Monday, August 20, 2012

Party Idea: DIY Bruschetta Bar

This weekend I helped out with the appetizers at a little soiree at my parents' house.  I was inspired by a recent Yummy Mummy post detailing a gorgeous summer dinner party with a great, eclectic menu.  They kicked off the party with a crostini bar...
I love any concept involving a bar of fixings.  A build-your-own burrito or taco bar, sundae bar, chili fixings station, or even an elaborate set-up of toppings for pho are some of my favorite ways to entertain.  People love to feel in control of their own consumption, and I love a concept that encourages creativity and conversation.  Plus, setting out fixings and allowing your guests to concoct their own creations makes it exceptionally easy to cater to special diets and picky eaters.  It's also so much fun to let your own culinary mind wander and see what kind of ingredients you come up with based on your guests and the general theme of the evening.  Finally, creating my Bruschetta Bar allowed me to help out at this party while still adhering to my current motto of it's-too-damn-hot-and-I'm-too-damn-pregnant-to-feel-like-cooking-much-of-anything (see: total lack of recipe posts for the last long while....).

The bar was a huge hit!  It looked gorgeous, and people kept coming back again and again to try different creations.  I had thought I'd made way too many crostini, but we actually ended up with fairly few leftovers... always a sign of success.  The best part was how easy this all was to assemble... a lot of it was in the shopping, and the remaining prep required minimal chopping and oven time.

DIY Bruschetta Bar
for a party of 10
I thinly sliced 2 fresh baguettes, set the slices on cookie sheets and brushed them with good olive oil, then sprinkled them with sea salt.  I baked them in a 350 degree oven until they were lightly toasted.
We bought:
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
Farmhouse Chutney
Red Pepper Jelly (one of my all-time favorite condiments for anything)
Goat Cheese
Organic Cream Cheese
Fromager d'Affinois (a French double-cream, similar to a brie)
Shelled, salted green pistachios (which we finely chopped)
Dried apricots (also finely chopped)

I created a classic bruschetta topping by chopping three large heirloom tomatoes and tossing them with a chiffonade of a half-cup of fresh basil from the garden, a minced garlic clove, a hearty glug of olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar, and sea salt and pepper to taste.

And that was that!  Super easy to assemble, and instant rave reviews.  Some favorite combos were the d'Affinois with a sprinkle of pistachios and apricots, the cream cheese spread with pepper jelly (an idea I picked up on a river-rafting trip years ago -- except we used Ritz crackers as a vehicle -- and I have loved the flavors together ever since), and the goat cheese spread with farmhouse chutney and finished with a light dusting of pistachios.  The husband, being a bruschetta traditionalist, stuck to my tomato-basil combo and was equally happy.  

Try this at your next potluck or dinner gathering!  I prepped most of the bruschetta bar at our house and found it very easy to transport to my parents' place, so this would be a really fun thing to bring along and set up at a party where you've been tasked with an appetizer.  Mix it up with all different kinds of cheeses and spreads, and cured meats would be an awesome addition to the mix, as would smoked salmon and fresh dill, roasted figs, or an olive tapenade.  And here are some additional inspirations from my secret boyfriend, Chef Jamie Oliver.  Really, the possibilities are endless!  In fact, you could make a whole dinner of this set up for something like a book club or movie night with the ladies... leaving room for something killer for dessert.  Priorities...


  1. It seems pretty interesting, food looks nice on the photo!

  2. Did this last night for a girls' night in - thanks for such a great idea. Lots of mixing and matching of ingredients and flavors, including artichoke dip, stinky cheeses, roasted figs, cured meats, and a bunch of chutneys/spreads from Trader Joe's.
    So much fun!