If you were to travel through Tuscany the first bruschetta you would ever encounter would be consisting of a slice of unsalted bread, untoasted, and a finely chopped tomato salad seasoned with basil and olive oil on top. As much as that is the “most traditional” example of bruschetta, I find that this version can deliver more flavor and more substance and transform what is usually considered a simple snack into a real filling appetizer… or a full meal if you decide to have twpo servings and a beer!
The tomatoes are roasted to concentrate their flavor and served on toasted slices with melted mozzarella and a finish of fresh basil. Of course it is at its best when the summer tomatoes are in season, but roasting also does pumps up supermarket tomatoes that aren’t so perfect.
- 4 plum (Roma) tomatoes, halved lengthwise
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Two 3-inch sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 wide slices crusty Italian bread
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella, preferably mozzarella di bufala,
- 8 large basil leaves
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300ºF.
- Lightly oil a baking dish just large enough to hold the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes, cut sides up, in the dish and season with the salt and pepper. Add the thyme and drizzle with about a tablespoon of oil. Bake until the tomatoes are shrunken and very tender, and their juices are thick and concentrated, about 2 hours. Let cool to room temperature. Discard the thyme.
- Position the broiler rack 6 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler on high.
- Toast the bread in the broiler on one side, about 1 minute. Turn the bread and toat until just beginning to color, about 30 seconds. Remove the bread broiler, and rub the more toasted slides with the garlic clove. Divide the mozzarella evenly over the lightly toasted sides. Return the bread to the broiler and cook until the mozzarella melts, about 1 minute.
- Transfer the bread to a cutting board. Stack the basil leaves and, using a sharp knife, cut them crosswise into thin shreds. Top each with 2 tomato halves, sprinkle with the basil, and serve immediately, with a fork and knife.