The tale behind Bruschetta


The tomatoes are so ripe,- sweet, acidic, yellow, purple, green, striped, golden,
gigantic, plum-shaped, grape-sized, paste-style, slicers, heirloom, high bred, my favorite, grandma’s favorite, your favorite.

Whether you grow them yourself or support local farmers at the market, the best tomatoes are fresh from the vine picked only when they are ripe.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-4-13-42-pmBruschetta is one of the many ways we enjoy tomatoes. But let’s keep in mind the history of bruschetta and realize the tomatoes are no more the bruschetta than the ketchup is the hamburger.

Just as fall is the time for tomato harvest, it is also the time for olive harvest.

In Italy, the home of bruschetta, olive harvest was a celebrated time of year.

A celebration which included not only the press of the olives, but feasting, bonfires, wine and all manner of great food and fun.

And so the story goes: the harvested olives were placed in the press to extract the beloved oil.

This great press was then manned by the strong, toga — clad young men of the community.

Each man, finding his place on the great levers of the press, would walk the worn path to
compress the olives.

Encouraging the process and their local heroes, the smiling observers would gather around in anticipation of the oil.

As the first drop of oil appeared from the press, the rotations of the press were counted, for only the first three rotations could be called “Extra Virgin.”

At this point, the sweating young “bucks” could take a break before they continued.

A drink of wine, a little food, but the most important step was dipping a piece of chewy Italian bread in the oil and roasting it over the fire.

It is this olive oil anointed, fire-roasted bread which is the bruschetta.

This is not to be confused with the thin sliced and baked croistini.

As time evolves and creativity ensues, condiments to adorn this wonderful treat of the olive harvest were created.

White beans, sweet corn, roasted sweet peppers, eggplant, artichokes and, of course, our beloved vine-ripened tomato.

All of them seasoned and embellished to the taste of the chef but all incomplete without the fire roasted, extra virgin olive oil anointed bread.

We enjoy our tomato, basil and garlic bruschetta topping each season when everything is perfect for the harvest.

So try this recipe for your next fall party. Remember to fire roast your bruschetta.

I recommend a good, hot charcoal grill for the roasting.

— Chef Merlyn owns Merlyn’s Catering

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