Bruschetta brings out the soul of two simple ingredients: bread and tomatoes. The bread has to be thick slices of a good rustic bread and the tomatoes have to be those of summer-the ones you think about so longingly in January. Bruschetta comes from the Italian word, "bruscare" to roast over coals. If you want to make a party of it, stock up on baguettes, make all three toppings, and set out a few bottles of chilled Pinot Grigio.
1. Bruschetta: To give the bread slices maximum flavor, toast them on the grill. Lightly brush both sides of each slice with olive oil and grill for a minute on each side. Use tongs to turn them and make sure the bread doesn't get too dark. (You can also toast them in the oven. Pre-heat to 425 F and brush the slices with olive oil. Arrange the slices on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, turning once, until crisp and light brown.)
2. When the slices are golden brown, hold each warm slice (protecting your fingers with a clean dish towel) and rub the cut side of the garlic clove completely over the bread, front and back. The heat and crispiness will "melt" the garlic, flavoring the bread perfectly. Top with any of the three toppings suggested here, or come up with your own.
3. Tomato Basil Topping: Cut the tomatoes into small chunks. Cut the basil leaves into a chiffonade by stacking 4-5 leaves, rolling them like a cigar, and then cutting fine strips. This will give you small, fine ribbons of basil.
4. Spoon a good helping of tomatoes onto the bruschetta. (Don't be stingy.) Sprinkle generously with basil chiffonade. Add a light pinch of salt and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.
5. Kalamata Olive and Feta Cheese Topping: Combine feta cheese, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, red pepper flakes, olives, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon olive oil in a small bowl. I like to spread a thin coating but you can add as much as you like. You can use it as a base and add whatever else you like: chunks of fresh tomato, cucumber cubes or sauteed mushrooms.
6. Sweet Peppers with Asiago Cheese Topping: In a small bowl, combine sweet red pepper strips, capers, 3 tablespoons fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and 2 tablespoons Asiago cheese. Spread on bruschetta. Sprinkle each bruschetta with a few shavings of cheese. "