At age four or five, while visiting friends of the family, I was introduced to bruschetta, the crunchy slices of grilled French bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.
I called our host Barba and hostess Magna. An industrious couple, they were building their dream home amid a vineyard in Calistoga. Before the house was built, they lived below the ground where Barba had carved out a large cavern which would become the basement when building commenced.
There were wooden steps descending to the fascinating underground hide-away. In the summer it was at least 30 degrees cooler in Barba and Magna’s temporary living quarters, a delightful retreat for a young child to run around barefoot on damp ground.
Magna was an excellent cook. She set an elegant table with good china, silver, and tasty dishes upon a large wooden table for her guests. There was spaghetti with meat sauce and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. A variety of vegetables from the garden were also served. Barba poured red wine from a dark green bottle in crystal wine glasses for the adults. It was in this unique underground room that I first tasted bruschetta.
I remember a plate piled high with slices of grilled hard-crusted bread accompanied by a large bowl of chopped tomatoes, onions, and fragrant garlic mixed with pungent seasonings. I delighted in spooning the tomato mixture onto the bread and letting the juice soak in before I took my first bite.
At the end of our visit, if there was any bruschetta left, Magna packed it up for me to take home, and she also tucked in a net bag filled with her favorite pastel Jordan almonds. Bruschetta still remains a favorite dish and brings back fond memories of hospitality and love.
• Slice French bread baguette into 1/4-inch slices.
• Drizzle with olive oil.
• Panfry bread slices on both sides until toasty brown.
• Set bread aside.
• Dice 3 medium-large tomatoes and a half medium onion into pea size pieces.
• Stir in 1 tablespoon minced garlic.
• Toss with 1 tablespoon each, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
• Add 1 heaping teaspoon Italian seasoning.
• Salt and pepper to taste.
• Spoon diced tomato mixture on prepared baguette slices — Yummy.
Include olives, crumbled crisp bacon, basil, bleu, Parmesan or mozzarella cheese.
Yield – three generous servings. Note: Recipe can be doubled.
Bernadine Chapman-Cruz is a contributing writer for Big Monkey Group Publications. Raised in Stockton, she lives in Lodi with her husband, a cat named "L" and dog, "Forest." She enjoys writing, cooking and dining out.