There was a time when bruschetta was an appetizer I would only get in restaurants. The way they worked their magic with tomatoes was something magical. The fresh basil, vinegar to add a sour edge to the tomatoes’ sweetness, and olive oil for richness was something I left to the professionals. (Mind you, that was also at a time when soup was something that only came out of a can, not something I made from scratch at home.)
The first time I realized I could make bruschetta was when I saw a tub of it at Trader Joe’s many years ago. I brought it home, toasted some bread, and piled it high with the Italians’ version of salsa. I checked out the ingredient list and realized with a start that all of those things were already in my kitchen. The first time making it on my own was some kind of sorcery. Endlessly easy, it doesn’t take a lot to enhance a summer tomato.
While local tomatoes are still a couple months out, I’ve been making bruschetta with roasted asparagus. It’s made the same way that traditional bruschetta is made, but substituting thin stalks of that spring darling, asparagus, and lightly roasted. The warm asparagus is tossed with balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and fresh basil. The warmth of the asparagus takes the bite off of the garlic, and then it’s served warm on toasted farm bread. (Any other mild, not-too-coarse bread will work too.) Finally, it’s topped with toasted pine nuts for crunch and a rich, nutty bite. The vinegar rounds out the flavor of the asparagus, and the garlic adds a savory edge without overwhelming.
Not only is this a lovely starter, it’s also a great side for a hearty soup or salad. Especially at that time of year where there are still chilly or wet days mixed in with the shot of summer, it’s nice to have something that says spring before it’s all smoothies, salads, and sun dresses. Since I started making this, I’ve been going through asparagus by bunch after bunch. Now, that’s the way to celebrate the season.