One of the main struggles I encountered while living in Brazil was the food, since there was a serious lack of vegetables (beets and potatoes can only get you so far) and of flavors other than salty and sweet. The one type of food that helped me break up the monotony of potato/rice/bean/meat-centric meals was Italian. Tomato and cheese are universally tasty and comforting. I’ve noticed in my travels that Italian food is popular around the world, no matter what the regional tastes are.
One of my favorite food memories in Brazil took place in Salvador at an Italian restaurant where a friend and I each had our own bowl of what came out to be $25 spaghetti marinara. It was delicious. Although the Brazilians liked to put their own twist on “Italian” food (like mayonnaise on pizza), this meal was perfectly simple: tomato, cheese, garlic, pasta.
In my house, one of our go-to appetizers for Christmas/New Years/Easter/Birthdays is tomato bruschetta. Recently, my parents planted a large basil plant in our backyard, which makes this special dish that much easier and fresher. This past week I had some of my cousins over to my apartment and prepared this dish to share with them.
Step 1. Tomatoes (seeds on the table optional). I saw these pretty little cherry tomatoes at the supermarket so I went with these instead of full size tomatoes. They are more manageable to get into small pieces and if you don’t use all of them they’re easier to store.
Step 2. Garlic, salt, and pepper.
Step 3. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. The usual ratio for a balsamic dressing is 3 parts olive oil to 1 part vinegar. I try to follow this, but I go more by sight than exact measurements.
Step 4. Basil. I had a hard time finding this at a supermarket since it was buried underneath a pile of mint. But basil is basil and as soon as I smelled the plant I knew it was basil. I’m considering buying a basil plant, it’s just such a lovely herb to have around. I roll up a few leaves and then julienne them to add some color and aroma to the salad.
Step 5. Let is marinate. Cover the container and put it in the fridge for a few hours. As Emeril says, “let it get happy.” Then pile it on top of some bread and enjoy. I added some chopped mozzarella to this batch right before serving. I also accompanied the bruschetta with some goat cheese and roasted red pepper crostinis.