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Garlic-Rubbed Toast with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil (Bruschetta al Pomodoro)

It seems, and is, so simple—garlic-rubbed toast with raw tomato on top—but like many of the capital city’s favorite foods, bruschetta al pomodoro brings you face to face with the brilliance of basic Roman ingredients. The classic bread for bruschetta is pane casereccio, the ordinary Roman loaf, though good hand-sliced sourdough or country bread would be a fine substitute. If you can’t find flavorful ripe tomatoes and fresh basil, use none at all, and make the bruschetta with just garlic, salt and olive oil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 medium salad tomatoes, or about 16 cherry tomatoes
  • About 16 fresh basil leaves
  • 4 slices coarse country bread, each about 1/2 inch thick 
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole 
  • Salt, to taste 
  • 2 to 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 

Directions:

The bread can be toasted on a grill or in a toaster. If using a grill, prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat.

If using firm salad tomatoes, core them and then slice about 1/4 inch thick. If using red, ripe salad tomatoes, core and peel them and then cut into 1/2-inch dice. If using cherry tomatoes, cut them in half. Tear the larger basil leaves into a few pieces and leave the smaller leaves whole.

If using a grill, lay the bread on the rack about 8 inches above the fire and toast, turning once, until crisp and golden, about 4 minutes total. Alternatively, toast the bread in a toaster. As soon as the bread is ready, rub a whole garlic clove vigorously over one side of it. The rough surface of the bread will shred the garlic like a grater, leaving very little in your hand after 2 slices are rubbed with 1 of the cloves.

Divide the bread slices, garlic side up, between 2 plates. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on the bread, dividing evenly. If you are using cherry tomatoes, squash the halves, cut side down, into the bread. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle generously with the olive oil. Distribute the basil evenly on top. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Rome, by Constance Snow (Oxmoor House, 2005).