Serve it this week: Bruschetta

The Associated Press

Bruschetta dishes offer a chance to be creative and daring, with little risk of ending up with an inedible mess.

The Italian favorite's mouthwatering simplicity - bread slices that can be grilled or toasted and topped with a flavorful relish - leaves room for improvisation.

These three recipes show the variety of forms bruschetta can take: a traditional version with a tomato-based topping, a hearty fruit-infused dish and a decadent dessert.

Goat cheese and tomato bruschetta is a zesty recipe, with the goat cheese giving it a distinctive flavor. To jazz up the look of this dish, you can amend the recipe to use a mix of red and yellow tomatoes and finish off with a garnish of snipped chives.

Bartlett pear and prosciutto bruschetta offers a complex flavor that incorporates the pungency of blue cheese, the saltiness of prosciutto and the acidic sweetness of pears.

Although bruschetta is usually served as an appetizer, bittersweet chocolate bruschetta offers a chance for the dish to break out of that category. With strawberries, chopped hazelnuts and melted chocolate, this bruschetta recipe makes for a luscious ending to any meal.

Goat Cheese and Tomato Bruschetta

1 loaf (8 ounces) Italian bread

1 package (51/2 ounces) soft mild goat cheese, such as Montrachet

1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

2 ripe medium tomatoes, seeded and diced

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves

2 garlic cloves, each cut in half

Prepare grill. Cut off ends from loaf of bread; reserve for making bread crumbs another day. Slice loaf diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices.

In a small bowl, with fork, stir goat cheese, oregano and pepper until blended. In medium bowl, stir tomatoes with salt, 2 teaspoons olive oil, and 1 teaspoon parsley.

Place bread slices on grill over medium heat and cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until lightly toasted. Rub 1 side of each toast slice with cut side of garlic. Brush with remaining olive oil.

Just before serving, spread goat-cheese mixture on toast and top with tomato mixture. Sprinkle with remaining parsley. Makes 8 servings.

From Good Housekeeping Grilling Cookbook (Hearst Books; $19.95)

Bartlett Pear and Prosciutto Bruschetta

2 medium ripe Bartlett pears, cored and chopped

1/4 cup minced red onion

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

32 crusty French baguette slices

2/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/3 cup butter

32 small strips prosciutto

In a small bowl, stir together pears, onion, olive oil, vinegar and thyme. Let stand for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to marinate. In a small bowl, stir together blue cheese and butter until smooth. To prepare bruschetta, spread about 1/2 tablespoon of the blue cheese mixture on each baguette slice. Top with prosciutto and a small spoonful of the pear mixture. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.

California Pear Advisory Board

Bittersweet Chocolate Bruschetta

4 slices rustic-style white bread, 3/4-inch thick

3 tablespoons butter, melted, or substitute almond, hazelnut or other nut oil

Kosher salt

7 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

1 pint strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Light a medium-hot fire in the grill. Brush both sides of the bread with the melted butter, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Grill one side until toasted, with golden brown grill marks.

Flip the bread and top each slice with chopped chocolate. Grill until the chocolate is melted and the bread is toasted on the bottom. Cover the grill briefly, if desired, to melt the chocolate more quickly.

Remove the bread from the grill, top with sliced strawberries, and sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts.

Variations: Substitute an equal amount of raspberries or 2 bananas for the strawberries. Substitute chopped walnuts or almonds for the hazelnuts. Substitute milk chocolate or gianduja (hazelnut-flavored chocolate) for bittersweet chocolate. Makes 4 servings.

From Big City Cooking (Chronicle Books; $24.95)

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