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Bruschetta: Olive Oil’s Favorite Foil
Finger foods make for great appetizers that allow silverware to remain sheathed until the main course. Keep reading to learn a bit more about bruschetta: one of Italy’s classic, handheld antipasto dishes.
Think of bruschetta and you might conjure up a vibrant pile of diced tomatoes, basil, parmesan, perhaps even some prosciutto, mushrooms, or mozzarella. And, somewhere underneath all that, some toasted bread. This dish would be unrecognizable to the 15th-century Tuscans thought to have originated it. Derived from the Italian verb “bruscare”—to char—bruschetta at its simplest refers to slices of crusty bread grilled or roasted over coals until a toothsome golden brown formed around the edges. Traditionally, the slices were then drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and rubbed with salt and a cut clove of garlic. The sparing use of seasoning was intended to highlight the quality of the individual ingredients, particularly the olive oil—the Oxford Companion to Food says the dish was “designed to show off the new season’s oil at the time of the olive harvest,” just as spaghetti was designed to show off the season’s pasta harvest.
If chefs over the centuries haven’t been able to resist piling on a garden’s worth of additional toppings, it’s a testament to the universal appeal of the bruschetta template and the sturdy foundation of rustic Italian bread. Depending on the ingredients (say, scrambled egg and asparagus or a riff on ratatouille), bruschetta today may serve as an appetizer or a meal akin to an open-faced Italian sandwich.