Brush Up

With the growing popularity of all foods Italian, bruschetta and crostini have become go-to appetizers gracing many tables in restaurants and even at home.

The two terms have been used interchangeably but they are a bit different. Bruschetta comes from the Italian word bruscare, which means to roast over the coals. The bread used for bruschetta is typically a wide rustic loaf that is cut into large flat pieces, grilled or baked, rubbed with a garlic clove, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. The focus is on the bread and the olive oil, although you may find it served with toppings. According to some famous Italian chefs, bruschetta is always served hot. It is often associated with basil and tomato topping but you can get creative with your toppings for variety.

Crostini means “little toasts” and is typically made with a smaller slice of bread, such as a baguette.

In the U.S., the word bruschetta has erroneously come to refer to the topping instead of the bread.

Double Mushroom Bruschetta

For the bruschetta:

12 (1/2-inch-thick) pieces of focaccia or thickly sliced rustic bread

1 large garlic clove, cut in half lengthwise

Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

For the topping:

2 tbsp. light olive oil

6–8 ounces porcini mushrooms, thinly sliced

10 oz. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

3 tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 1/2 tbsp. butter

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Set the bread slices on a baking sheet. Bake the bread 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Cool the bread a few minutes, and then rub the top side of each slice with the cut side of the garlic. Drizzle the toasted bread with olive oil.

In large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add sliced porcinis and creminis, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add parsley and butter; season. Cook mushrooms until tender, about 2 minutes. Divide among toasts.

Tomato Basil Crostini

For the toasts:

1 loaf Italian bread, sliced thick

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

For the topping:

1 red tomato

1 yellow tomato

1 small clove garlic, crushed

2 oz. salted fresh mozzarella, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

3 large fresh basil leaves, checked and thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Set the bread slices on a baking sheet. Bake the bread 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Cool the bread a few minutes, and drizzle the toasted bread with olive oil.

Dice tomatoes. Transfer to bowl, add garlic and mix. Add cheese; season. Stir in basil. Divide among toasts.

Roasted Pepper, Olive and Mozzarella Bruschetta

For the topping:

2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup minced olives, such as Kalamata and Cerignola

1 cup bottled roasted red peppers (thinly sliced or diced)

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

8–10 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

For the bruschetta:

1 loaf of crusty Italian bread, such as Ciabatta, sliced into 8–10 thick slices
1 whole garlic clove, skin removed

4–5 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil (about 1/2 teaspoon per slice)

To toast the pine nuts, place in a dry skillet over medium heat. Gently shake the pan handle to ensure even toasting, for about 1 minute, or until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, olives, roasted peppers, parsley and red pepper flakes. Stir until well combined. (This topping can be made up to a day or two in advance and placed in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before applying to bruschetta.)

Grill bread slices on an outdoor grill or on a grill pan over high heat until lightly charred and crispy. You could also place them under the broiler. Rub each toasted slice with the raw garlic clove and drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil.

While the bread is still warm, top with a slice of cheese; then olive mixture. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and serve immediately.

Many ingredients are prone to infestation. Please consult a local Rav for specific guidelines on how to avoid transgressions related to insects.