There’s only two things that money can’t buy/
And that’s true love and home-grown tomatoes
That line from an old John Denver song popped into my head the other day while I was talking to my mom about the abundance of tomatoes she had just harvested from her garden. I have a super strong memory of hearing those lyrics on my brand new Sony Discman as we drove through the Rocky Mountains on a family road trip when I was 8 or 9. The words struck me as deeply true back then, and though my affinity for John Denver has since gone by the wayside, my undying love and appreciation for home-grown tomatoes has remained strong.
Growing up, a bushel basket of ripe tomatoes was constantly present on our front porch from 4th of July to mid-September. If it was a good year, we would have to race to eat or can the ripe ones before the supply was replenished by the next harvest.
And thus what shrimp was to Bubba from Forrest Gump, tomatoes became to me: I was constantly scheming new uses for this bounty. That’s how my twist on bruschetta was born. Way back when I invented this recipe, I had only a vague notion of what bruschetta was supposed to be and didn’t realize that the tomato topping isn’t usually heated. Even though I’ve since tried the more typical raw tomato kind, I prefer my original “mistake”- it just makes for bruschetta that tastes a little more like pizza, and that can’t be a bad thing.
I used day-old olive ciabatta bread for this batch of bruschetta, but have used baguette and even multigrain sandwich bread in the past. Bread is second fiddle to tomato/basil/cheese no matter how you slice it, so anything that tastes nice toasted and is capable of sopping up juice will do.
About 15 medium-sized slices bread
2 T olive oil
5 ripe medium sized tomatoes (the best you can find, the riper the better)
2 T olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed or grated
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 c shredded basil
6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While it heats, prepare the topping. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces, about 1/4 inch cubes. Drain off most of the excess juice (it’s ok to leave a little, but you don’t want it too soupy). Add the 2 T olive oil, vinegar, onion, garlic, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
Brush the bread lightly with olive oil on both sides. Arrange on a baking sheet and toast in hot over for about 5 minutes, until the tops begin to turn golden. Flip over each piece and bake another 2-3 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and divide tomato topping evenly among the bread. Top with cheese and return to the oven until the cheese is thoroughly melted (3-6 minutes). Serve hot.