Making the perfect bruschetta: Tips from Evan Kleiman

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A classic bruschetta is topped with fresh tomatoes. Photo by Evan Kleiman/KCRW

Bruschetta or fettunta (oiled slice) in Tuscany is toasted bread that’s rubbed with a peeled garlic clove, sprinkled with salt, and doused with extra virgin olive oil. A generous application of good olive oil is key. The bread can be toasted in an oven or toaster, on a grill-pan, or ideally on a livefire grill. 

It’s the original garlic bread. It’s a food that was born out of “cucina povera” or “the cuisine of the poor.” Field workers could have luxurious sustenance as long as they had those ingredients and could make a fire.

The bread should be sturdy, with a closed crumb structure. It requires generous slices from a good country loaf, maybe from homemade sourdough. Once toasted, the surface of the slice should be crunchy but not cracker-thin. The garlic should be fresh, but not sprouted. The olive oil should be the extra virgin saved for special occasions.

Toppings: A classic bruschetta might come with ripe chopped tomatoes and a little summer basil.  But bruschetta can be garnished with nearly anything. That includes ricotta and hard cooked egg for breakfast, sliced tomato and sardines with onion for lunch, or roasted cauliflower for dinner.

There’s the age-old question of how to pronounce bruschetta. There is no letter “k” in the Italian alphabet. The “k” sound is made by “ch.” In classic Italian, the toasted bread is pronounced “Brusketta,” not “Brushetta.”