We Americans often think that bruschetta is the mixture of tomatoes, garlic, and basil on a slice of toasted bread. Bruschetta, from the Italian word bruscare, meaning to toast or burn, actually refers to the thick slices of grilled bread. Often served as a snack or appetizer, bruschetta is traditionally prepared by rubbing the bread with garlic and drizzling it with olive oil before toasting it over hot coals. Then the bread is topped with a simple mixture of tomatoes and fresh herbs. It is an easy way to showcase the excellent quality of freshly-pressed olive oil as well as a way to preserve bread that is beginning to get stale.
This version veers away from the simple, traditional bruschetta. First off, goat cheese is spread on the toasted bread. Then,the bruschetta is topped with a mixture of sautéed mushrooms, bacon, and sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, leftovers from the pesto pizza I had made last week. The tangy goat cheese complements the topping very well. There is only a hint of garlic on the grilled bread and topping so it isn’t overpowering and the red pepper flakes it a little heat. It’s an easy-to-prepare, yet elegant appetizer that is delicious served the same day, but even better re-heated the next day.
Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Bruschetta
Yields approximately 12 servings
loaf of Italian bread, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch thick slices
2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
good quality extra-virgin olive oil, as needed, to brush slices of bread
4 to 5 slices of bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium shallot, diced
3 cups mushrooms, sliced (Use whatever combination of mushrooms you like. I used shiitakes and creminis.)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, or more, to taste
¼ cup fresh thyme, on the stem, plus a bit more for garnish
1/4 to 1/2 cup of cognac (substitute red or white wine or sherry)
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and pepper
6 to 8 ounces plain or garlic-herb flavored goat cheese
Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Rub slices of bread with the whole garlic clove and then brush with olive oil. Toast in the oven until slightly crisp and light golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Cook the bacon in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel.
Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Reduce heat to medium and add butter to the skillet. Sauté the garlic and shallots for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and thyme and cook for about 5 minutes, until mushrooms and tomatoes have browned and softened. Deglaze with cognac, scraping the flavorful brown bits off the pan, and cook down until the liquid is reduced. Season with red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Remove thyme stems.
To assemble, spread bread slices with goat cheese and top with mushroom/sun-dried tomatoes mixture. Sprinkle with reserved thyme leaves.
Serve warm or room temperature.
Adapted from Blue Jean Gourmet.
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