I'd like to introduce to you bruschetta - an Italian appetizer from Italy that goes centuries back in time. The ingredients are basic good-for -you foods such as grilled bread with olive oil, herbs, spices, tomatoes and cheeses. It is a casual finger food snack and simply irresistible for both chilly Tahoe winter nights and the first day of March with our abundant South Shore sunshine.
Several years ago, in my cabin study, where I penned The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, a project included a trip to oliveland - just three and a half hours away to Napa where olives groves grow. A late fall snowstorm wreaked havoc on my schedule to include Frantoio's Restaurant in Mill Valley, but I did arrive later than never. And that is where I had my very first and unforgettable taste of bruschetta - tomato and cucumber bruschetta with extra virgin olive oil and basil.
When I entered the restaurant, I was whisked off to my own booth with a full view of the oakwood-fired oven. The menu boasted seasonal Tuscan delights using local produce and cheese. As a vegetarian, I selected the pizza, made with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil. As I sipped chamomile tea, I savored bruschetta - a nice teaser to the scrumptious pizza. Yes, for me, this was an adventure because while I've had Italy on my "Go To" list forever, an authentic Italian food experience was the next best thing. I felt like I had gone abroad for the evening and was in foodie heaven.
So, this week while we're in a no-snow drought - yes, I forecasted this event for Tahoe in my January 2013 Forecasts Oracle 20-20 MagazineEarth Changes column - I sat on the deck in the warm sunshine on Monday morning. For an hourlong radio show interview, I, the author-intuitive, was grilled about my Healing Powers superfood book series and Earth predictions. My mind wandered to, "What should I cook for 'What's Cookin' at Callie's Cabin' this week - that's when I got the incoming message: "bruschetta." I followed my gut instincts and taste buds, despite that I'm living in Northern California instead of Northern Italy. No matter. This recipe provides a taste of Italy wherever you are.
Cheddar Cheesy Bruschetta
6-8 small slices sourdough cracked wheat bread (3/4-inch thick)
2 medium Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2/3 cup cheddar and Romano cheese, shredded
1/3 cup mayonnaise (or 2 tablespoons olive oil)
Rojo's Salsa (1/2-3/4 cup)
European-style butter (or extra virgin olive oil)
Place bread slices on baking sheets (lined with parchment paper for easy clean up). Spread bread lightly with butter or oil. Bake at 375 degrees for several minutes on each side till toasted. In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, salsa, and cheeses. Spread even portions over toasted bread. Bake for several minutes till cheese melts and bubbles. Serves 3-4.
On Wednesday, I made Cheddar Cheesy Bruschetta and devoured the appetizers for lunch and dinner. These cuties are best served hot out of the oven. If you put them in the fridge, they won't be as crisp because of the water-dense fresh tomatoes. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy these toasty treats are to make and how divine they taste with fresh bread and tomatoes (and local salsa for a punch), cheeses, and butter for a rich flavor. Okay, it may not have been an entree seen in my fave film "Under the Tuscan Sun" - but with warm and bright sunshine at Tahoe and munching on crunchy Cheddar Cheesy Bruschetta, it's the real deal and makes the cut.
More 'Cool' Winter Sierra Appetizers
French Vanilla Spice Milkshake: 1 1/2-2 cups premium French vanilla ice cream, 1/2 cup organic, low-fat milk, 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon, whipped cream, dark chocolate shavings. In a blender, whip till thick and creamy. Top with cream and chocolate shavings. Serves 1-2.
Winter Fresh Fruit: Combine 1/2 cup each of sliced or chopped bananas, cherries (pitted), oranges, red grapes, and berries. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice and honey (local preferred). Serves 3-4.
Motto: If you can't be where you want, be where you are and enjoy! There is no place like home especially surrounded by creature comforts.
- Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include "The Healing Powers" series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Powers of Honey and Coffee are offered by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is-www.calorey.com.