A Taste of the Mediterranean: Bruschetta!
By Dennis Linden
This month’s recipe, submitted by Melissa’s own Debra Cohen, is perfect for all who claim that they just cannot cook—mainly because there is no cooking! Deb’s Delicious Bruschetta is an easy-to-make recipe consisting of just four ingredients that totally contradicts this short list of components with a surprisingly powerful flavor. Using three of the company’s most convenient products, Deb creates the perfect party platter app, though be aware that keeping that platter filled for your guests may turn into a full-time job for the host!
Bruschetta has been a tradition in Northern Italian cuisine way before the region had a “cuisine”! Culinary historians trace the dish to the Etruscans, an agrarian people who occupied what today is called Tuscany from about 800 BC to about 300 AD. It all started as a simple way to add some flavor to the local bread of the times, which was bland, salt-less and best eaten when day-old and a bit stale. Legend has it that hungry farmers, who were busy picking the tomato harvest, would take their a lunch break in the field; the fare being a little olive oil brushed on a slice of that salt-less bread and then topped with pieces of tomato and washed down with the always-present local red wine. That field meal evolved into a home-cooked version that called for rubbing slices of bread with a clove of garlic and olive oil then popping into an oven for a quick grilling before topping each slice with diced tomatoes. Those ancient foodies believed that the oil should be very young and recently pressed. In fact the formula for a good bruschetta is found in an old Italian proverb: “Day-old bread, month-old oil, and year-old wine”.
Chef Deb’s version of this ancient dish starts with a good baguette, sliced medium thick, that is generously topped with a luscious mixture of Melissa’s Baby Heirloom Tomatoes (fine diced), a high-quality olive, one whole packet of Melissa’s Fresh Peeled Garlic (also diced fine) and then sprinkled with a good dose of Melissa’s Organic Garlic & Herb Sea Salt Grinder.
“This recipe came about because of a Monday night tradition of my two daughters and I going to my sister’s house to all make dinner together. We wanted something to snack on as we were cooking that was quick and easy, so we started making this bruschetta”, Debra explained, adding, “Now both in their teens, my girls have kind of taken over making it. This is a really simple recipe, but anyone who has ever tasted it asks for more!”
“We love garlic so we add a lot of it,” said Deb. “It’s a matter of taste, so use as much or as little as you would like, but it really is key to the flavor of this recipe.” And I have to say, after diligent research, that flavor is rich, full-bodied and deliciously addicting!
Debra Cohen has been with the company for 31 years, since Melissa’s inception. “Actually, I started working on labels before we even opened” she recalled. “In those early days, I wore many hats. I answered phones, did sales, billing, packing, loading – whatever needed to be done.”
“We didn’t have fax machines or computers back then,” Deb explained. “Everything was done by hand and over the phone! For instance, once a truck was loaded we would have to call in the “passing” item-by-item and the customer would also be writing it all too! The work days were long but quite fun and very rewarding.”
While her truck loading days are behind her, Debra still wears many hats. She handles all the company’s trademarking needs, writes copy, proofreads, edits and manages the monthly blogs for Melissa’s retail website. She also works closely with the company’s nutritionist Cheryl Forberg as well as responding to and solving a myriad of miscellaneous projects that arise on a daily basis in a company as large as Melissa’s.
Debra also has three other “hats” to tend to when office hours are over: two daughters, 17 and 14, as well as a furry human son, a Bichon Frisee!
Since I described this recipe as a great party platter appetizer, I should add one culinary warning: Enjoy Deb’s Delicious Bruschetta alone or with a group of friends; however, DO NOT attempt these tasty slices alone in a group of friends. The garlic content of these little morsels is on a scale that demands that everyone in the room eat at least one slice as a defense-by-immersion strategy to combat the reality of garlic breath – if enjoyed by all, it will be detected by none. So enjoy and don’t forget the Chianti!
Deb’s Delicious Bruschetta
Make about 20 slices
1 clam shell Melissa’s Baby Heirloom Tomatoes
3 packets Melissa’s Fresh Peeled Garlic
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive
Melissa’s Organic “My Grinder” Garlic & Herb Sea Salt, very generous sprinkle
1 French Bread Baguette
Dice the tomatoes: slice each tomato in half lengthwise, then half each half again, then half each quarter crosswise; eight pieces in all.
Place the diced pieces into a strainer, which is shaken, rinsed and drained several times over a 30-minute period to drain all the juice and loose seeds away.
Dice an entire packet of garlic!
Combine the diced garlic and tomatoes in a medium mixing bowl. Then add olive oil until all is lightly coated. Sprinkle with My Grinder Garlic & Herb Sea Salt to taste.
Spread the mixture on either mini toasts or a sliced baguette and serve on a platter.