Bruschetta is a food whose origin dates back to the 15th century in central Italy. Back then, it was a pretty simple recipe: grilled bread rubbed with garlic and then topped with salt, pepper, and olive oil. The word "bruschetta" comes from the verb in the Roman dialect "bruscare", which means "to roast over coals." Over time, the meaning of the word has changed, and Americans typically use it to refer to the toppings themselves as opposed to the bread. Grocery stores even sell bottled bruschetta, which is really their fancy-sounding way of getting consumers to cough up $5.95 for a mixture of tomatoes, onion, garlic, and herbs. The jig is up guys.
The number of topping variations for bruschetta keeps growing as chefs become more inventive. The most popular topping with Americans includes basil, fresh mozzarella, and tomato, but I have seen everything from roasted red peppers and eggplant to chocolate-hazelnut flavored Nutella over bananas. It is the perfect appetizer to serve for entertaining, and putting out a "bruschetta bar" for you guests to mix and match their own toppings always goes over well.
This variation of bruschetta is inspired by Indian cuisine, with ingredients like fenugreek, garam masala, ginger, cumin, and cardamom. Warning: If you are not a fan of spicy foods, then you might want to tone down the amount of peppers just a tad, as they definitely have a powerful kick. Here are some tips for this vegetarian light bite:
- Fenugreek is an aromatic and pungent herb with a slightly bitter taste, somewhat comparable to the taste of celery or burnt sugar. It is a very common ingredient in Indian curries, but it can be tough to find at a regular grocery store. Feel free to omit the fenugreek in this recipe--it will still turn out delicious.
- Garam masala is a blend of ground spices, common to Indian cuisine. The literal meaning is "warm spice", and although there are many variations, it usually contains cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, chili peppers, ginger, and garlic. I would recommend investing in a jar if you enjoy the flavors of the Indian or Middle Eastern cuisines.
- For mushrooms, I like to use a combination of crimini, portobellos (or mini portobellos), shiitakes, and button, but use whatever combination you prefer.
- If you don't have any whole cumin seeds, then just replace it with an equal amount of ground cumin.
Spicy Wild Mushroom Bruschetta
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 dried red chile
2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 minced and seeded jalapeno pepper
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups quartered assorted mushrooms
1 cup tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided
1/4 teaspoon Garam Masala
Toasted baguette slices
Heat the canola oil, cumin, and the chile in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute for 1 minute or until the cumin begins to darken. Add the ginger to the pan and saute for 30 seconds. Add the red onion and fenugreek and saute for 2 minutes or until the onion is tender. Add the salt and jalapeno and saute for 2 minutes or until the onion softens and begins to brown. Add the coriander, cayenne, and minced garlic and saute for 1 minute.
Add the mushrooms and cook until the liquid has been released and evaporates, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato, tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons cilantro, and the Garam Masala. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Sprinkle the mixture with the remaining cilantro, season with salt and pepper, and serve on slices of toasted baguette.