For many Italian kids nowadays, bruschetta is the new pizza, and it can be thought of in the same way in terms of toppings, no matter how simple or complex. The word bruschetta comes from the Roman dialectical verb root bruscare, meaning "to cook or roast over hot coals." In contrast to the literal translation, at OTTO Enoteca Pizzeria in New York City and Las Vegas, we use an industrial toaster. At home, you can use a simple toaster oven, panino press or even a regular oven broiler for results that are equally delicious.

When preparing bruschetta, cook the bread a little bit longer than you might be comfortable doing to form a deep golden brown crust. Be patient and you'll notice a more complex flavor and crunch in your bruschetta. The addition of smoked bacon and flaky sea salt only amplifies that experience in my Cabbage Bruschetta.

Available from late fall through winter, cabbage is a wallet-friendly and delicious cold-weather meal. While there are more than four hundred cabbage varieties out there, the three most familiar in America are Savoy, red and green. In this recipe, red is perfect with its white veins running throughout smooth textured leaves. Every now and then, I'll switch to white cabbage, depending on which varieties the local farmers market has to offer.

When buying cabbage, avoid the pre-cut packages because even when only halved, the cabbage loses a lot of the valuable Vitamin C content. Keep the firm heads in an airtight plastic bag within the crisper drawer of your refrigerator to stretch the freshness to up to two weeks. When ready to cook with cabbage, avoid steel knives, as the phytonutrients in this cruciferous vegetable often react with the metal, causing the leaves to turn black. Use a stainless steel knife to cut the cabbage into ribbons after removing the thick outer leave and washing well under running water.

Turn a couple of these cabbage bruschette into a nice, light meal by serving them with a few well-explored cheeses. Together, cheese and bruschetta have become their own delicious category at simple and fancy enotecas alike in all of my favorite cities.

Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind 24 restaurants.

Cabbage Bruschetta

Recipe excerpted from "Molto Gusto" by Mario Batali (ecco, 2010)

For the bruschetta

6 3/4-inch thick slices filone or other country bread

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Grill or toast the bread, turning once, until marked with grill marks or deep golden brown but still soft in the center. Rub a garlic clove just around the circumference of each toast, along the jagged outer crust. Divide the topping of your choice among the bruschette, and serve.

For the cabbage

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 ounces smoked bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced

1 pound red or white cabbage (about 1/2 medium cabbage), halved, cored and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide ribbons

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Maldon or other flaky sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Combine the oil, butter, bacon, onion and cabbage in a large pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the cabbage is well coated and beginning to wilt, about 5 minutes. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the cabbage is very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Add the vinegar, increase the heat to high, and cook, stirring, until most of the cooking liquid has evaporated. Season with salt if necessary and with pepper, and remove from the heat.

Serve the cabbage warm or at room temperature. (The cabbage can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before serving.) Makes a generous two cups of cabbage, for 6 servings.

Per serving: 236 calories; 14 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 53 percent calories from fat); 20 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 19 mg cholesterol; 363 mg sodium; 7 g protein; 3 g fiber.

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