Julie & Julia. As I watched Julie and her husband devour those crisp slices of bread covered in olive oil, heirloom tomatoes, and basil...well...I knew a week would not pass before I gave it a go in my own kitchen.
Forget one week, I didn't even let two days pass. I was first enticed by a couple of beautifully ripe orange heirloom tomatoes at The Real Food Co. and snatched them up. Yesterday I added to my collection with some juicy and full flavored Early Girl tomatoes from the farmers market. I also found a huge bunch of basil from a Bolinas farmer with a stand I hadn't seen before, I believe it was La Tercera, but I'm not completely sure because I was too focused on the basil. The type of basil she sold was unfamiliar to me, thin stems topped by little globes of tiny basil leaves, loads of them. The nice man at the Acme Bread Co. counter suggested a Long Italian loaf of bread and it was an excellent choice, perfect for this recipe, perfect. I already had garlic, fleur de sel, and my pepper mill was full. I deviated just a smidge from what I saw in the movie by adding one small ripe fig to the mix. A fig might seem a little out of place here, but I've never heard of fried bruschetta either, so I figured, why not?
I began prepping my ingredients about an hour before I planned to eat. Step one was cutting up my tomatoes into traditional bruschetta sized chunks. To my bowl of super ripe and juicy tomatoes I added the little leaves from several basil stems and stirred it around gently with my hand. I topped the tomato basil mixture with one very soft and ripe fig cut into small pieces. Don't add any salt at this point because it will make the tomatoes release their juices and if you've selected ripe tomatoes they'll be juicy enough. Wait and add the salt at the last moment, right before you eat your bruschetta. I then placed a piece of saran over the bowl and walked to the library to return a book.
When I returned from my library walk, after thinking about my bruschetta feast the entire time I was away, I anxiously moved forward. I poured some (I wasn't shy) olive oil into a heavy bottom pan and began to warm the oil over a medium heat. I placed several slices (about 3/4" thick and sliced on an angle) of bread into the pan of warm oil and brushed the top side of the bread with the oil in the pan that was pooling up around the slices. Once I'd covered the top side of the bread with oil I moved the slices around in the pan so the bottom side could absorb more oil. I wanted this bruschetta to look as crazy good as the bruschetta in the movie. Just forget that it is not the bruschetta you know and love and move on. Fat, calories, and Italian tradition were not on my list of priorities.
Once the bread was lightly browned on the bottom side I turned it over and continued heating the bread until it was lightly browned on the other side. The bread should have that overall crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside look.
I removed one slice of bread from the pan at a time and thoroughly rubbed each slice with a 1/2 clove of garlic. Next I spooned mounds of the tomato, basil, and fig mixture on top of the garlicky bread and sprinkled it all with a bit of Fleur de Sel and freshly ground pepper.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this meal was absolutely delicious! Yes, the bruschetta alone was my meal. It was all I needed. It will be all you need. I haven't swooned over my food like this in quite a while. I was the only one home and I'll admit to moaning out loud with each and every bite.
We are right in the middle of tomato season and the timing could not be better for a dish such as this that revolves around fresh sun ripened tomatoes. I strongly recommend giving this non-traditional and utterly indulgent version of bruschetta a try. You will not be disappointed.
* I performed an encore at about 10:30 pm, when Chris made it home from a long day at work. He happily devoured a full plate of this goodness and thanked me with a nice kiss (and a couple of bites of his bruschetta).
Choose your dinner companion carefully, this dish begs to be followed by nice kisses.