A Lesser Known But Still Classic Appetizer: Bruschetta with Prosciutto and Fontina

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bruschetta is one of my all-time favorite dishes. It's easy to make, gives a beautiful presentation, and can be made with readily available ingredients. And like a good friend, is one of those classic dishes that will never fail you for a dinner or party.

There are two main components to a bruschetta: toasted bread and topping. That's it. Bruschetta comes from the Italian word bruscare (pronounced brew-SCAR-eh), which means roughly "to roast over coals." This is in obvious reference to the toasted bread that serves as the "plate" for the topping. And for the record, bruschetta is pronounced brew-SKET-tah, not brew-SHET-tah. A big pet peeve for Italians or those of us married to one.

Bruschetta is traditionally comprised of a grilled bread, often a chiabatta or filone bread, that is cut into 1/4 - 1/2 inch slices and brushed with olive oil, and grilled. While still hot, it is rubbed with a clove of garlic and then topped with a combination of finely chopped fresh tomatoes, red onion, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and more good extra virgin olive oil.

Traditionally, bruschetta was born in the dark cellars of olive oil pressers. To taste the olive oil, pressers would bring with them some stale bread. As the oil would come out of the presser, they would quickly grill some of the bread on a small portable grill and then dip it in the olive oil to gage the quality. Then garlic was added to the bread, then the tomatoes, and soon we had the bruschetta we know today.

Other variations of the bruschetta exist. Some include a fresh mozzarella in the mixture or replace the tomatoes with cooked beans (like cannelini or even garbanzo). Still others use smoked meats and cheeses, like I did for this recipe featured in this post.

Prosciutto yields itself to many dishes, but I personally love it when it's the star of the show. A good bread, some melted cheese and a topping of a good quality imported prosciutto is a wonderful way to start a meal or enjoy a glass of wine on a lazy Sunday afternoon. So here's my recipe!

Bruschetta with Prosciutto and Fontina
chiabatta bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick
extra virgin olive oil
fontina cheese, sliced thinly
imported prosciutto
rosemary sprigs for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush each slice of bread with some olive oil and lay out on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes until the bread starts to get golden brown. Remove from oven and top each slice with the fontina cheese, then return to oven for 5-7 minutes or until cheese has just melted. Top each slice with some prosciutto and garnish with a rosemary sprig or loose leaves if desired. Then drizzle with more olive oil and serve immediately.

My notes:
This recipe doesn't have measurements because you use the ingredients within proportion of how much you're making. It's completely to taste. Make 4 slices of bruschetta or make the entire loaf! The cooking time will be the same!

I like rosemary actually with this because it goes very well with the fontina cheese and prosciutto, and gives a small but noticeable bite of freshness and earthiness. If you hate rosemary, then you can do thyme. Don't bother with basil or oregano - they aren't strong enough flavors to compete with the cheese and aged ham.

This dish cannot be make in advance, but the advantage of this for a party is that it can literally be done in 15 minutes. To save some time, ask your bakery to pre-slice your loaf for you so all you have to do is brush with olive oil and bake when you get home.

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