McCray: Bon appétit to simplicity

What's Cooking

September 1, 2009 

Tomatoes

This week's What's Cooking recipe (9/2/09) uses plum tomatoes. (Matt Rourke / The Associated Press)

I saw "Julie & Julia" the other night and, although I salivated at the close-ups of chocolate pie and baguette slices sizzling in butter, one lingering question spoiled the film for me:

How did that couple afford all those groceries?

She's an unhappy secretary who set out to cook 524 Julia Child recipes in a year. He's a magazine editor who delighted in consuming every butter-drenched bite. They live in a tiny apartment above a pizza parlor in New York City.

So, are live lobsters really in their budget? Do they clip coupons for fois gras?

I know, you're supposed to suspend your disbelief. One thing I can relate to is Julie's schedule. She'd get home from work after dark, then labor over fancy French food for hours. The couple would finally eat, at their coffee table in front of the television, around midnight.

This is not so different from my life, BK (before kids). Now, we have a dining table and a steady supply of frozen pizzas.

One snapshot from the movie that stuck with me was Julie frying slices of bread for bruschetta in butter. Seems I'm not the only one. This image — it lasts only about two seconds — has spurred chatter on food Web sites. Everyone wants the recipe.

I don't know why you need a recipe to fry bread in butter. But the scene did inspire me to chose this week's dish.

I picked a simple bruschetta, one with a few, choice ingredients. I used tomato and basil from our garden. I bought my baguette at the farmers market.

No, I didn't fry it in butter, but the dish still was everything bruschetta should be — crispy bread, juicy tomatoes, hints of basil and garlic.

It didn't take hours to prepare, and it didn't call for any expensive, hard-to-find ingredients.

I like to think that Julie — and Julia — would approve.

Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at kmccray@modbee.com or 578-2358.

What The Testers Had To Say

I prepared half of the recipe as directed and then roasted a whole head of garlic and spread the remaining bread slices with the paste from each clove of the roasted garlic. This gave the bruschetta a slightly sweeter taste. I also topped each bruschetta with shaved Parmesan cheese and popped them back into the 350-degree oven for about a minute to soften the cheese a bit.

— Jan Gibson, Modesto

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The scene in "Julie & Julia" where Julie and her husband are quaffing down bruschetta would make anyone want to seek out a bruschetta recipe. I rubbed the toasted bread slices with half of a garlic clove. This is an extra step that does not seem to lend much garlic taste to the bread. Instead, I would either brush with garlic-flavored olive oil before toasting or just add chopped garlic to the bruschetta mixture. I did not use plum tomatoes, but instead removed seeds from my garden tomatoes, then chopped and let sit in a colander to drain for a few minutes. Overall, a good recipe. From this, you could have at it with any other ingredients — olives, capers, grated Parmesan or other cheeses, roasted red peppers, etc.

— Sandy Cadra, Oakdale

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This recipe is perfection — a simple way to enjoy and really taste the summer. I sprinkled a bit of shredded mozzarella on top of the bruschetta.

— Carolyn Conser, Modesto

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I have had bruschetta before and this one was very refreshing.

— Donna Boots, Modesto

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This is such a quick and simple recipe, and most cooks have the ingredients on hand already.

— Debbie Kennedy, Modesto

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I got tomatoes and basil from out the back door; with a little chopping, the topping was ready. I used a French baguette, toasted the pieces in a toaster and wiped each slice with the cut garlic. It's the perfect amount of garlic to balance with the sweetness of vine-ripened tomatoes. This is a great hors d'oeuvre or can replace a sandwich for a meal.

— Ann Waldron, Sequim, Wash., formerly of Modesto

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After the garlic rub, try spreading a bit of softened goat cheese or well-seasoned farmer cheese on the bread prior to the tomato topping. Delicious!

— Sandy Loya, Modesto

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This is such a yummy appetizer, especially this time of year. I didn't bother seeding the tomatoes and hadn't planned on rubbing the bread with garlic (the bread I used had garlic in it), but was persuaded to do so by my husband. We were both glad — it gave it that extra oomph!

— Ann Griffith, Modesto

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Cutting the tomatoes into ¼-inch dice was time-consuming. Next time, I'll use the mini processor. Instead of extra-virgin olive oil, I used half garlic oil and half basil oil. When baking the sliced baguette, I used a wire rack instead of a cookie sheet to hold the slices; so I didn't need to turn them over. The bruschetta was delicious.

— Ralph Moore, Modesto

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A good bruschetta recipe is always great to have on hand, and this is a yummy one. Everyone thought this was delicious, though perhaps the seeded baguette I purchased competed against the flavor of the tomato mixture. It was very fresh, light and flavorful, not too salty or too oily. I guess I always measure effort vs. taste, though, especially when it comes to 20 minutes of dicing fresh tomatoes ... isn't there a good tomato/basil bruschetta mixture available in the deli somewhere?

— Karin Reenstierna, Modesto

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