by Janet Fletcher
I like toast — who doesn’t? — but I adore bruschetta. Never mind that they are one and the same; to me everything sounds better in Italian. Maybe you think of bruschetta as something you eat for lunch, or as an appetizer with a glass of wine, but I have bruschetta for breakfast, too. It’s just toast, after all. Everything tastes good on it.
For breakfast, I’ll top bruschetta (pronounced brew-sketta) with ricotta and sliced peaches or pears from the Napa Farmers Market. When the Fuyu persimmons come in, in a month or so, I’ll slice them for my breakfast bruschetta. Kiwis are a great option too, and sometimes I’ll alternate slices of persimmon and kiwi. Beautiful.
For lunch, I’ll make an egg salad with farm eggs from the market, mayonnaise, chives and tarragon. Slathered on grilled toast, that’s bruschetta.
Great bread is a must for bruschetta. It has to be sturdy and not have too many holes that the topping can fall through. I’m loving the sourdough boule from Royal Artisan Breads at the Napa Farmers Market. Day-old bread is great for bruschetta. Slice it about a half-inch thick and grill, broil or toast it. You can brush it with olive oil before or after.
At this time of year, with tomatoes, sweet peppers and eggplant beckoning at the farmers market, I have too many bruschetta ideas and not enough meals. Here are a few ideas you can execute without a recipe, plus a recipe for a favorite late-summer bruschetta.
Grill or toast bread. Rub one side vigorously with a cut clove of garlic, then drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Halve a ripe tomato and rub the oiled side of the grilled bread with a tomato half until only the tomato skin is left in your hand. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.
Halve some cherry tomatoes. Warm extra virgin olive oil and chopped garlic in a skillet until the garlic is fragrant. Add the cherry tomatoes and salt. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes soften and render their juices; don’t let them collapse. Stir in some torn basil leaves, then spoon over grilled or toasted bread.
Cut plum (roma) tomatoes in half lengthwise, brush generously with extra virgin olive oil, and season with salt and dried oregano. Roast slowly in a 300 degrees Fahrenheit until they are very soft and almost caramelized, about 2 hours. Let cool until just warm, then put a tomato half on each slice of toast and grate some feta over it. Garnish with basil.
Chef’s Cooking Demo at the Market: Chef Terry Letson of Fumé Bistro will do a cooking demonstration at the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 10 a.m. The demonstration is free and recipes and tastes will be provided.
Kids’ Activities at the Market: Bring your youngsters to the Education Station at the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday, Sept. 22, for Story Time at 9:30 a.m. Story Time repeats at 10:30 a.m., followed at 10:45 a.m. by Earth Art: the four seasons of fruits and veggies.
On the KVYN Music Stage at the Market: Darlene Gardner will perform at the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday, September 22.
Bruschetta with Sweet Peppers and Ricotta
From “Fresh from the Farmers Market” by Janet Fletcher (Chronicle Books).
1 large golden bell pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 slices dense sourdough bread or pain au levain, each about ½ inch thick and 4 inches long
1/4 pound whole-milk ricotta
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
Roast the peppers over a gas flame or charcoal fire, or under a broiler, until they are blackened on all sides. Let cool, then peel, halve and remove the seeds and ribs. Cut the peppers lengthwise into strips about ½ to ¾ inch wide.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over moderate heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the peppers, season with salt and pepper and saute just until the peppers are coated with oil and are hot throughout. Set aside and let cool in the pan. For best flavor, saute the peppers 1 hour ahead so they can absorb the oil and exude their own juices.
Toast the bread on both sides. Drizzle one side of each slice with 1 teaspoon oil. Season the ricotta with salt and pepper, then spread an even layer of cheese on each of the 6 toasts. Stir the basil into the peppers, then divide the peppers and their juices among the 6 toasts. Serve warm.
Makes 6 bruschette.