Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bruschette/Crostini Ideas

Start with some grilled bread, rub with raw garlic and top with tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and basil. That's what comes to mind when most people think of the word bruschetta. The word bruscare is Roman dialect for the Italian word "abbrustolire" which means "to toast." Bruschette (plural of bruschetta) have become ubiquitous on menus here and in Italy, topped with everything from arugula to zucchini. Crostini, on the other hand, are generally smaller and crunchier like croutons and can also be a perfect base for any number of toppings. The words have almost become interchangeable and it doesn't really matter whether you call these bruschette or crostini. Either way, they're a great vehicle for small bits of an infinite variety of foods. Just don't pronounce it broo-shett-a. Say broo-skett-a, please.

I gave a demonstration a couple of weeks ago on bruschetta making at Tuscan Hills, a store near Princeton, New Jersey that sells beautiful Italian furniture, pottery, linens and other irresistible items. My son Michael also participated, showing the audience how to make limoncello, a recipe he shared with Ciao Chow Linda readers a couple of years ago here.

I started with the basic bruschetta, but since summer is long gone, the only flavorful tomatoes to be found were the tiny grape tomatoes I used below. They make a decent substitute in winter.

But did you know you can make a perfectly respectable tomato bruschetta using canned tomatoes? I once ate this at an Italian restaurant in California and couldn't believe how good it was. So I tried it at home, using a brand of tomatoes that says "fire-roasted"(Muir Glen). I drained all the liquid from them, then mixed the tomatoes with olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper and basil. 

But let's expand the bruschetta repertoire a bit. This one is made using small cubes of roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions and pine nuts, topped with a sliver of parmesan cheese and balsamic reduction. 

 This bruschetta uses cannellini beans from a can, that are drained and rinsed, then smashed with a fork, and mixed with garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of rosemary.

 The sweet creaminess of smooth ricotta cheese is a great foil for the salty crunchiness of baked, crispy prosciutto.

 The sweet/savory contrast is also evident here, in one of my favorites: blue cheese and walnuts, topped with a pear slice and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. By the way, I don't use my expensive aged balsamic vinegar here. I pour about 1/2 cup of a supermarket brand into a pot with a couple of tablespoons of honey and let it reduce about 10 minutes until it's syrupy. 


The platter below also includes bruschetta with mozzarella and roasted peppers; with fig jam, mozzarella and prosciutto; and with goat cheese and grilled zucchini. If you're planning a party, you could even set up a bruschetta station with grilled bread and lots of toppings and let people assemble whatever  they prefer. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

    Buon Anno.

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  1. What a wonderful array of delicious bruschette! I'd love to have one of each.

    Best wishes for 2012!



  2. Absolutely gorgeous!

    It takes real talent, I think, to grill bread to perfection—it's all too easy to overdo it, a good example of how 'simple' does not always equal 'easy'.

    And, yes, thanks for reminding folks about the pronunciation. You've hit on one of my pet peeves! (That and the use of the word 'pasta' when describing a particular shape, like 'penne pasta'. Ugh... Drives me up a wall.)

  3. I'm a sucker for hand-held appetizers and could live on them. I come from the school of "I'm not hungry, I'll just pick" and then pick 10,000 calories. Love them all. And fire-roasted tomatoes have greatly helped me survive the winter.

  4. I love them all! Happy New Year Linda!

  5. Looks so delicious! Thanks for the great ideas-Ilove that you used canned tomatoes. Happy New Year Linda.

  6. Oh my, wouldn't I just love a plate of your mouth watering bruschette! That is my favorite kind of food - tasty little bites.
    Happy New Year Linda - I hope 2012 is a happy, healthy and prosperous year for us all.

  7. What a fun idea for a party! I often make myself a bruschetta with some kind of leftovers for lunch. My fave is broccoli rabe.

    Best wishes for the new year.

  8. These are a gorgeous array to serve to guests over the holidays. Such lovely winter fee.

  9. Love these crostini ideas. Your platter looks wonderful. Have a happy new year!

  10. Oh my goodness I want them all! So irresistible! All so different, great munchies for a party. Did you get a new camera? Your photos look extra gorgeous, I just want to grab a bruschette right off that platter! Happy New Year Linda!

  11. Once you get away from tomatoes, and start with baguette sized bread slices, you are starting into the wonderful world of Venetian cichetti (particularly good if you add a little fish to the mix). Some wonderful suggestions, thanks.

  12. Linda that looks like a party on a plate,
    I want to wish you and yours...
    A Happy and Healthy New Year!
    See you in 2012!
    L xo

  13. All your bruschette/crostini suggestions sounds divine, Linda! They make the most satisfying appetizers.

    Felice Anno Nuovo a te e alla tua famiglia!

  14. I love all of your delicious ideas for toppings! Everyone always looks at me funny when I say "Brusketta." I try to explain, but... Anyway. Happy New Year!

  15. Sono straordinarie queste bruschette. Buon 2012 Linda!! Un abbraccio Daniela.

  16. I'm torn between the blue cheese and the butternut squash versions. They both look awesome!

  17. OMG it is 7am and I am drooling for bruschette! Love this post. I am bookmarking it for future use.
    Happy New Year!

  18. I'm popping over from Claudia's blog...and now I see why she's such a huge fan of yours! All your bruschetta toppings look incredible! Happy 2012!

  19. Wow... bruschetta or crostini, whatever you want to call them, they're gorgeous! I love the plate of all the different colors and flavors together... I would love to have a cocktail party and serve everything together like that... never thought to before!

  20. It all looks delicious! Wishes for a very happy and healthy New Year!

  21. I made some "broooosketta" for a New Years Eve the stuff! And thank you for the pronunciation correction. I had no idea I was saying it wrong :)
    Your variations are all so beautiful and inviting

  22. Linda, they all look delicious!
    Btw, fire-roasted Muir Glen is the brand I still reach for, most often.

    Happy and Healthy New Year!

  23. seriously...every single one sounds delicious.

  24. They all look so pretty on the plate together.
    Crostini art.