You know an ethnic dish has become Americanized when you see it everywhere—on menus, in magazine recipes, and online—and hear it mispronounced more often than correctly. My current favorite example is bruschetta. It seems as if everybody’s making it and everybody’s eating it. Who knew something as simple as toasted bread with garlic and olive oil could taste so darn good?
Let’s get the correct pronunciation out of the way first. It’s bru-SKET-TA, not bru-shedda. I came across a recipe this past weekend and was surprised to see the directions call for rubbing slices of Italian bread with the cut sides of a halved garlic clove before it had been toasted. There’s no way I could have accomplished that. My counter would have been littered with shreds of bread.
Although bruschetta is at its best when grilled over glowing coals, it’s most often done by home cooks in the oven. Some people broil their bread, but the oven gives you more control.
The better the quality of all the ingredients, the better the result. You want a rustic Italian or sourdough style of bread that when toasted is sturdy enough to provide the rough surface you need to catch and hold the smeared bits of raw garlic from the cut sides of a garlic clove that you rub across the toast. Details matter here, and you want to halve that garlic clove crosswise, not lengthwise. This way, you have something to hold onto.
Now the toast is ready for anointment with a fruity extra-virgin olive oil. Drizzle it or brush it on. Skip any recipe that oils the bread before toasting; that ruins the pleasure of tasting the fresh, uncooked olive oil. A few flecks of sea salt and you are ready to go. Sure, there are a myriad of toppings you could add, chopped tomatoes being the most popular, but at least try it with just the garlic and oil. It’s my idea of pure and simple.