In its simplest form, bruschetta (from the verb bruscare meaning "to char"), is day-old bread that has been grilled, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. These garlic-perfumed toasts are the perfect vehicle for wonderful seasonal toppings, which can, for the most part, be made well in advance and just assembled when it's time to serve.
Toast four slices of crusty bread (something like a white country loaf is perfect) under a grill or in a pan until slightly charred. Rub each slice on one side with a cut piece of raw garlic then top with your choice of the following.
Roasted peppers, capers and basil
Roasting capsicums intensifies their sweetness and is one of my favourite ways to eat them. If you have a gas stove, they can also be grilled directly over an open flame for a smokier flavour, but the oven is far less messy and yields similar results. If you make them in advance, store them in the fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.
6 red capsicums or a mix of red and yellow
1 tbsp salted capers, rinsed and patted dry
handful of basil leaves, plus extra for serving
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 200C (180C fan-forced). Arrange capsicum on a baking tray and roast until they have collapsed and their skins have blackened (about 1 hour), turning them over half way through the cooking.
2. When the capsicums are cool enough to touch but still quite warm, gently peel the skin from the flesh. Discard the skin, stalks and seeds. Place the capsicums in a nonreactive bowl or container and add the remaining ingredients. Mix gently with your hands, season to taste with salt, and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. Spoon onto the grilled bread and top with more basil leaves. Halve each bruschetta and serve.
Cannellini beans, black olives and fennel salami
I love the combination of beans, olives and salami – it's one I return to quite often as it uses ingredients I usually have on hand, and is, of course, delicious. You can substitute the canned beans for dried if you prefer, and cook them yourself. Flavour the water with garlic, bay leaves and rosemary for extra flavour.
2 x 400g cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 small clove garlic, finely grated
juice and finely grated zest of a lemon
60ml (¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
100g dry cured black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
sliced fennel salami, to serve
1. Place the beans in a small bowl and add the garlic, lemon zest, juice and olive oil. Season with salt and mash with a fork until almost smooth. Alternatively blitz in a food processor until you have a rough puree. Spoon onto the grilled bread and top with some olives. Halve each bruschetta, drizzle over some extra olive oil, and serve with slices of fennel salami.
Tomatoes, mint and ricotta
Now that we have beautiful heirloom tomatoes coming in to season, it's a perfect time to be making this summery topping. I love mint with tomatoes, especially when ricotta is involved, but basil is of course an obvious alternative. Make this bruschetta only when you can get your hands on excellent tomatoes.
600g (about 4) tomatoes, roughly chopped
handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
sea salt and black pepper
200g firm full-fat ricotta
1. Combine the tomatoes and mint leaves in a small bowl and drizzle in the olive oil and vinegar. Season generously with salt and a little pepper and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes so that the flavours can meld together. Spoon onto the grilled bread and halve each bruschetta. Top each half with a dollop of ricotta, an extra drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of salt and black pepper.