First things first, is this crostini or bruschetta? And if it’s the latter, do you say broo-sheh-ta or broo-skeh-ta?
Oh, who cares? Hush up and eat it. Why? Because it may be the single best piece of toast topped with creamy cheese and tangy, garlicky cherry tomatoes I’ve ever eaten.
For the record, I say broo-sket-eh, because that’s how my Italian friends say it, and bruschetta is traditionally toasted bread topped with tomatoes and garlic.
Crostini is small, toasted (or fried) bread — think sliced baguette — served with any variety of toppings.
I know, I know, these days bruschetta is topped with the all kinds of stuff. A certain Phoenix restaurant built their reputation on the plethora of bruschetta they serve.
I’m not here to judge what you call it or how you pronounce it. I’m here to tell you how to make this incredibly simple, lip-smacking, moan inducing, easy snack.
There is a caveat. With so few ingredients, each one is crucial to the bruschetta’s success. Let’s start with the tomatoes.
Summer cherry tomatoes are the most important component. The smaller the better for sweetness and tender skin. If possible, source them from a local farmer. You’re likely to get heirloom varieties like currant gold, red pear and candy red.
The bread is critical, too, so look for a sturdy, hearty artisan type with a dense crumb to hold up the weight of the ingredients.
I’m using a roasted garlic, whole grain bread, but I’ve also used a dense, chewy multi-grain — both from local bakers — with great success.
The remaining ingredients are sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, ricotta cheese, garlic and chives. And salt and pepper, of course. I cannot overemphasize the importance of sherry vinegar in this dish. It is the secret weapon, so use one that you like.
I use a toaster oven when I’m making a small quantity. Feel free to double this recipe, but you don’t need to double all the ingredients, just the tomatoes, garlic, bread and ricotta. You can get away with 1-1/2 times the oil, vinegar, chives, salt and pepper.
Here’s the blah blah version (the full recipe is below).
Toss the tomatoes with some oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and roast in a hot oven just until the garlic turns toasty brown and the tomatoes have burst. Save the vinegar for post-roasting.
Speaking of saving, I hope you saved that bowl you tossed the tomatoes in because you can use it again — without washing — to gently scrape the tomatoes into before the vinegar sprinkle.
Gently toss the tomatoes with the vinegar — you don’t want to obliterate the shape of the tomatoes completely.
Now slice your artisan bread (and it’s OK to use the word “artisan” here because this is the real meaning of the word — you listening Domino’s? Tostitos?)
Brush one side of the bread with extra virgin olive oil and toast either after the tomatoes have roasted (if you are using a toaster oven) or concurrently in a toaster while the tomatoes roast.
You can toast the bread and roast the tomatoes ahead of time, but don’t assemble the bruschetta until just before serving. To me, serving it a skosh warmer than room temperature is best, so I generally make this just before I plan to serve it.
I cut the toast in half, on the diagonal, just because it looks cool.
After slathering the ricotta cheese on the toasted bread, spoon on the tomatoes (there will be a cook’s extra bite or two of the tomatoes), sprinkle with chives (here is how to micro-mince chives) and add more freshly cracked black pepper if you like. Or red pepper flakes if you fancy a little chile heat.
And then share.
- 8 ounces baby cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (~ 2 medium cloves)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 2 slices rustic bread (1/2-inch thick)
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh ricotta
- ½ teaspoon minced chives
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. (I use a toaster oven for this small of a quantity).
- Toss the baby tomatoes in a small bowl with the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Spread mixture on a small baking sheet (save the bowl for the next step) and roast for 6 to 8 minutes, until the garlic turns light brown and the tomatoes have burst.
- Remove from the oven and gently slide tomatoes (and juice, garlic and oil) back into the tossing bowl.
- Sprinkle with the vinegar and gently toss with a spoon, trying not to obliterate the tomatoes. You want them to retain some of their original shape.
- While the tomatoes are roasting, brush one side of the bread slices with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil.
- When the tomatoes come out of the toaster oven, turn the setting to toast and toast the bread until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Alternatively, toast the bread in a toaster while the tomatoes are roasting in the oven.
- Cut the toasted bread into two pieces on the diagonal. Spread evenly with the ricotta.
- Place on a serving plate or platter. Spoon the tomatoes over the cheese. Sprinkle with the minced chives. Serve immediately.