If tomatoes could marry they would find their perfect partner with a loaf of bread, not in a pizza! This relationship takes on many forms throughout different the regions of Italy: the most popular is the Roman “bruschetta”, on the Tuscan coast it’s called “frega” and I grew up calling it “pane e pomodoro” (literally bread and tomato). This is probably one of the most bastardized Italian dish you might encounter on any Italian, or not so Italian, menu throughout the planet. A piece of toasted bread with whatever topping is now generally called bruschetta. And that’s ok with me!
Who truly got it right are the indigenous people from the Tuscan coast. Frega means “to rub”, and to me this is the essence of the recipe. Let me put it this way, to achieve the optimum melding of flavors, you don’t “top” the bread with tomato slices/pieces, you rub it in. It’s all in the rubbing, I should say.
Now try this: first, get some slices of ciabatta or filone, a piece of fresh garlic, fresh tomatoes and I mean real tomatoes, preferably on the overripe side, very soft and extra juicy, salt, pepper and good olive oil (in case you don’t have these items at hand you shouldn’t be reading this and you don’t belong on this page… or any page related to food for that matter).
Grill (or toast) the bread slices, don’t make it too dry or burnt. When cold rub ever gently a piece of garlic and when I say ever gently I mean it (three lengthwise tender garlic caresses over the bread, be as considerate as if you were petting the head of a sleeping cobra).
In case you’re using a large tomato, cut it in half; otherwise holding the tomato in your fist, poke a hole with your thumb and good luck not getting a squirt on yourself (if that happens it means you have the right tomato). Squeeze and rub the tomato on the bread slices, careful not to overload it and let the juices seep into the bread cavernous guts. You will find yourself holding a shredded piece of tomato skin with some pulp hanging, break it with your hand or thickly chop it with a knife and dress it on top of the bread.
Sprinkle salt and pepper (don’t be shy) and finish with a decent pour (notice that I’m using pour not drizzle) of olive oil, if the bread is floating you were too heavy on the oil. In case you really want to be fancy add also some fresh torn basil leaves, but only if you feel like being fancy….
Try this with your kids! It’s a fun, healthy snack to make and eat. My son grew up on it and still loves it!
I can’t find a more fresh and satisfying summer dish than this.
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