Sep 24, 2011

Bruschetta

The first thing to know before making this genius antipasto staple and its creative variations is how to pronounce it.
Not 'brushetta,' please. That's mortifying. It's bru–SKET–tah. An onomatopoeic homage to the sharp sound made when digging your teeth in the crisp charcoal baked sourdough bread, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt. Sk! Sk! Think skyscraper! Basket! Skipper! Helter Skelter! Brusketta! Yeah, that's it.

In Tuscany, bruschetta is more commonly called "fettunta," a contraction of two words (fetta unta) meaning oiled slice. When olives are taken to the local frantoio mill for pressing in late November, the growers typically take some country casereccio bread with them. There is usually a small fireplace burning in the corner of the pressing room, and when the fragrant liquid gold emerges from the press spout, the grower toasts a bit of the bread on the fire to sample the oil.

The meaning of the noun bruschetta has changed so that now some use the word bruschetta incorrectly to refer to the topping instead of the dish. Many grocery store chains worldwide sell bottled bruschetta, which is simply a mix of tomatoes, onion, garlic and oregano, usually cooked!


For original "red" bruschetta, only fresh tomatoes are used and never a sauce. And allow me to say this one more time, we Italians limit the use of oregano to few special dishes: common pizza toppings, Costata alla Pizzaiola and very few other applications. Any other use is a distortion of Italian flavor and a cliché.
All this said, here's my way of making delicious messy slabs of heaven.

For authentic bruschetta you will need:
Good, thick-crust preferably wood oven-baked bread: whole wheat, sourdough (with its typical chip structure and characteristic aroma) or delicious home-style pane casareccio bread. Bruschetta is a good way of recycling day old, or stale bread too.
Organic, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil. The finest quality is key, particularly for this dish.
Numerous cloves of garlic, peeled
Sea or Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Optional:
Cherry tomatoes, chopped
Fresh basil leaves, hand-torn (better not cut with a metal blade, since it alters the flavor)

The term bruschetta comes from the word "bruscare," which means to toast on the fire. So this is a procedure to be carried out on any red-hot surface, be it a barbecue grill, a wood burning oven or fireplace. Pop in a tosater if all else fails. The important thing is the degree of crunch. 

 While you wait for the coals or logs to reach meat-cooking temperature, place bread slices (max 1 inch thick) on the grill and keep a close watch. Turn with a pair of tongs and remove when lightly charred on the surface.
On a large serving platter place the hot slices and begin rubbing with the peeled garlic cloves to flavor the bread. The more vigorous the scrub, the more intense the taste will be.
Drizzle with abundant olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

You can dress with chopped tomatoes and basil, or any other interesting variation you may wish to invent. I personally love bruschetta plain, but in the summer when I have guest over for a barbecue, I always like to present them with a variety of choices. Some favorite sample bruschettas include: slices of Prosciutto and a thin wafer slices of mild Nero di Pienza Pecorino cheese, sundried tomatoes and Gaeta olives, veggie spreads like olive or artichoke paste or a dollop of pesto sauce mixed with cream cheese. A very successful coastal bruschetta topping is a spoonful of shelled wedge clams stewed in garlic and olive oil, sprinkled with (very little) parsley.

26 comments:

  1. Slices of lardo melting on the bread alone or with a few drop of real balsamico are also a favourite,

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  2. Spacedlaw~
    That's the NEXT post! You beat me to it :)

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  3. You're pushing my buttons today! I always have to bite my tongue when people mispronounce "bruschetta". It's seems impolite to correct them but it makes me want to cringe… What do they think, bruschetta is a Yiddish word? And overuse of oregano is another pet peeve. My people were southern Italians but they never doused everything in sight with the stuff.

    Ah well, as I like to say, Italian food is a victim of its own success.

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  4. I love, love, love bruschetta! So much that at my restaurant you order ten different kinds! Sometimes I will just eat bruschetta for dinner.

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  5. Thank you for the lesson on brusKetta... I've been corrected before.
    Of course, that was at Olive Garden. You'd think they'd learn to pronounce it when they go to that Chef School in Italy. :-)

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  6. So do you have an outdoor grill at home? I don't - what's the next best thing?

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  7. Mouthwatering might just have to have some this evening.

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  8. Educated :)
    An Indian who grows oregano and basil at home , I knew the right pronunciation but always ended up saying brushetta as everyone else :)
    Now i would remember it always :)
    Love!!!

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  9. Frank~
    "Italian food is a victim of its own success." Sublime quote.

    Annette~
    I do the same. I'd be curious to try out your 10!!

    Sandi~
    They send cooks to Italian chef school at Olive Garden!? ;)

    Roseann~
    Next best thing is a griddle, or the fireplace!

    Linda~
    I was the same while writing this! ;)

    Sangeeta~
    Don't let others convince you you're wrong, ever!

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  10. Thank you very much for these lovely recipes of these fancy Italian sandwiches! Have a nice weekend!

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  11. Thanks to Nathalie, I found this just in time for we are going to a grill-out and a friend who makes very authentic bruchetta is bringing some. However, we have been amiss on the pronuncuation and I will be sure to remind them to put the bread on the grill.

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  12. I'm calling myself out and completely admitting that I've always called it "brew-shetta," thank you for this quick lesson! I just moved to Italy three days ago and I'm trying very hard to learn the language! love your site :)

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  13. San Tatiana~
    Thank *you* for your kind comment :)

    Becca~
    Oh, yes definitely give the slices a scorch! Glad you enjoyed this.

    Jessica~
    Welcome to Italia!! As far as learning to talk the talk, feel free to peruse my archives for some food-related Italian language lessons ;)

    Thank you for stopping by!

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  14. I always get such strange looks when I pronounce this correctly. Good to know I am correct although it is hard to say with a mouthful of this delicious treat.

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  15. OOOO, mi hai fatto una voglia immensa di preparare anch'io..il mio bambino (:( :) si 12 anni..bambino?!) adora di assagiare la bruscheta tipica..!!
    Brava che mi hai ricordato delle cose buone!
    Sono stata abbastanza tempo in Toscana, pero non so da fare la famosa minestra del pane?! - spero che mi ricordo bene...

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  16. Ah the most annoying thing when people don't pronounce the italian 'ch' right!!
    A fan of your blog- and still loving it! Love your new 'header' pic too. :)

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  17. LoriE~
    LOL... crunch! Smiles

    Sorina~
    Grazie del tuo bellissimo commento! There are two wonderful "zuppe di pane" in Toscana: Pappa al Pomodoro and Ribollita, both illustrated here!

    Esther~
    Thanks, I'm happy you love it here!! I put that header image together while preparing lunch... :)

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  18. Delicious! One of my favourite things to make when company is coming - especially for the Oscars!

    The Wanderfull Traveler

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  19. Murissa~
    Yes! Bruschetta on Oscar night is always a hit!! And since our live coverage starts at 1 am eher in Italy, the late-night Nutella one in particular...

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  20. Lola... I hope life is sweet for you.
    thinking of you this evening x Robyn

    ps... you may wish to visit with Lori x

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  21. Muy lindo tu blog. Tienes una cocina preciosa. Saludos desde Uruguay

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  22. Robyn-
    Thank you darling, your visits always bring solace and smiles.

    Recetas de cocina-
    !Gracias por tu visita y comentario!

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  23. Yummy yummy that seems so delicious and mouth watering.

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  24. Tuscany Villas~
    Thank you!! Ciao

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  25. I love typical Altamura bread made as bruschetta with olive oil from Puglia. Gorgeous post!:) I love it!

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  26. Italian language lessons are your best friend when it comes to learning Italian in the comfort of your own home. Thanks a lot for your post.

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