Perfect Crostini and Bruschetta: It's More than Just Toast
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.— Aristotle
You're Probably Wondering...
...what is a crostini? Well, the actual word is Italian for "little toasts". A small slice of bread is toasted, adorned with sweet and/or savory toppings, and served either warm or at room temperature.
But I've Also Heard of...
Bruschetta. What's the difference? There is a subtle difference (but to say there is no difference at all will bring about a lengthy and heated discussion with any person of Italian descent, trust me).
Bruschetta is more about the bread that the toppings. In fact, the word bruschetta is derived from the word bruscare, which means to roast over coals. A big, rustic loaf is cut into ample slices, toasted on a grill, and then rubbed with the cut side of a clove of garlic. A drizzle of good-quality olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, and you're good to go. Some people like to 'fancy it up' with chopped fresh tomato, torn basil leaves and perhaps just a kiss of balsamic vinegar.
Why Are We Getting So Excited About Toast?
Look back at the quote from Aristotle. Simple ingredients—each on their own are good, but combine artisanal bread with garden-crisp vegetables, fresh herbs, and the best meat and cheeses—how can you go wrong?
Let's Focus on the Basics
Every building project begins with a firm foundation—even Italian toasts rely on a good-quality base. This is not the place for the middle-of-the-shelf two loaves for a dollar bread. Not Wonder Bread. Not sandwich bread. Crostini and bruschetta are based on a sturdy bread with a crisp crust and a soft and tangy interior, something artisanal, rustic, and crusty.
Step 1 - The Bread
I've already told you that you need to use a crusty loaf from the bakery. Your next step is make diagonal slices—angle your knife 45 degrees so that you have slices long and slim instead of straight up and down.
The perfect slice is 1/2-inch thick.
Step 2 - The Toasting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the bread on 2 large baking sheets and brush each slice on both sides with the olive oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. (If undersides are not browning, turn crostini over once during baking). Let cool on baking sheets. Top crostini with desired toppings, and serve.Let cool completely.
Step 3 - The Beautiful, Glorious Toppings
How many ways can you make an Italian "little toast"? The only limit is your imagination (and what you have available in your pantry). Let's begin with the well-known savory little bite we call bruschetta, which, by tradition, holds diced chopped tomatoes and fresh basil.
- Slice and toast the bread as explained in Steps 1 and 2 above.
1 1/2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes
Romas are meatier; fewer seeds
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Provides a bite, a bit of heat
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
Dressing for your "salad"
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
sweet and tangy
6 basil leaves, thinly sliced
herby bright flavor
1/2 teaspoon salt
brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
the bite of heat rounds out the flavors
- Slice the tomatoes vertically into quarters. Remove the seeds (with the tip of a spoon or your fingertips) then roughly chop the tomatoes into small dice.
- Mix diced tomatoes with remaining ingredients. Don't top the toasts with tomato mixture until ready to eat (these quickly get soggy, and you want the toast to be crisp/crunchy).
Now that you know the basic recipe, I'm going to share some flavor combinations with you.
Recipes/Suggestions in this Article:
- Basic Tomato/Basil Bruschetta
- Cranberry/Bacon Jam Crostini
- Shrimp/Avocado Crostini
- Smoked Salmon/Marscapone Crostini
- Italian Meatball Crostini
- Apricot/Goat CheeseCrostini
- Whipped Feta/Olive Tappendade Crostini
- Mushroom Pesto Crostini
- Apple and Honey Crostini
- Chocolate Hazelnut Spread and Strawberry Crostini
- Sweet Cherries with Ricotta Crostini
Cranberry Bacon Jam Crostini
Marion is the "chief cook, bottle washer, recipe developer, photographer, writer, social media crazy person, and founder of Life Tastes Good". And she also created this savory bite of cheese, smoky bacon and tart/tangy cranberries.
And here are some more great flavor combinations:
mashed avocado with a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
shrimp, cleaned, shelled, and cooked
dash of smoked paprika
mascarpone cheese with chopped chives
smoked salmon (sliced very thinly)
fresh dill sprigs and rinsed drained capers
pre-cooked frozen meatballs warmed according to package instructions and sliced in half
sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese
Apricot/Goat Cheese Crostini
Jessica Erin of stuckonsweets.com provides this introduction to her site: "I am the recipe developer, photographer, and writer behind this here blog! You will find a little of everything including healthy meals, comfort food, and my favorite - sweets. So stay awhile...I hope you're hungry!"
Her apricot/goat cheese crostini has it all—tangy goat cheese, sweet brightly-colored apricots, and the crunch of salty green pistachios.
Whipped Feta/Olive Tappenade
1 cup feta, 1/4 cup cream cheese, 2 T Parmesan and 2 tsp. lemon juice
Mix of ripe, green, and Kalamata olives, chopped
arugula leaves, torn
3 cups assorted sliced mushrooms sauteed in olive oil
shaved Parmesan cheese
This is not the first time I have introduced you to Maria and Josh, the humans behind the sweet blog twopeasandtheirpod. They are so creative, I feel it's worth taking another look. Maria's apple/honey crostini requires one different step—the bread slices are topped with brie prior to going into the oven.
And a few more dessert ideas:
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread with Strawberries
fresh strawberries, sliced
pinch of sea salt
Sweet Cherries with Ricotta
fresh ricotta cheese
sweet cherries, pitted, chopped, and mixed with sugar
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Linda Lum