It may be a bit early to fire up the grill, at least for burgers and steaks, but it’s a great time of the year for a backyard bruschetta party. What the heck is a bruschetta party? Bruschetta is of course a classic Italian recipe made with toasted bread and toppings, and it is almost always accomplished in someone’s back yard over a wood fired grill. It’s a great and unique way to have friends over and spring is the perfect time to do it, even if you have to wear a light jacket.
Recently, I had a few friends over, and I did of course pick a day that was sunny. I found three bruschetta recipes I liked, which I planned to serve one at a time and my friends brought a few good bottles of dry Italian white wine. It was a great pairing (friends, bruschetta, and wine).
But let’s get one thing straight from the top. Bread toasted in an oven, or in a toaster is just toast, is not bruschetta. Bruschetta is toasted on a fire, and preferably a wood fire that has died down and is a shimmering bed of red-hot coals. There are no rules on what goes on bruschetta, but I wanted to be as authentic as I could. The first one I served was the most basic. Good French bread (from Henry’s Bakery and Cafe in D’Iberville, I couldn’t find a good hearty Italian loaf), toasted and smoky from the fire, topped with my best unfiltered Italian olive oil (from Rouses), and just a sprinkle of salt. It may not sound like much, but it is delicious. It’s the smoky, crusty bread that makes such a big difference.
Next was perhaps the most classic bruschetta idea. Chopped tomatoes, finely diced garlic, julienned basil, and more olive oil (lots of olive oil in fact). If you try this recipe, make sure to make it in advance and let it sit on the kitchen counter for a few hours. It takes a while for all the ingredients to hold hands and become all it can be.
The last bruschetta that I served was the best, but I honestly do not remember where I got the idea. Fire toasted bread, a thin slice of prosciutto de Parma, lots of olive oil, a pinch of freshly ground salt, topped with homemade pear preserves. I love the combination of smoky toast, salty prosciutto de Parma, and the sweetness of the pear preserves. It is as delightful a dish as I know and eating it in the garden with a cold glass of dry white Italian wine was simply wonderful.
A bruschetta party is a novel idea that I bet your friends will love. Always remember, don’t take any short cuts.