I have a soft spot for cornmeal. My Italian side loves it for polenta & pizza dough, while my Southern side demands sweet cornbread with lots of honey butter. This time, the latter won out & it was off to the Internet of Things to find inspiration.
Fun fact: Swiss chard is my favorite vegetable, aesthetically speaking. (The favorite tasting award is currently held by Brussels sprouts.) I’m not sure I captured the vibrancy of the sunset-colored stalks in my photo session, but they are unbelievably gorgeous. Paired with their dark and stormy leaves, chard is a dramatic little diva of a plant. (Yes, I am still talking about a vegetable. I’m officially a crunchy hippy weirdo, thank you very much).
Before we get started, some clarity on a pet peeve: its brus-SKE-tta. I even have proof. All hail the internet!
The one recipe I have always drooled over from Julie & Julia isn’t even a Julia Child one– it’s that fantastic looking fried bread masterpiece that she throws together before deciding to embark on her epic journey. The bread is browned to perfection, but still remains soft; the tomatoes ooze with salty, basil-y delight; and the expressions of joy coming from Julie’s husband when he stuffs bite after bite into his face? Well, that’s just beautiful. I don’t think that man had to act an ounce in that scene, the lucky son of a …..
The key for me was avoiding the crunchy, toast-like outcome one often finds in bruschetta. I wanted a slight crisp on the outside with a warm, soft inside, so that it wouldn’t cut up my mouth but still provide me with a satisfying bite. Pan-frying over a fairly moderate temperature with butter seemed to do the trick. Because, really– when does butter NOT do the trick?
1 soft baguette, cut into 1″ slices (I went with a half-baked option because I wanted absolutely no crustiness to get in the way of my vision and baguettes tend to be a bit rough around the edges)
4 T butter
3-4 medium tomatoes, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped into small 1″ pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 T fresh basil, sliced thinly
1 T balsamic vinegar
3 T olive oil
1 t salt
In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, shallot, basil, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk together and add the tomatoes, stirring thoroughly so that the tomatoes are coated in the dressing. Taste and add salt if needed. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the butter over medium with some salt. When melted, throw in a clove of garlic and cook for a minute. Remove the garlic and place the bread slices down, swirling in the butter. You may need to do this in a couple of batches. Make sure that your bread doesn’t dry out and start to toast– add more butter if you need to and don’t be shy. It will take about 4-5 minutes per side to brown. When the bread has browned on both sides, remove and lay out in a single layer on a large plate. Spoon the tomatoes over and top with extra basil. Serve immediately (wait too long and the bread will become soggy).