Bruschetta. This oft mispronounced dish (audio) is one that I usually find myself having when the mood arises to go produce shopping. I don’t mean your usual weekly trip to a shopping mall or supermarket. What I’m talking about is when the mood strikes to spend a little extra time, a little extra money and travel a little further afield to get your hands on good quality ingredients from specialist vendors. For me, this comes up around once every 3-4 weeks.
Of course, bruschetta is something that could be had far more often than every 3-4 weeks and a lot of the ingredients are readily available at any supermarket. After all, all it consists of bread, tomatoes, bocconcini cheese, basil & garlic. However, for a simple dish such as this, or for any simple dish really, the key I find to make something special of it is to use the best quality ingredients you can get your hands on.
So where do I source my ingredients for my bruschetta?
Bread – Ciabatta from Haberfield Bakery. There is a surly lady in her 50′s that on the one hand is an interesting fixture to the store and on the other hand intimidates me. There are very few times that I’ve seen this lady resemble anything close to being friendly. These are when you don’t spend too much time selecting the bread you’re after and you bring exact change with you. If you’re having a bad morning and all you have with you is a $50, you might be better off settling for the bread at the nearby IGA supermarket a couple of doors down.
This bakery stocks a reasonably variety of Italian baked breads, including pre-made pizza bases. The ciabatta here has a nice, thick crust with a delightfully chewy core. Personally, to date I’ve yet to find a place that sells better ciabatta.
Tomatoes – Ripe Truss Cherry Tomatoes. When looking for good produce, such as these cherry tomatoes, I regularly gravitate to one of two locations; Paddy’s Markets, Flemington or the Norton St Grocer, Leichhardt. Paddy’s Markets is great for produce, so long as you know what to select and from which vendor. However, I find that to not waste too much time on parking and to ensure that you can get your hands on the produce at their best, earlier is better. In my case, around 6am.
Norton St Grocer is my fall back plan, either because I’d woken up too late to avoid the traffic within the market complex, or I know I’m going to be in the area anyhow to purchase other goods. I find the variety and consistency at Norton St Grocer to be pretty good most of the time. However, I find that they can be a little expensive at times. If you know of a green grocer that stocks consistently good produce at a reasonable price, share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to know :)
Cheese – Bocconcini from Paesanella.When I think good cheeses, there are two places that I think of – Ocello in Surry Hills or Paesanella, Haberfield. Paesanella is a cheese vendor of choice mainly because of its location relative to other quality food purveyors as well as its locality to my house.
Paesanella are renowned for their fresh cheeses such as a number of varieties of ricotta (heavenly if you’re able to get it while it’s still warm), as well as bocconcini in a variety of sizes. You could even go extra luxurious and purchase their buffalo mozzarella, but at something like $8 for a baseball sized ball of cheesy Ecstasy I tend not to buy that all that often.
There are a whole host of other cheeses, a modest selection of olives and antipasto and other Italian goods available in the store.
Basil – Freshly picked from the garden. Fresh herbs are a wonderful thing to have on hand, whether they be growing from a pot on a window sill or out in the garden. The original plant was purchased from my local Flower Power. Gardening is not my thing. I appreciate the produce that can be produced but I find the whole process of maintenance to be too tedious. Thankfully aside from the watering, I find that the basil plants do just fine without my help.
If it’s not from the garden, as with the tomatoes, it’s either from Paddy’s markets or some decent green grocer.
Garlic. The same deal with the tomatoes and basil. Get the freshest you can get.
Once you’ve gotten your hands on good quality ingredients, to make a yummy bruschetta doesn’t take all that much effort. All you need to do is:
- Slice the ciabatta anywhere from 0.5cm to 1cm thick. Ideally grill the bread on a griddle pan or on a BBQ grill but I often just toast my bread.
- Slice the end off a clove of garlic and proceed to rub the cut surface onto the surface of the freshly toasted bread. I find that this is best done before the bread cools down, as the aroma the garlic is given off more readily. Some people say to cut the garlic in half but I find that you waste garlic that way. Once you’ve used the surface of the cut garlic, slice that end off to reveal a fresh surface and repeat.
- Lay down a few leaves of basil.
- Arrange a layer of sliced tomato and bocconcini on top to finish off. You can go the way that I’ve presented it or often I would lay down the tomato first followed by the bocconcihi so that it ends up as the top layer.
You could finish off the dish with salt, pepper and a good quality extra virgin olive oil. Maybe even a little balsamic vinegar. I generally prefer the clean taste of the bruschetta as presented but it really depends on my mood as to which way I go.
Haberfield Bakery, Haberfield
153 Ramsay St, Haberfield, NSW.
Hours: Mon-Fri 7am – 5:30pm, Sat 7am-3pm.
Paddy’s Market, Flemington
Austin Avenue, Flemington, NSW.
Hours (produce market): Sat 6am-2pm
Norton St Grocer, Leichhardt
Norton Plaza, 55 Norton St, Leichhardt, NSW.
Hours: Mon-Wed & Fri 8am-7pm, Thurs 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-6pm, Sun 10am – 6pm.
88 Ramsay St, Haberfield, NSW.
Mon-Fri 8am-5:30pm, Sat 7:30am-2:30pm, Sun 9am-1pm.