Bruschetta, in its simplest form, is merely grilled bread drizzled with olive oil, rubbed with fresh garlic and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Its minimalism makes it the perfect starting point to add your favourite flavours and textures to the mix. Anything goes as long as you can fit it into your mouth in three bites or less!

1. Add cheese to the party
There are plenty of ways that cheese can be utilized to better bruschetta. For one thing, spreading a creamy cheese like chevre or ricotta directly onto the bread prior to adding the other toppings can help prevent the base from getting soggy. Try this trick when your bruschetta mix is especially moist, and it will ensure you don’t lose out on the crunch factor.

Alternately, cheese can be used as a garnish. Whether you’re crumbling some funky blue over top or shaving an aged mimolette to finish, cheese can add wonderful umami to your bruschetta vegetables. And if you love cheese as much as I do, you could just melt it and cook it into a crisp to carry all of the other ingredients into your mouth. While your cheese crisps are still warm, try molding them in a mini muffin tin to create the perfect, contained vessel. Who needs bread when you’ve got cheese cups instead?

2. Use vegetables that you have to cook first
Classic bruschetta is made from raw tomatoes. It’s fast, fresh and tasty, but come fall try using heartier vegetables. It might necessitate turning the oven on to cook them first, but it’s not such a chore after the heat of summer is gone.

Beets, squash and mushrooms can all be roasted and marinated before serving (warm or chilled) on top of your bruschetta base.

3. Bread isn’t your only canvas
Bruschetta typically starts with a simple crostini made from stale baguette or another non-descript bread product. Oftentimes the base is an afterthought, but even the best tasting bruschetta mix can’t mask a mouthful of stale, tasteless sawdust. If you’re going to stick with bread, buy the good stuff. Slice it and toast it until it’s crisp around the edges but still retains some of its chew in the centre.

But who says you can’t skip the bread altogether? As long as your base will hold up to the weight and moisture content of whatever you are putting on it, you’re good to go. Here are some alternative bruschetta bases to try:

  • Homemade thick-cut potato or sweet potato chips
  • Crispy wonton skins
  • Tortilla chips
  • Baked phyllo cups
  • Cucumber slices

4. Make it fruity
Whether you want to keep it savoury, or go in a totally sweet direction (dessert bruschetta, anyone?), the choice is yours. Here are some sweet and salty flavour combos worth trying out:

  • Watermelon, feta, olives and mint
  • Apples, sage, cheddar and crispy bacon
  • Peaches or nectarines, goat cheese and basil
  • Grapes, endive, blue cheese and walnuts
  • Pears, cranberries, bri, and pecans

And who says dessert bruschetta is off limits? It might not be something you see every day, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious.

Just think of your favourite desserts and try making them into a bite-sized version:

  • Strawberry shortcake bruschetta on a mini biscuit with a dollop of whipped cream
  • Apple pie bruschetta on a round of cinnamon sugar pie dough
  • Black forest bruschetta, a coin of toasted chocolate sponge cake topped with glossy candied cherries

Click here to see a recipe for Radish and Beet Bruschetta

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