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My kind of heaven: tomato and olive bruschetta

October 26, 2010

If I had to eat vegan for the rest of my life, I would live off this bruschetta, especially in summer. If there was one last thing I wanted to eat before carking it, I would ask for this (unless it was winter when tomatoes aren’t worth eating). But yes. This is it, and it’s so so simple, quick and easy, bless those Italians. Fresh, deep red tomatoes, just-picked basil, kalamata olives, lightly roasted garlic, and fresh pan fried crusty peasant bread, not quite white yet not quite wholemeal. The perfect combination of sweet, sour, salty, crunchy, soft and rich…and garlicky (how could it not be on this blog?!).

I realise it isn’t summer yet and tomatoes are still around the $8/kg mark, but I found some truss tomatoes at Gordon’s greengrocers on Victoria Street for $5/kg and I just couldn’t help myself. Fortunately, the tomatoes were fantastic, even for a discerning tomato fanatic like me. Thus I declare that tomatoes are now alright to buy. That’s right, declare. However, might I add as a disclaimer I am from New Zealand, and also not all greengrocers/supermarkets will stock decent tomatoes. What you’re looking for is deep red but not squishy tomatoes, and if you sniff them, your brain should make you involuntarily go “mmm” out loud, thus amusing nearby strangers. Do yourself a favour and don’t make bruschetta unless you find such tomatoes. Nay, don’t spend your hard earned money on any other kind of tomato. Trust me on this. Good and bad tomatoes may as well be in different food groups, and I don’t say this to be a snob, but to prevent much unnecessary tomato hate-age.

Other flavour combinations are of course possible, however this just happens to be my favourite version due to its simplicity. If you’re not an olive fan, you can use goat’s feta or just enjoy the tomato/basil combination. Wiki’s page has other traditional toppings as well. Whatever you use, start with the freshest ingredients possible – I used the tomatoes the day I bought them. Try not to use more than 5 topping ingredients (not including salt and pepper) to let the flavour of each ingredient shine.

A quick related gardening note: My tomato plants are now in the ground, and if you happen to have seedlings, it is now safe in New Zealand to plant them out (after Labour weekend for the South Island), preferably still in a place close to the house (for chilly nights) but a place that also gets the maximum amount of sun possible. My own have just started to flower. Beans are well established too. So. Excited. Need a life, really.

Tomato and olive bruschetta

serves two as a very light lunch or snack/appetizer

  • 2 slices ciabatta, sourdough or very light wholegrain bread. French bread will do too. If you use supermarket sandwich bread, you will be disappointed
  • 3-4 Tbs olive or cooking oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 very ripe, deep red, super fresh, fragrant tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • about 1/4c kalamata olives, pitted
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a frypan large enough to fit bread on one layer on medium low heat.

While pan is heating up, place tomatoes, basil and olives in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to your liking, set aside. Pull the garlic clove apart and rub it over the bread slices.

To test if oil is hot, flick a drop of water into the pan – it should sizzle. Place bread on a single layer into the pan, and add garlic to pan. Once golden on the underside, remove the garlic to a chopping board and flip the bread.

Chop garlic finely and mix into tomato mixture. Your toast should be golden on the second side now. Remove from heat and plate. Top with tomato mixture.

Eat immediately.

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