Uncle Tessa’s Bruschetta
Prep time: 30-45 minutes
I am posting this recipe in honor of my niece, Jillaine. Now a happily married young woman, Jillaine was growing up at the time in my life when I was well imbedded into the punk scene here in LA.
Like my boyfriend at the time, my hair was cropped short, and my typical ensemble was some version of Levis pegged to fit tight, black leather work boots or black canvass lowrider loafers from Kmart, a handmade band t-shirt or a men’s dress shirt pilfered from a thrift store, and a beater leather motorcycle jacket. To the hilariously sharp, smart, and sassy little Jillaine, I registered as a dude.
Armed with her awesome brand of little kid grit, Jillaine defied all adults who tried to correct her when she referred to me as Uncle Tessa. Of course, all her younger cousins, quite assured that the slightly elder Jillaine knew her shit, followed suit. And, to this day, I am Uncle Tessa. I absolutely would not have it any other way.
One holiday season a few years ago, the now adult Jillaine invited family members to give her our go-to fave recipes. She then compiled these into beautiful scrapbooks that she gave to us as gifts (right?! I told you she is clever). This bruschetta recipe was my contribution.
As an assertive antipasto, I enjoy the tangy pop of the cherry tomatoes against the juicy smoothness of peeled tomatoes. The firm red onions and fresh basil show up nicely due to lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. I like it piled high on crusty bread, as is traditional bruschetta. But, being punk rock and all, I add a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese, instead of an Italian variety.
Enjoy! And, cheers to you, Jillaine! I will always be your Uncle Tessa.
4 large tomatoes – peeled, seeded, and chopped in chunks (when priced right at the grocery store or farmer’s markets, I use heirloom varieties. In general, I use the organic tomatoes-on-the-vine variety).
1 cup cherry tomatoes – halved then halved again and seeded
11 large basil leaves – chiffonade (how to below)
3 large cloves garlic finely chopped (1-2 tablespoons to your liking). Reserve 1/2 tablespoon
1/2 cup diced red onion (or more if you, like me, dig onions)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Juice from 1 small lemon (2 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
Loaf of crusty bread
To peel tomatoes: prepare a bowl with ice and water. Bring a pot of water to a boil and, one at time, add the tomatoes with a slotted spoon. Watch them closely and, once the skins split, spoon them out into the ice bath. They are now ready to peel, seed, and chop.
Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, halving them again to make quarters. Remove seeds.
Chiffonade: pile up basil leaves, roll the pile together, and chop into thin ribbons.
Combine tomatoes with cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and gently toss/stir until all ingredients are well distributed, adding coarse salt and fresh pepper to taste.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes to let flavors develop.
Bread prep: If you are experienced with your chef’s knife, create a garlic paste by piling the reserved garlic on a cutting board with a pinch of coarse salt. Mash the salt & garlic combo by sliding chef’s knife over it, dragging the combo along the cutting board, using a bit of pressure to mash it together. Scoop garlic mash back into a pile and repeat. Combine mash with olive oil in a small bowl and mix with a fork to distribute garlic into oil. Brush on wedges of crusty bread and toast.
Alternatively, if you are not as confident with your chef’s knife, just rub a whole garlic clove on toasted bread and drizzle with olive oil.
Recipe & photography by Tess. Lotta