Build Your Own Bruschetta

Use the easy, breezy appetizer as a blank canvas for your favorite toppings

Build Your Own Bruschetta
This late summer recipe gives you a trifecta of topping options. Choose your favorite—or mix and and match. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)

Don't underestimate the open-faced sandwich. As simple as they may sound, these topless sandwiches are often a refreshing and decorative reflection of the season and their cuisine. They range from sleek and minimal to rustic and hearty, with flourishes that reflect their culture.

The ingredients vary widely, from salads and spreads to cold meats and smoked fish to cheese and fresh vegetables. The Scandinavians are famous for smorrebrod, topped with Nordic specialties such as herring, salmon, and fried plaice. The French call their creations tartines, which may include breakfast servings of toasted baguettes slathered with butter and jam. The Italians are best known for bruschetta—thick slices of toasted bread brushed with garlic and olive oil, often topped with a tumble of sweet tomatoes and bright basil.

In each case, the open sandwich begins with a piece of bread, which serves as a plate on which the toppings are layered. Toasting the bread provides structure and slows down the process of the bread becoming soggy. A smear of butter or soft cheese or a spread such as mashed avocado or hummus may be added. This helps to create another protective barrier from juices that will dribble down and soak the toast.

 Take inspiration from what's in season to assemble the perfect toasts. (Asya Nurullina/Shutterstock)
Take inspiration from what's in season to assemble the perfect toasts. (Asya Nurullina/Shutterstock)

From there, a layer of greens and various toppings unfold. They can be meticulously composed or simply layered with pieces tumbling to the side. The sum is a marriage of ingredients, textures, and, of course, flavor that invites hands-on eating.

This bruschetta recipe is a "threefer"—a simple bread base on which three different topping options highlight the late summer season. It's Italian in inspiration with a touch of California wine country, showcasing seasonal fruits and vegetables layered on crusty wedges of sourdough baguette. It's casual yet elegant, and a perfect starter or light meal, ideally enjoyed al fresco under the setting late-summer sun.


Active Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 20 minutes

Makes 8 servings

For the Bread:
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pushed through a press
  • 1 sourdough or French baguette
Combine the oil and garlic in a small bowl. Cut the baguette into 4 equal sections. Halve each section lengthwise. Brush the cut sides of the baguette with the oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and broil until light golden.

Alternatively, grill the bread until lightly toasted. Arrange on a platter and assemble with your desired toppings.

Tomato Corn Salsa Topping (for 8 bruschette):
  • Fresh corn kernels from 1 large ear of corn
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded, diced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley leaves and/or fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the salsa ingredients in a bowl. Taste for seasoning. Spoon the tomato corn salsa over the bread.
Fig and Gorgonzola Topping (for 8 bruschette)
  • 6 to 8 ripe figs, stemmed, sliced
  • 3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola dolce (or fresh goat cheese)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • Finely grated lemon zest
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Arrange the fig slices and the cheese on the bread. Sprinkle the walnuts, rosemary, and lemon zest on top. Drizzle with a few drops of olive oil and garnish with black pepper.
Prosciutto-Arugula Topping (for 8 bruschette):
  • 8 slices prosciutto
  • 2 cups baby arugula leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shavings (from a vegetable peeler)
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Drape the prosciutto over the bread. Scatter the arugula on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Scatter a few Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings over each slice. Garnish with the fresh basil and season with freshly ground black pepper.
Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat, and a dog. Balslev studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Copyright 2021 Lynda Balslev. Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication.