzle with a few drops of olive oil and garnish with black pepper.

Prosciutto-Arugula Topping (for 8 bruschetta):

8 slices prosciutto

2 cups baby arugula leaves

Extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shavings (from a vegetable peeler)

Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Freshly ground black pepper

Drape the prosciutto over the bread. Scatter the arugula on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Scatter a few Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings over each slice. Garnish with the fresh basil and season with freshly ground black pepper.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area

This bruschetta recipe is a "threefer" — a simple bread base on which three different topping options highlight the late summer season.
Photo by Lynda Balslev for TasteFood

 

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