For the simplest of appetizers, I often make Bruschetta. However, while making Bruschetta is quick and easy to make and requires but a few ingredients, that does mean there aren't a few basic rules that will help you achieve Bruschetta bliss.
The Bread: for one, there is the bread. The goal here is to find a crunchy base for your soft toppings. Ciabatta, a well-known Italian flattish yeast bread with an open texture and a crisp, floury crust, is often used as the base for bruschetta – Ciabatta, btw means “slipper” in Italian and describes the appearance of this oval bread quite well.
Since we live in a county with a wide variety of breads, I often find myself with a few slices of leftover flavorful sourdough bread, country bread or baguette and decide to use them as the base instead. If your baguette is long and narrow, cut it on the diagonal to give a larger surface area to hold all the toppings. But whichever bread you chose to use, be careful not to toast or grill your slices too much, just until golden brown and crispy.
The Garlic: the second step would be rubbing the warm toasted bread with a fresh garlic clove, in order to infuse each slice with a mild garlic flavor. If you decide to do so, peel a garlic clove, and rub if gently over the warm bread slice, the rough toasted exterior of the bread will work like a gentle grater. But be gentle - less is more here - or skip the garlic step all together.
The First topping: next up is the first topping, as I like to call it. Sometimes I make a base for the topping such as hummus – make it fresh or use leftover. Or go with guacamole. Or just make a seasonal veggie mash with peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsley root, parsnip or even carrots. You can also spread the toasted bread slices with green or black olive tapenade. Or just use a really good quality mild or bold olive oil.
What I also like to prepare is a soft cheese topping. Instead of a veggie base, I like to use a soft local goat cheese. When I do not have that in my fridge, there will be cream cheese or even cottage cheese that also works well if you go the extra step and drain it, the bread will stay crispier though.
The second topping: here you can use just about every veg, grain, or even pulses that you like or have on hand. Go with a single vegetable or a combination of your favorites. Go with cooked or raw veggies. Stir together veggies and pulses and flavor them with olives, sundried tomatoes etc.
One of my favorites that I like to combine with a soft goat cheese is wilted beet or Swiss chard tops. I also like to sauté baby spinach as a topping – but you always have to make sure to drain your greens very well before adding them as a topping.
For the third topping: I like to use herbs, herb blossoms or fennel fronds, carrot greens or radish tops or go with arugula (rocket). And, of course, a shaving of Parmesan, Pecorino or other hard cheese.
For a special treat I like to use spring turnip greens (Rübstiel). Turnip greens are the leafy green tops of turnips. The greens are edible and can be used just like lettuces and hearty leaves.
To make Bruschetta with Turnip Greens, select only plants with bright green leaves, not wilted, then rinse the greens very well, dry, chop and cook like you would kale or collard greens. Because spring turnip greens have a mild peppery zing to them, they work well with shallots, garlic and a few chili flakes (peperoncini). Fall turnip greens have a more pronounced peppery note.
It is, however, rare to find turnip greens at the supermarket. But farmers’ markets will usually sell turnip greens, which are usually the freshest and best option. The leaves will start wilting quickly, so, if at all possible, try to use them the day you bought them.
Let your fridge, cupboard, the season, and, of course, your taste buds be your guide.
Bruschetta can be enjoyed as an appetizer or a light dinner, served alongside a salad or together with a soup – always depending on the season and the appetite, of course.
You can serve Bruschetta at room temperature, warm or even cold - summertime you could top your bruschetta for example with the ripest, seasonal tomatoes, fresh garden herbs, a drizzle of fruity olive oil and a sprinkling of your favorite salt.