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"It's impossible not to love someone who made toast for you," Nigel Slater, in "Toast"

Bruschetta is toast with a fancy Italian name. A wonderful appetizer at cocktail gatherings and backyard barbecues, in our home, it's way more than finger food. Bruschetta for dinner is a simple and expeditious means of using up that half loaf of good bread topped with the odds and ends of delicious meals, and the last of the half-filled jars of condiments.

Don't confuse bruschetta with crostini, or "little toasts" in Italian. Crostini are thin slices of baguette that are cooked until very crunchy. Bruschetta — derived from the Italian word "bruscare," meaning "to roast over coals," is drizzled with olive oil before toasting over a grill or under the broiler. The slices are typically bigger, thicker and softer than crostini.

While the typical topping for bruschetta is fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil layered over mozzarella cheese, there's no reason to stop there, especially this time of year, when fresh tomatoes are found wanting. The key to good bruschetta is good bread and good oil.

With bread, ciabatta is my first choice. It has a sturdy crust and light crumb that absorbs the oil. Baguettes also work well; the crumb is denser so the slices are better suited to moist toppings. Sourdough bread has a lovely tang and can be dense and chewy. Whole wheat works wonderfully if the toppings are paired to the nutty flavor of the wheat.

Choose an oil you like. Some are peppery, others are grassy, others are smooth and buttery with hints of artichokes. The oil enriches the flavor of the bread and provides a finishing note.

Bruschetta is a spectacular weeknight dinner that's as easy as making toast.

Bruschetta for Dinner

Makes 12 pieces.

Here's the basic recipe with a list of suggested toppings. You can make the bruschetta ahead and store it in an airtight container for up to a week. It's a handy way to put that odd end of good bread to use and have ready for a hurry-up dinner or unexpected guests. From Beth Dooley.

• 1 loaf ciabatta or baguette

• Extra-virgin olive oil

• Freshly ground black pepper

• Coarse salt


Preheat the broiler or prepare a grill. Slice 12 pieces from the loaf on the bias and drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill or broil the slices until golden brown watching carefully that they don't burn, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove, allow to cool, and set aside. When ready to serve, top with one of these suggestions, or create your own. After topping, finish with a drizzle of olive oil before serving.

Suggested toppings

• Cream cheese, flaked smoked salmon, drizzle of lemon juice, capers.

• Pitted, chopped green olives, chopped roasted red pepper.

• Chèvre, diced dried apricots, sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

• Diced avocado, crumbled cotija, spicy corn salsa.

• Smashed cooked white beans, garlic, chopped parsley, more olive oil.

• Sautéed mushrooms and garlic, lots of fresh thyme, serve warm.

Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at