My eating philosophy throughout the summer months usually goes along the lines of “simple is best”. As much as I love spending a good while in the kitchen, nothing compares to the quick and cold delicious lunches that come together during the summer. Bruschette were the quintessential summer dish in my house growing up and they would be a starter or main depending on how lazy we were feeling and how many toppings we could come up with. These summer bruschette are bursting with the flavours and vibrancy of a spring that has just come to a close. Fresh peas, asparagus, roasted garlic, curly-leaf parsley and homemade lemon oil come together to form freshest bite you’ll taste this month. I know that’s a big claim considering the amount of juicy and refreshing produce that is out on the market around now, but fresh crisp greens, citrus and sourdough don’t lie…
So what is it? It’s the end of spring/beginning of summer bruschette, but that would have been too long of a name. Toasted sourdough is rubbed with garlic, and topped with asparagus and peas which have been blanched and tossed in a lemon oil and curly leaf parsley. Did you say lemon oil? Yes! You get to infuse your own lemon olive oil- it’s quick and will be the new addition to every summer dish you make. The ingredient list is short and sweet, so as usual I advise buying the freshest produce possible, as I find it really makes a difference (when cooking in general, but in particular when using so few ingredients). Hit your local farmers market and pick up the brightest pea pods and asparagus you can find, organic lemons, and perky organic herbs.
I have to say, the whole process of making this is pretty therapeutic. Shelling peas is, in itself, one of the most calming rituals that spring brings with it. I probably get a little bit overly excited with every pea pod I open, but it really is a beautiful process. Then there’s the lemon oil. Making infused olive oil feels really special, and although it requires pretty minimal effort, the reward is huge and rather impressive, because of its ability to subtly change the flavours and undertones of a dish. Last is the herb picking. Tedious for some, relaxing for others – either way you only need to pick a few stems for this (although I do advise picking the herbs out of the whole bunch and then freezing the rest), so you can enjoy it without getting bored. If none of these things are therapeutic for you, and you think I have a weird conception of what therapeutic actually means, then just play some Devendra Banhart while you do all of the above, and then maybe we’ll be on the same wavelength…
The recipe is short and sweet, so I should probably keep the description short and sweet too. I hope you enjoy the bruschette and I wish you all a happy beginning of summer, full of as much ice cream as you can cope with.
Summer Bruschette with Lemon Oil
Makes 4 big bruschette
4 large slices sourdough bread
2 garlic cloves
1 cup peas, shelled
14-15 asparagus stems, diced
2-3 tbsp curly parsley, chopped
2 tbsp lemon oil (recipe below)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
Vegan parmesan, to top (optional)
1 cup olive oil
Peel of 1 lemon
Start by making the lemon oil. There are two ways of making it, depending on how much time you have and the way you like to handle your olive oil.
If you have a couple of days before you want to make the brushette, combine the olive oil with the lemon peel in a jar, cover, and let sit for 1-2 days, to taste. Then remove the peel, and store in a cool dry place.
If you’re starting this the day of, place the olive oil and lemon peel in a small sauce pan. Turn on the heat to low, and allow the oil to reach a lukewarm temperature (about 1 minute). At this point, remove the oil from the heat. It’s really important that you watch the oil carefully while it is warming up and don’t over heat the oil, as it has an extremely low burning temperature. Let it sit for about 30-40 minutes and then remove the lemon peel, as leaving it in decreases its shell life. You can then transfer it to a jar and store it in a cool dry place for about a month.
To make the bruschette, bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Lightly salt, and when boiling drop the peas and asparagus in for about 45 seconds. When ready, drain them, rinse with cold water and transfer them to a bowl. In a small bowl, combine the two tablespoons of lemon oil with the parsley, salt, lemon juice and black pepper (to taste). Add this mixture to the bowl of peas and asparagus and toss to combine.
Toast your bread on a grilled pan, and when toasted rub with the garlic cloves. Top the slices of bread with the dressed peas and asparagus. Drizzle with a little extra lemon oil if desired, some black pepper, extra parsley and a little vegan parmesan if available. Enjoy!