Bruschetta with tomato? Why not bruschetta with cream cheese and shrimps? I happened to live in Italy when bruschetta was taking Italian bars by storm and they were trying to outdo each other with creative bruschetta variations. One of my favourites actually was a white bruschetta with no tomato at all just a generous spread of Mascarpone cream cheese, melting slightly on the piping-hot oval slice of scrumptious chewy bread, subtly flavoured with garlic and garnished with luscious pink shrimps. By the way, Philadelphia with a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and a bit of chopped chives would work quite well too.
Originally a humble regional dish of Central Italy bruschetta (pronounced “brusketta”) has hit both the national and international gastronomic scene relatively recently and, as is often the case, has been much transformed along the way. A stale slice of round coarse loaf grilled, rubbed with fresh garlic and then brushed with olive oil is indeed a far cry from modern mini-bruschettas with fancy toppings that have made it even to some elegant afternoon teas at fashionable hotels.
Still, before becoming too fancy one should cover the basics. The most important thing for a good bruschetta is bread. The coarser the bread the more flavourful your bruschetta will be. Bland soft white bread will just ruin your bruschetta, believe me. You need a no-frills solid country-style loaf.
After grilling slices of this bread you should rub them with fresh garlic while they are hot and then sprinkle over some drops of Extra Virgin olive oil. Now your bruschetta is ready for topping. If you insist on bruschetta al pomodoro it is useful to have your tomatoes prepared beforehand. Skin ripe fresh tomatoes (plunge them into boiling water for a minute and they will give no trouble) or canned ones, de-seed them and dice the pulp. Mix it with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and chopped basil leaves and let stand till required. By the way, if you would like to experiment you might try using some slightly hot home-made chunky salsa instead of tomatoes.
You can also add the following toppings in any combination you enjoy, with or without tomato base.
Meat: pastrami, corned beef, roast-beef, ham, turkey, chicken – all thinly sliced.
Veggies: slices of grilled eggplant, peppers and zucchini. Try also mashed roasted garlic with sea-salt (in this case you can omit fresh garlic from your bruschetta). The popular spinach and artichoke dip will be a nice spread too.
Cheeses: cream cheese, soft goat cheese (chevre), shavings of Parmesan or other flavourful hard cheeses.
Herbs: basil, chives, oregano whatever you like.
In fact bruschettas are all about creativity, so have fun!
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