"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bruchetta To Die For

So, you all know I'm a massive fan of Julie and Julia. And in the movie there's this haunting scene. Its the part of the movie where becoming a food blogger suddenly is clearly Julie Powell's destiny, a beautiful scene with cozy evening light in their apartment. The couple, is having one of those, its-too-hot-to-cook summer night dinners. You can feel the lazy evening vibe, the kind of evening when you have long conversations, and stay up too late because its too hot to sleep. And Julie makes bruschetta for dinner. Nothing else....just amazing bruschetta. And you can practically taste the food because the food styling is that good. The olive oil and tomato juices are dripping off the hands of the actors, you can hear the toast crisp when they bite into it and the bright gleam of that basil against the diced 'maters! Mmmmmm....so good. This is the scene all the viewers come away fantasizing over. It won't leave the mind.

Yeah. So, I saw the movie...what, weeks ago now and then in Michigan I watched it again with my fabulous brothers-in-law and A. And just in case I was not already infatuated with the mental longing for that bruschetta, I got another good dose of it with the second viewing. *slobber slobber*

This weekend, as part of a beach trip, we made a pilgrimage further up the coast to one of our favorite small markets and picked up a lot of fresh produce. Among the bounty were a couple of fresh tomatoes, a baguette (that turned out to be slightly dry which is great for bruschetta) and a bouquet of basil. It was destiny. I made bruschetta for dinner. And folks, it was heart-stopping. It is being added to my list of "signature dishes" (a whole delicious post in and of itself) and will doubtless be repeated several times again now that true tomato season has extended a pinky toe.

So good. Try it and have your own moment of bruschetta genius! 

The ingredients to bruschetta are pretty simple:
  • rounds of baguette
  • really ripe red tomatoes (preferably super local!)
  • a good wad of fresh basil
  • a nice fruity olive oil
  • sea salt
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sunshine (really!)
  • and for this recipe....butter (I know, I know....call the authenticity police...its not authentic but, its super, super good!)

First, I cut up two large red tomatoes in about 1/2 inch dice. I used really juicy ripe, local tomatoes and I think that's pretty key. All of those went into a metal mixing bowl. Then I rough chopped basil leaves and threw them in the bowl and stirred until it looked pretty to me. I know that's vague but, honestly I think the amount of basil added could really vary according to taste. I think basil is lovely so I added quite a bit...maybe 12 leaves or so. After the basil was in, I added about a half a teaspoon full of salt to the mixture, about the same amount of balsamic vinegar and then a nice dollop of olive oil....say, two tablespoons or so. I also minced one clove of garlic finely and added it in. Then everything got a good stir and the whole mixture was placed in a location with intense sunshine. This may sound silly but, slightly warming the tomatoes makes them taste sweeter and more fruity, and warming the basil releases more of its flavorful oil, warming the salt helps it to melt into the mixture more thoroughly and warming the olive oil highlights its flavors too. If you're making the dish at night or don't have any sun the day you're making it, try putting it in a very slightly warmed oven that has since been turned off or if you have a gas oven....just putting it in over the pilot light. I'd also try a heating pad on a medium setting under the bowl.

So, while that mixture macerates and the flavors develop....slice rounds of baguette off that are about 1/4-1/2 an inch thick. I cut 12 rounds to use with 2 large tomatoes. Next I ran a stick of butter over my cast iron griddle, just enough to moisten the whole pan...and then I took the stick of butter and scraped it over one side of all the rounds of bread....just enough butter on each piece to see...not really "spread" with it like for toast. Then I heated the skillet at medium heat until the butter was sizzling and at that point added the bread rounds, butter side down. Its important to heat the pan before adding the bread as this will help the bread to stay soft in the center and just brown and crisp on the outside. I only cooked the bread on one side of each round.

While the bread sizzled I took one garlic clove, peeled it and cut it in half, crosswise, not lengthwise. After the bread was starting to go golden in spots, I removed it to the serving platter and then rubbed each round with the garlic clove all over every inch of the buttered side. I lightly sprinkled the bread rounds with salt and sprinkled them lightly with olive oil and then brought the topping mixture out of the sunshine and over to the serving platter. Each round got a generous spoonful of the tomato mixture and I kept going around again until I ran out. I strained the juices from the bowl off with my spoon and only put drained tomatoes on the toast rounds. Everything ends up plenty juicy if you use good ripe tomatoes and if you pour on all the juices from the bowl you'll end up with soup and you'll lose the nice crisp texture of your golden baguette rounds. Then I sprinkled the whole thing with another dusting of salt and served. You must eat it immediately! This sort of thing does not wait. You lose the warm glow of the tomatoes and the toast will be soggy if you hold off.

And really, that's it...its amazing. Totally amazing. The key is the sunshine, the local tomatoes, the salt, and that pan sizzled golding of the toast. I'm not Italian so, you can fault me on authenticity but, really folks...try it...its divine summer food.

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