In Italy, bread is always purchased fresh for the day’s meal. I remember the excitement of being given the task as a teenager to pick up bread on the way back from the liceo. What seemed like a myriad of breads were displayed in baskets and trays, just out of reach. The neatly dressed women behind counters overflowing with biscotti and grissini would place my choices in paper bags and weigh them, little packages of amazing breads that were both crunchy and soft, light and heavy. Whenever I went to the panificio, I always bought more than was necessary, because I simply couldn’t help myself. There were just too many choices.
Out of sheer necessity, the extra bread had to be used up. In Italy, you never eat anything but fresh bread with the day’s meal yet throwing away old bread is seen as wasteful. Italians are masters at repurposing foods for the next meal. This is most likely how bruschette and crostini were discovered. Dressed with olive oil and brushed with garlic cloves, then smeared with something delicious on top, ordinary day-old bread is turned into something purely magical. Crostini are bite-sized and not always toasted but bruschette are thick and always toasted, traditionally grilled over an open flame. In my experience, whenever you light the grill in Italy, there is always some bruschetta around in one form or another.
TO CREATE YOUR BRUSCHETTA BAR
All you need really is some chopped tomatoes, fresh herbs, some sea salt and an olieria to drizzle your extra virgin olive oil over the grilled bread. Once the grilled bread is dressed, it then becomes a bruschetta. Creating a bar with more choices brings this simple antipasto to the next level. Our guests have remarked that they would have been happy staying just with the bruschetta bar!
To create a bar, grab your largest platter and cover it with a plain, white towel.
Place on a platter:
- your nicest oil dispenser filled with extra virgin olive oil
- finger bowl full of coarse sea salt
- small plate of a handful of fresh balsamic leaves (or other fresh herbs)
- small bottle of crema di basilico
FOR THE BREAD:
Cut a large crusty loaf of bread into thick slices. Drizzle one side with olive oil. Cut a large garlic clove in half and rub onto the cut side on the bread, in a downward direction. Repeat with the other side. Sprinkle the bread lightly with crushed sea salt. Place the slices on the stainless steel grates of the myGrill™ Chef SMART grill, at a 45° angle to the grates, turning once just after developing some color. This should take no longer than 3-4 minutes each side, depending on how hot the wood coals are. Remove to a bowl covered in a cotton cloth.
On a larger platter, arrange bowls of grilled vegetables that can be cooked along with the bread.
FOR THE GRILLED MUSHROOMS:
If you’re firing up the grill the day before, grill up your mushrooms. Based on our experience, mushrooms should be grilled dry as they tend to burn if any oil is added to them. If they’re available, we like combining cremini, oyster and button mushrooms for the bruschetta bar. Place the selected mushrooms on the stainless steel grates of the myGrill™ Chef SMART grill, turning once just after developing some color. Once they’re off the grill and cool enough to handle, chop the mushrooms and combine with just enough olive oil to unify the mixture. Season with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Add in some fresh thyme, if desired. Ideally, allow to sit for a few hours or a day before serving so the flavors deepen.
FOR THE GRILLED SWEET PEPPERS:
Place two peppers on the stainless steel grates of the myGrill™ Chef SMART grill. Turn the pepper once the skin has blackened, making sure the entire surface of the pepper is mostly black. Immediately run the pepper under cold water to remove the skin. Split the peppers in half and removed the seeds. Chop the peppers. Season with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
FOR THE GRILLED ZUCCHINE:
Lightly season spears of 3-4 zucchine with olive oil, sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Place the spears in the grilling baskets of the myGrill™ Chef SMART grill. Choose the ‘Chef’ feature and then turn the dial to select ‘Vegetables’. Cook until the zucchine have developed an even, golden color on the interior. Remove the zucchine from the baskets and coarsely chop. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
- Chicken liver paté
- a small bottle of artisanal balsamic vinegar
- infused oils (truffle, hot pepper, garlic)