Ultimate Italian snack

by Mary Cokenour
When you want to nosh, what kind of appetizer or snack is your must have?
Basic home snacks could be anything from a bag of chips, bowl of popped corn, crackers with a topping, veggies and dip, even cookies or a cupcake.
If you are out at a restaurant, you might see on the menu: mozzarella sticks, cheese fries, nachos, deep fried veggies or ravioli, or chicken fingers.
Been there, done that; same old, same old?
Now is the time to try something very different, romantic (hey, it is Italian), yummy and healthier (I know, I know, bad word, especially around kids, but not this snack!).
Bruschetta, and while it might be a little difficult to pronounce the first time; you will not forget after you have had it.
Bruschetta (Italian pronunciation: [brus-ket-a]; American pronunciation: [bu-shetta], ignoring the “c” altogether) is an appetizer from central Italy whose origin seems to date back to the 15th century, but possibly even older than that.
It was a way to use stale bread by toasting or grilling it, then enhancing the flavor by rubbing with garlic and topping with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
Variations may include toppings of spicy red pepper, tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat, and/or cheese.
The most popular recipe, especially in America, involves basil, fresh tomato, garlic and onion, or mozzarella; similar to a snack version of Pizza Margherita.
Brushchetta can be served as an appetizer, simply enjoyed as a snack, or depending on the ingredients, and work put into it, a meal.
(Italian Style)
Ingredients: loaf of Italian bread, preferably day old, cut into ½” slices, 2 cloves of garlic, olive oil, salt
Preparation: Grill both sides of the sliced bread; or place under a broiler for one minute, flip slices, place under broiler for another minute.
Cut the cloves of garlic in half and rub cut sides over one side of bread; drizzle olive oil, sprinkle on salt.
Con Pomodori (Grilled Bread with Tomatoes)
Ingredients: half loaf of Italian bread, cut into ½ “slices, 1 Tbsp. minced garlic, 4 Tbsp. olive oil, 6 Roma (plum) tomatoes cut into ¼” pieces, 1/8 tsp. each of salt and ground black pepper, ¼ cup minced fresh basil leaves, 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Grill both sides of the sliced bread; or place under a broiler for one minute, flip slices, place under broiler for another minute. Smear one side of each slice with minced garlic.
In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, tomatoes, salt, black pepper, basil and vinegar. Top garlic side of each slice of bread with mixture.
Makes 6 servings.
Note: 1 – Shaved parmesan cheese can be placed on top of mixture.
2 – Thin slices of mozzarella can be placed on top of mixture; place under broiler for a minute to allow cheese to melt.
These are the two basic appetizer/snack recipes for making bruschetta. Now let us get to the meal versions, or should I say, my experiments in bruschetta style meals.
This recipe was published in Taste of Home Magazine, September 2007 issue. I had sent it to them way back in 1997, and then suddenly they contacted me in 2007 to say that they were going to publish it. Imagine my surprise! (https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/crab-bruschetta/)
Crab Bruschetta
Ingredients: 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots, 2 garlic cloves, minced, 2 Tbsp. plus 1/4 cup olive oil, divided, 2 cans (6 ounces each) lump crabmeat, drained, 1 cup chopped seeded plum tomatoes, 1 and ½ tsp. minced fresh basil or 1/2 tsp. dried basil, 3/4 tsp. minced fresh oregano or 1/4 tsp. dried oregano, 8 slices Italian bread (1/2 inch thick)
In a large skillet, sauté’ shallots and garlic in 2 tablespoons oil until tender. Add the crab, tomatoes, basil and oregano; cook and stir for 5-6 minutes or until heated through. Remove from the heat.
Brush both sides of each slice of bread with remaining oil. In another large skillet, toast bread for 1-2 minutes on each side. Cut each slice in half; top with crab mixture.
Makes 16 appetizers, or 8 meals.
This next meal version I say is “bruschetta without the bread”. Having received some eggplant, I figured I would make the same old, same old eggplant parmigiana.
Roy and I both do not like eggplant, so it gets distributed to his mom and brother, down in Moab; and Richard Watkins down in Blanding.
However, a recipe that used eggplant as the top and bottom of a sandwich type appetizer/main course item, with spaghetti and sauce as the filling, appeared on my newsfeed.
While the photo looked pretty, I truly did not see the point of it; but it did get my mind going into a creative direction.
To the refrigerator I went to look for ingredients that would work with the eggplant; Roma tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, but then I spied the chicken cutlets defrosted for another recipe.
Suddenly the picture of a recipe came into my mind, like little photos. I was off and cooking!
The eggplant would be the base ingredient, just as bread was for bruschetta; olive oil, garlic, Italian herbs, tomatoes and cheese were a given.
The chicken, however, would give the entire dish a new dimension in flavor and texture; this would be one of those recipes that could be an appetizer or a main meal.
Enough chit chat and let’s get to cooking...
Eggplant-Chicken Bruschetta
Ingredients: 1 medium sized eggplant cut into 12 (1/4” thick) slices, 3 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided in half, 1 Tbsp. Italian herbal mix, 6 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1/4” thick, cut to equal or slightly larger size than eggplant slices), 6 slices Roma tomatoes, 6 slices mozzarella cheese, 3 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Line a platter or baking sheet with paper towels; lay out eggplant slices, sprinkle with salt and cover with additional paper towels. Wait a minimum of one hour before pressing the paper towels onto the eggplant to remove excess water that has been drawn out by the salt.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil, medium-high heat, in a large skillet; place eggplant into skillet, brown one side, turn to brown other side and sprinkle garlic powder over first browned side. Remove to paper towels.
Put remaining oil into skillet plus herbal mix; place chicken into skillet and brown both sides; remove to paper towels. Preheat oven to 375F; line baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Build a stack: eggplant slice, chicken piece, tomato slice, cheese slice, eggplant slice. When all stacks are made, place on the baking sheet and top with 1/2 teaspoon of grated cheese. Bake in oven for 5 to 7 minutes to allow mozzarella cheese to melt.
Makes 6 servings for an appetizer; Makes 3 servings for a meal.

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