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Bruschetta is toasted bread seasoned with garlic and olive oil, commonly served warm as an appetizer, snack, or side dish. The name comes from the Italian word bruscare, which means "to roast over coals." Many variations exist; adding tomatoes, other vegetables or beans is common.
The simplest form of bruschetta starts with Tuscan bread, toasted either over coals or in a toaster. The toasted slices are rubbed with a cut clove of garlic, and then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Salt and pepper can be added, if the cook desires. As a tradition, bruschetta serves to test the new harvest of olive oil each year.
Other variations include tomato, vegetables and/or cheese toppings. Sometimes the bread is nearly immersed in oil, but usually it is just drizzled. To prepare a tomato bruschetta, a cook rubs the toasted slices with a ripe cut tomato, or tops the bread with a layer of chopped tomatoes seasoned with basil, salt, and pepper, and then drizzles it with oil.
Bruschetta is also a means to use bread that is beginning to get stale by adding oil and seasonings to improve its flavor. Many variations use uniquely flavored roasted or hard breads. A vegetable bruschetta might incorporate mushrooms, roasted peppers, and/or olives. Cheese topped versions can include feta, mozzarella, Parmesan, or even blue cheese.
The breads used for bruschetta vary; some recipes call for Italian, French, or baguette. The most common breads used are two versions of pane pugliese: piadana and crescente. However, traditionally it is made with Tuscan bread, which is a rather tasteless, white bread with a crunchy crust.
Common bruschetta recipes include toppings such as white beans, Swiss chard, walnuts or pine nuts, and roasted or bell peppers. Ingredients for a bean-topped variety include white beans, chopped plum tomatoes, Kalamata olives, olive oil, salt and pepper. After the bread is toasted and drizzled with olive oil, it should be sprinkled with goat cheese and topped with the bean mixture.
Another bean version includes cloves, lemon juice, and walnuts. Other recipes include versions with eggplant, clams, or lentils. Bruschetta recipes that could serve as main dishes include sausage, artichokes, or shrimp.