The Best Appetizer Ever….Pesto Bruschetta

I love summer cooking. All that “in season” produce makes for some yummy summertime meals. I have a special affection for pesto. Not sure what it is about basil, cheese and pine nuts, but I can’t stay away from it. I was never a fan of pesto until the past couple of years. Now, my only problem with it is that I can’t find enough food to eat it on!

Here is a wonderful combination of pesto and bruschetta that you will absolutely love. It’s a little time consuming but if you make the pesto and the tomato parts ahead of time, it’s very quick to assemble at the last minute.

Cover the pesto with a layer of olive oil and it will stay fresh in the fridge for a few days. If the top layer browns, no worries. Just scape it off and use the rest. When you’re finished, cover with another layer of olive oil before putting it back in the fridge. Pesto also freezes rather well so make a bunch with all the abundant basil around these days and enjoy during the long, cold days of winter….you know it’s coming!! Use the same method of putting a layer of olive oil on the top before freezing. Thaw in the fridge and enjoy.

For those with cow’s milk allergies, Summit Cheese Shop has a great sheep’s milk substitute. Ask for Gran Pecorino from Sardinia. It’s a little less salty than Parmigiano-Reggiano so just add a little more salt to the pesto.

I also slice and brown the bread a few hours ahead and leave it in a ziplock bag or on the tray at room temperature. It takes only a few minutes to assemble right before guests arrive. Don’t make it too far ahead or there won’t be many left.

Pesto Bruschetta by Jodie Pelinsky

  • 6 tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic (divided)
  • 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, roughly chopped
  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 baguette
  • small amount of olive oil to brush on the baguette

To make tomato topping: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Make a crisscross cut in the bottom of each tomato, like an “x”. Carefully drop the tomatoes into the boiling water (without splashing yourself) for approximately one minute. Remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a paper towel and let cool. When cooled, take a small paring knife and peel the skin off starting from the “x” cut in the bottom of the tomato. Cut the tomatoes in half. Remove seeds and centers. Chop tomatoes finely. In a medium bowl, mix tomatoes with 1 clove of garlic that has been peeled and minced, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, some salt and pepper to taste and set aside. This can be done up to two days ahead and kept refrigerated until ready to use.

To make the pesto: Place the pine nuts in a small saute pan. Roast the nuts over medium heat for about 7 minutes until golden, shaking occassionally. Remove from heat, let cool. In the bowl of a food processor add the roughly chopped Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Process until the cheese is shredded. Add to the cheese in the food processor bowl: cooled pine nuts, basil leaves, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 peeled garlic clove, salt and pepper to taste. Process until smooth. Try to resist eating it all with your spoon!

To prepare the baguette: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Slice baguette to your preferred thickness. I usually try to keep the pieces somewhere between 1/4″ and 1/3″ thick. Brush with olive oil. Place on baking sheet, oil side down. Rub remaining peeled garlic clove on each piece. Toast for 5-6 minutes until just toasted. Use immediately or store cooled bread in a container at room temperature for use later the same day.

To arrange: Place bread on plate. Using a butter knife apply a thin layer of pesto to each piece of bread. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of tomato topping on each piece of bread. For additional garnish you may sprinkle some chopped basil on top.

Enjoy the best appie of the summer!

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