Bruschetta, at its simplest, is grilled bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, but it can also be prepared with a variety of toppings. This classic version, popular in both Umbria and Tuscany, demands the best-quality ingredients: a crusty country-style bread, ripe red tomatoes, freshly picked basil and the best extra-virgin olive oil your budget will allow.
- About 20 cherry tomatoes, or 2 large tomatoes
- About 16 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
- Sea salt, to taste
- 8 slices coarse country bread, about 1/2 inch thick
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat, or preheat a broiler.
If using cherry tomatoes, stem them and cut in half. If using large tomatoes, core and seed them and cut into 1/2-inch dice. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil and a pinch of salt.
By grill: Using tongs, place the bread slices over the hottest part of the fire or directly over the heat elements and grill, turning once, until crisp and golden on both sides, about 3 minutes total.
By broiler: Place the bread slices on a broiler pan and slip it in the broiler about 4 inches from the heat source. Broil, turning once, until crisp and golden on both sides, about 3 minutes total.
Remove from the heat and immediately rub one side of each slice vigorously with a garlic clove, using 1 clove for 4 slices.
Arrange the bread slices, garlic side up, on a serving platter or divide among individual plates. Spoon the tomato mixture on the bread, dividing it evenly. Drizzle with the olive oil. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).