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Strawberry Bruschetta with Balsamic Vinegar and Basil

While living in Sicily, my diet revolved around a few main staples during the warmer months: tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, olive oil, and bread.  I never grew tired of simple dishes like Insalata Caprese and Bruschetta al Pomodoro and I don’t think I ever will.  Each year, as the weather warms up, I start looking forward to tomato season, knowing it will bring plates of layered tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and trays of toasted bread topped with chopped tomato to my table once again.

But while the days are getting hotter, it’s not quite tomato season yet.  Luckily, my Dad and my Grandpa have both planted plenty of tomatoes again this year, so we will soon have more tomatoes than we can eat.  In the meantime, I decided to satisfy my bruschetta craving with another sweet red fruit that currently is in season here in the valley:  strawberries.

I had never made strawberry bruschetta before, but I’ve heard of people making it and I knew the flavors would work.  I’ve seen some recipes that add sugar to the berries to make a sweeter topping, but that’s not what I was after.  I treated the strawberries much like I treat tomatoes in the same application, tossing the fruit with vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I added some fresh chopped basil, but I think mint would be nice as well.  I also threw in a pinch of crushed red pepper because I enjoy a bit of heat, but it’s entirely optional.

If you have some on hand, try spreading a layer of softened goat cheese on the bread before topping with the strawberries.  We found it to be a delicious variation.

Strawberry Bruschetta
Serves 8

1 pint strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
1 baguette of French- or Italian-style bread, cut into 1/2-inch slices
extra basil for garnish (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix strawberries, vinegar, oil, basil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Set aside to let the berries release their juice.  Arrange dry bread slices on a baking sheet and toast on both sides under a broiler (this can be done in batches).  Arrange toasted bread slices on a platter. Stir the strawberry mixture then top each piece of bread with a spoonful of the berries, including a bit of the liquid with each spoonful.  Garnish bruschetta with basil leaves if desired.  Serve immediately.

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