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Preheat oven to 400F
Slice the baguette into 1/3-1/2 inch thick pieces at a diagonal and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Brush the tops with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake 11-13 minutes or until golden. Let cool 5 minutes, then rub each of the crusty tops with raw garlic. This is key to great flavor!
Cut the tomatoes into quarters and gently squeeze out any excess juices and seeds- do this with especially ripe and juicy tomatoes. Dice the tomatoes and place them in a strainer over a bowl to further drain until the bruschetta is toasted (or for 1 hour). You should end up with roughly 3 cups of diced tomatoes. Drink the tomato water; it is heavenly. 🙂
Place the drained, diced tomatoes in a medium bowl. Stack basil leaves in the same direction, roll the pointed end to the stem end, then with a sharp knife, slice across thinly to make basil ribbons. Repeat and place basil ribbons in the bowl. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and optional garlic. Gently mix. Taste (with the toasted baguette) and adjust salt to taste- I usually add about 1/4 teaspoon more.
Place this in a smaller serving bowl over a larger plate or platter. Arrange bruschetta on the platter around the bowl, and serve with a spoon.