Growing up we ate a lot of Italian food, not because we have deep Italian roots -we don’t. We ate a lot of it, because my mom loved to get Italian cookbooks and she would try out new dishes, possibly because of her love of traveling to Italy. We ate Italian food, honestly, because it’s delicious! There was a restaurant that we would go to all the time when I was growing up, it became a reward when I got good grades and a place we could count on for a great meal every time. One of my all time favorite appetizers they made was bruschetta.
I love the vibrant fresh basil, the tang of the balsamic vinegar and the crunch of a well toasted baguette. Over the years it has become one of the recipes that I’ve made so many times that I just whip together simply by eyeballing it. The funny thing about this dish is that it is so incredibly simple. The ingredients are basic and it just blends together to make this amazing bite. Every time I’ve made this dish for a party, it is the first one devoured completely, even when I make more than I think we will need. People always ask for the recipe. So here goes…
6-8 Roma or medium on the vine tomatoes, diced into small pieces
10 fresh basil leaves
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (although I leave this out often when I make it for my family)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste, usually just a pinch of each
olive oil for drizzling
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Dice the tomatoes and try to leave out the majority of the seeds, this way the end result will not be too watery. Stack all of the leaves of basil together and roll it up like a little cigar and chop it finely. Finely chop the garlic. Add all of the ingredients to a medium-sized bowl and stir together. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Remember to taste it along the way to get it to your personal liking. You can let it sit for a few hours, but it doesn’t taste as good after about 4 hours and starts to break down.
Slice the baguette into 1/4 inch rounds, use a pastry brush to lightly coat both sides of the bread with olive oil place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-20 minutes flipping them over half way, watch to make sure they don’t burn or get too browned. If you are a lover of garlic you can also take a peeled clove and rub it over the bread after it is toasted.
Place a good spoonful of the mixture onto each piece of bread. At this point you can either serve it as is, or you can add a drizzle of balsamic glaze to the top, or a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. If you opt for the cheese you will want to return to the oven and broil until the cheese melts.
Serve immediately. Makes about 2-3 dozen depending on how you slice the baguette.