Transylvanian Bruschetta

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summertime for Romanians means tomato salad. Period. This salad is largely based on the Greek salad, except it's minus the olives which Romanians prefer to eat seperately and with cheese. When I met my husband Andrew (who's half Italian), I fell in love with two things besdies him: basil and bruschetta. So it was only a matter of time before I combined everything into one of my Go To Appetizers for Summertime Entertaining.

This salad is extremely easy and inexpensive to prepare as well, and very party friendly as it actually tastes better if you do it in advance and let it stay in the fridge a few hours. It's great on its own as an appetizer, or minus the bread for a wonderful side salad to any grilled steak or even fish. I've made this appetizer a thousand times and every time it's a crowd pleaser. It's one of the first things that got me recognized back in law school as a good cook, and it became the second most requested item when people came over. For all those reasons, it will have a special place in my heart.

Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese aka "Transylvanian Bruschetta"
4 large, red very ripe tomatoes sliced in thin wedges or chopped
1/2 cup red onion, sliced thinly or chopped
2 small cucumbers peeled, seeded and sliced thinly or chopped
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp fresh parsely, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh basil, chiffonade or finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (not balsamic) or the juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (recommended: Valbreso French feta)
Chiabatta bread

In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, red onion, and cucumbers. Sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper to taste (but keep in mind how salty your feta cheese is!). Add the parsley, basil, and vinegar. Drizzle enough olive oil to just coat the salad (this will depend on how juicey the tomatoes are) and mix well. Top with the feta cheese and gently combine, evenly distributing the feta within the salad.

Let stand at least 30 minutes so the flavors can combine together. You can do this salad 5 hours in advance.

Preheat grill to med-high (charcoal you want to let the flames to be completely gone; gas about 400-450 degrees).

Slice the chiabatta bread into 1/2 inch slices. Brush one side with olive oil and gently sprinkle a very small amount of kosher salt. Grill the bread on one side until good marks are made and the bread is toasted, but not browned or blackened. Remove promptly. (Yes you only want to grill one side because if you grill both sides, you'll get more of a "cracker" than a toasted slice of bread, and for this dish that has lots of juices, you want some bread to soak it all up!)

To assemble:
Top the warm chiabatta toasts with the cold salad, about 3/4 of the way up the toast, leaving an area for people to easily grab onto the bruschetta. Fan out the bruschetta on a serving platter either lining them up in a straight line, all facing the same way if using a rectangular platter or fan them out from the middle if using a circular one. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top and serve.

Serving suggestion:
Very cold glass of pinot grigio.

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