I was working at a family owned steak house in Oklahoma City in 2006. It was a dinner only sort of establishment, with a menu consisting entirely of red meat from the grill. The chef at the time had formerly run the kitchen at the National Gallery of Art in D.C. as well as a flashy resort on Grand Cayman. He could cook a steak that would knock your socks off, but his heart was in Italian food. And, from working in places that did such high volume caterings, he had developed some foolproof recipes. Such as the Bruschetta con Cecca he taught me when I was throwing my first grown up housewarming party with the Gent.
Cecca is the Italian word for the combination of tomato-basil-garlic that most of us Midwesterners called simply, Bruschetta.
The trick with this recipe is draining the water out of your tomatoes prior to mixing them with the rest of the ingredients. the second trick is using prepared pesto. It doesn’t add too much liquid, packs a more nuanced flavor punch, and best of all requires NO TIME AT ALL, when you are trying to get your eye make up done before your guests arrive….
recipe after the jump….
Bruschetta con Cecca
1 lb tomatoes, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
olive oil (or garlic infused olive oil)
1 TBS Balsamic vinegar
3-4 tbs prepared basil pesto sauce or spread (i love Classico‘s Basil Pesto)
Baguette or Italian bread, sliced into 1/2 inch slices, toasted
Dice tomatoes and place in a strainer over a bowl, or on a bed of paper towels in a baking sheet. Generously salt the tomatoes to draw the water out. Cover and allow to sit for 30 minutes to an hour, pressing down on tomatoes from time to time to help release liquid. Slice and toast bread for 8-10 minutes in a 325 degree oven.
Mix drained tomatoes, diced onion, pesto sauce and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl. Add more olive oil one tablespoon at a time as needed to create your preferred consistency. You kind of have to eyeball it, as the amount of liquid needed will vary depending on how much liquid you were able to extract from the tomatoes. I usually find that 1-2 tablespoons is plenty. Salt and pepper to taste.
Set tomato mixture aside for the flavors to marry.
Brush the tops of your bread slices with a light coating of olive oil (this seals the bread so it can’t absorb too many juices from the topping and get soggy. VERY important if you prepare this for a cocktail party and the little toasty things sit around for a little bit). Arrange your toasts on a plate, top with tomato mixture, lightly drizzle with balsamic vinegar, ensuring that each pile of tomatoes gets a nice hit of acid. If you don’t have balsamic vinegar, a spritz of fresh lemon juice is nice substitute.