Alibi V.14 No.11 • March 17-23, 2005 

Food 101

Low-tech Garlic Bread

Don't overthink it! This stuff is easy.

So I'm riding in the car the other day, talking about Italian restaurants and how sometimes it doesn't make much sense to eat out when what you really want is a home-cooked meal. My buddy's going on and on about his garlic bread and this elaborate method for it, and I'm like, whoa! That's way, way too complicated. Here's how you make garlic bread. Take a nice, fat Italian loaf. Cut slices like an inch, an inch-and-a-half thick. Put the slices on a cookie sheet and throw 'em in the oven. Toast. Flip halfway through and you get crunchy toasts; don't flip and you get one crunchy side and one squishy side. I like the crunchy/squishy combo.

In the meantime, take half a stick (or more) of butter. Unwrap it and dump it into a coffee cup. Microwave for 30 seconds or however long it takes your machine to melt butter.

When the toasts are golden, yank the cookie sheet. Let the bread cool down just enough so that you don't burn the crap out of your fingers. Pull the slices off. Peel a clove of garlic and rub it all over a slice. See, the garlic clove rubs off on the sharp edges of the toasted bread. You can adjust exactly how much garlicky flavor you want on each piece of toast. This one—tons of garlic!—I'm rubbin' two cloves all over it. This one over here—just a little bit of garlic—I'll give it a couple quick swipes and move on. (The great thing about this method is you don't have to spend a bunch of time mincing a bunch of garlic. Plus, you don't get all those little chunks of garlic caught between your molars.)

Next, take your pastry brush, a barbecue brush or two fingers, dip in the butter cup and swab the toasts as generously as you like. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

By the way, you now know how to make bruschetta. This whole toasting and rubbing with garlic thing is the exact same method used to make that Italian appetizer of bread with fancy-sounding stuff heaped on it. The only difference is that bruschetta is made with olive oil instead of butter.

Next time you want a quick snack, use your new garlic rubbing technique, swab toasts with olive oil, and then start stacking stuff: tomatoes, basil leaves and fresh mozzarella; roasted red peppers, goat cheese and olives; thin slices of roasted pork loin topped with caramelized onions and dried apricots macerated in bourbon. Ooh, doesn't that sound good!