DIY Bruschetta Bar Makes Entertaining Easy

A baguette and a bunch of veggies inspired a spontaneous party centered around an invitation for everyone to create their own signature bruschetta.

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Photo by Leslie Kelly.

You know how toast has become this BIG deal? Toasted bread topped with avocado and all sorts of other good-for-you stuff was so trendy last year, and remains red hot. Well, bruschetta is the bite-size version of that savory snack and it's been around forever. Or at least since the Roman Empire, where it's believed olive oil producers used the fire-toasted bread to show off their wares.

It's so cool because you can top it with just about anything, though seasoned tomatoes remain at the top of the heap. Most recipes call for loading toasted slices of bread shortly before serving so the liquid soaks in, softening the slices slightly. Because I had friends stopping by at various times, I decided to take that variable out of the equation and let them spoon an assortment of toppings on when they arrived, after I handed them a glass of wine.

My first DIY Bruschetta Bar featured a version of a caprese salad, tiny balls of fresh mozzarella tossed with halved cherry tomatoes and slivers of oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, plus hand-torn basil and this amazing bruschetta herb blend from Oil & Vinegar that includes more sun-dried tomatoes. I also halved some jarred artichoke hearts, charred the surface in a grill pan and finished them in the juice of half a lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. The topping options are endless and most of them get better after sitting for a while, so that means everything will be prepped and you'll be free to party.

What makes it all work, though, are the toasted crostini. They've got to be sliced thick enough to hold the toppings, yet thin enough to easy bite through. Pro tip: To easily slice a baguette for toasting, pop it into the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes in advance of prepping. That will firm up the bread, making it easy to slice thin, around an inch thick. Toast in a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes and check for crunch. You're going for something that's between a cracker and a piece of toast.

As your friends DIY, don't forget to offer extra napkins with this finger food. It can be a little messy, but, in this case, that's a good thing.

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