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Traditional Italian Garlic Bread

Traditional Italian Garlic Bread

Most garlic bread in America is prepared using a soft “Italian” loaf that is layered with hefty amounts of butter, oil, salt, and dried herbs. After baking, it’s literally dripping with fat. Italians on the other hand usually only serve plain bread at the table, and most Italian breads are unsalted, especially in Tuscany. My version, a twist on both ideas, is simple to make, light, and delicious to eat. Using hearty bread, fruity olive oil and fresh garlic, this is a recipe you’ll use over and over.

Ingredients:
1 loaf Tuscan style bread (firm dense bread is essential)
Olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled, left whole
Kosher salt

To prepare:
Slice the bread into 1-inch thick slices. Grill, broil, or toast both sides of the slices until they’re lightly browned, but still retain a little spring to the center. While the slice is still hot, take the peeled clove of garlic and gently rub the surface of the bread, concentrating on the outer edge next to the crust. The pressure you use rubbing the garlic on the sliced bread will determine the depth of garlic flavor, so go lightly if you want less garlic. Next, lay the slices on a sheet pan and drizzle them with olive oil. Add a sprinkle of salt and enjoy.

Serve accompanying any entrée or use as your canvas for a wide varities of bruschetta toppings. A slice of this bread is also wonderful placed in the bottom of a bowl with your favorite soup spooned over it.

Any dense loaf of bread works for this recipe, including whole wheat, multi-grain, and French baguettes. Slice a thin baguette into rounds and you have instant crostini, for appetizers or soups.

Easy Garlic Bread

Easy Garlic Bread

Last night I had some friends over for dinner and we were discussing the differences between how Italian food is prepared in Italy compared to American Italian food. I recalled how, when I first moved to Italy, I was utterly convinced that whatever they were making there, they sure weren’t making it right. Of course, that opinion changed quickly as I settled into Italian life. Years later when I returned to New York to visit friends and family, I became aware of how and why stateside Italian cuisine differed so significantly from its European roots. In fact, this awareness was really the inspiration for my future interest in food and food culture.

Our dinner conversation revolved around the garlic bread I had made. American Italian garlic bread is usually prepared on a commercially soft loaf slathered in butter, oil, and spices. My version (which is really a crostini or bruschetta base) is quite simple and just what it claims to be: garlic and bread. Bread is serious business in Italy and there are dozens of varieties that differ from the north to the south.

To make a traditional toast, you’ll need a dense Tuscan style bread, French style sourdough is fine and Sicilian works well too. Slice the bread about an inch thick. Next preheat the broiler or a grill pan for a few minutes and toast the bread until it’s golden and crispy. One side works fine. Immediately upon removing the slices from the oven or pan, rub the toasted side gently with a fresh clove of garlic (not too much, unless you want intense flavor), then drizzle on some fruity olive oil. A small sprinkle of salt and you’re good to go. Not only is this a light and delicious complement to pasta and salad, I urge you to consider dropping a slice into a bowl and spooning hearty minestrone right on top of it. Leftovers, if there are any, make great croutons. Like most authentic Italian food, the beauty lies in its simplicity.