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Eric Akis: A steak sandwich with Italian flair

The word bruschetta is derived from the Italian “bruscare,” which means, “to roast over coals” or “to toast.” When you’re making bruschetta, what you’re roasting/charring or toasting is sliced bread.
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Tender steak is served on charred, garlic-rubbed bread, topped with a fresh tomato mixture. ERIC AKIS

The word bruschetta is derived from the Italian “bruscare,” which means, “to roast over coals” or “to toast.” When you’re making bruschetta, what you’re roasting/charring or toasting is sliced bread. Once the bread has been prepared that way, it’s then rubbed with garlic and drizzled with good olive oil.

Bruschetta, in that traditional form is a simple food with a satisfying taste that, over time, cooks in Italy and elsewhere deemed to be something that could also be tastily topped.

One of the most popular toppings, of course, is a chopped tomato/basil mixture that’s wonderful to make in August, when farm markets and backyard gardens are overflowing with ripe, aromatic, full-of-flavour tomatoes. There’s also plenty of locally grown basil to be had at this time of year.

The other day, when planning what to have for dinner, my initial idea was to serve some tomato/basil bruschetta as an appetizer, followed by some grilled tenderloin steaks for the entrée. But I then recalled one of the first times I had an open-faced steak sandwich in a restaurant, where a tender steak was served on toasted garlic bread.

It was quite delicious, so I decided, with bruschetta being garlic-flavoured bread, to serve my tenderloin steaks on it. I then topped the steaks with the tomato/basil mixture; creating an eye appealing, summery, very tasty main-course dish I called a bruschetta steak sandwich.

To round out the meal, I served the steaks with some miniature potatoes, corn and zucchini. The potatoes were simply boiled until tender, while the zucchini and corn, with kernels cut off the cob, were sautéed together with a mix of seasonings. In other words, two easy-to-make side dishes that work really well the bruschetta steak sandwiches.

Bruschetta Steak Sandwich

This Italian-style version of an open-faced steak sandwich sees bruschetta topped with a tender steak and a full-of-flavour, ripe tomato/basil mixture.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: six to eight minutes

Makes: four servings

1 large garlic clove, halved lengthwise

2 medium on the vine or other ripe red tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus some for the steak and bread

2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 (about 1-inch thick) slices Italian bread (see Note)

2 (6- to 8-ounce/170- to 225-gram) tenderloin steaks, each about 1-inch thick (see Eric’s options)

• fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

Mince one of the half cloves of garlic and set in a medium bowl. Set aside the other half garlic clove until needed below. Add the tomatoes, chopped basil, olive oil, vinegar, cheese and salt and pepper to taste to the minced garlic and mix to combine. Cover and let tomato mixture sit at room temperature until ready to serve.

Preheat a barbecue or indoor grill to medium-high. Set the bread slices on the grill, and grill about one to two minutes per side, or until toasted and lightly charred. Set bread on a wide plate. Rub one side of each bread slice with the cut-side of the remaining half garlic clove. Now drizzle each bread slice with a little olive oil.

Brush each steak lightly with olive oil, and then season with salt and pepper. Grill the steaks to the desired doneness, allowing about three minutes per side for rare, and three to four minutes per side for medium rare to medium.

Set a slice of the bread on each of four dinner plates. Set a steak on top of the bread on each plate, generously top with the tomato mixture, garnish with basil sprigs, and enjoy.

Note: The slices of Italian bread I used were about five-inches long and three-inches wide.

Eric’s options: If you don’t have a barbecue or indoor grill, pan-sear the steaks in a hot olive oil in a skillet on the stovetop to the desired doneness. As for the bread, simply toast it in a toaster, and then rub with the garlic and drizzle with the oil. Other tender steaks, such as strip loin medallions or top sirloin medallions, will also work in this recipe.

Zucchini and Summer Corn Sauté

Here’s a nicely spiced, simple summer side dish that you can serve alongside the bruschetta steak sandwiches.

Preparation time: 12 minutes

Cooking time: about five to six minutes

Makes: four servings

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp butter

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices (see Note 1)

1 cup fresh corn kernels (see Note 2)

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

• pinch red pepper flakes

1 green onion, very thinly sliced

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the oil and butter in a large skillet set over medium, medium-high heat. When butter has melted and is no longer foaming, add the zucchini, corn, cumin, paprika and red pepper flakes. Sauté and stir the zucchini and corn until just tender, about four to five minutes. Mix in the green onion and salt and pepper, to taste, and serve.

Note 1: The zucchini I used was about 9-inches long and 2-inches wide.

Note 2: One medium to large cob of corn, after shucking and cutting the kernels off the cob, should yield the 1-cup of kernels needed here.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.