Saturday, March 8, 2014
By RUSS PARSONS, McClatchy Newspapers
(Continued from page 2)
The possibilities for bruschetta toppings are almost limitless, especially at this time of year, when the markets are overflowing with the best of the fall harvest – tomatoes, eggplant, peppers.
Probably the most traditional way to prepare eggplant is sauteing. This is also the only preparation that calls for pre-salting . Cut the eggplant into large chunks or dice and season it generously with salt. Arrange the eggplant in a colander and weight it with a dish or bowl and let it stand for at least an hour (put it in the sink or over a bowl to catch the drained liquid). Give it a quick rinse and pat it dry. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add some chopped onion. Once that has softened, add a little minced garlic. When that is aromatic, add the eggplant chunks and cook until they are lightly browned and tender, about 10 minutes. Remove to a bowl to cool and, just before serving, season with red wine vinegar.
Tomato: There is no vegetable more basic to the bruschetta than the tomato, and there is no preparation more basic than a simple chop. Core the tomatoes, cut them in half crosswise and squeeze out the seeds. Chop them moderately fine and, just before serving, season with salt, minced garlic and good olive oil. Basta.
As long as you've already got a fire going, you might as well grill the tomatoes. Core them, cut them in half and squeeze out the seeds. Arrange them in a grill basket and cook them over a medium fire, just until they are slightly charred, about five minutes. Brush them periodically with garlic-infused olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
You can also confit the tomatoes: Choose plum tomatoes for this and core them and slice them in half lengthwise. Put them in a gratin dish with a few peeled whole cloves of garlic. Pour over enough olive oil to moisten generously, season with salt and pepper, and bake at 350 degrees until the tomatoes are shriveled and shrunken, the garlic is soft and the whole thing smells like heaven.
Peppers: Probably the most luxurious bruschetta you can make is one dressed with grilled peppers. It's also really easy to make: Grill whole peppers over a medium fire until they are scorched and shriveled on all sides (don't worry if there are some black spots). Remove them to a bowl, cover them with a towel and let them steam for five minutes. When they're cool enough to handle, simply pull the charred skin away with your fingers. Tear the peppers into shreds and season with thinly sliced garlic, salt and sherry vinegar (or, if you have one, a good aged aceto balsamico). The peppers can also be roasted in the oven on a jelly roll pan at 400 degrees.
If for some reason that doesn't work for you, try a peperonata-style topping. Saute onions in olive oil over medium heat until they get fairly brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add sliced peppers and minced garlic and cook briefly, pour over a little red wine and continue cooking until the peppers wilt, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and red wine vinegar.