Peak summer tomatoes are sweet enough to eat alone or layered into a simple salad, but sometimes they need a little heft to turn into a meal. Enter bruschetta.
This long-standing Italian antipasto staple of olive-oil-grilled bread comes from the word bruscare, which originally referred to cooking with fire. That’s how I like my bread—charred over smoky coals—but stovetop-toasted slices taste great too, especially when they’ve been rubbed with garlic.
I blast the bread over high heat—with the grill, stove, broiler or toaster oven—so that it browns so much the color is almost black. That gives it a flavorful, sturdy crust outside without getting so crunchy all the way through that it cuts the roof of your mouth when you take a bite. With a generous drizzle of olive oil and light flurry of salt, the garlicky bread is a delicious vehicle for holding anything from wilted greens to smashed beans.
On warm summer days, I like it best piled with marinated tomatoes. Often, fat tomatoes are diced for bruschetta, but I find that topping too wet with a diluted taste even if the tomatoes have been seeded. Instead, I use small grape or cherry tomatoes. Good ones burst like flavor bombs when you pop them in your mouth.
Simply sliced in halves or quarters, they soak up a tangy olive oil and vinegar blend without turning to mush or diminishing in flavor. I add a splash of soy sauce to the mix to highlight the natural savory umami in tomatoes and add a smashed whole garlic clove to give the topping the aroma of garlic without the overpowering bite of minced bits. To maximize basil’s freshness, I tear leaves on top right before serving.