Four ways to top toast any time

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOOD - BON­NIE S. BENWICK

We’re get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter at putting Things on Toast, a culi­nary cat­e­gory that’s hard to beat for its ver­sa­til­ity.

Some spreads ap­plied thin can boost flavour while cre­at­ing a pro­tec­tive layer be­tween crisp sur­face and squishy top­pings. Good loaves of un­sliced bread al­low us to con­trol the de­gree of thick­ness that’s de­sired/re­quired. And when we’re eat­ing and run­ning, we pack the toast and its adorn­ments sep­a­rately to en­sure a sat­is­fac­tory por­tion.

Here are four ways to go — savoury, sweet and some­where in be­tween.

Blue­berry and Goat Cheese Toast with Le­mon Thyme But­ter

The base spread of le­mon-thyme but­ter makes all the dif­fer­ence here, flavour-wise.

Adapted from “Melts: Over 50 De­li­cious Toasted and Grilled Sand­wich Recipes,” by Fern Green (Hardie Grant, 2017).

MAKES 2 SERV­INGS

1½ tea­spoons fresh le­mon thyme leaves, minced (from 4 sprigs) 1 ta­ble­spoon un­salted but­ter, at room tem­per­a­ture Pinch sea salt 2 thin slices multi­grain bread, toasted and warm 1/2 cup soft goat cheese 1/2 cup fresh blue­ber­ries, some cut in half (stemmed and rinsed) 1 tbsp honey

Use a fork to whisk to­gether the le­mon thyme leaves, but­ter and salt in a small bowl, un­til well in­cor­po­rated. Spread the mix­ture on one side of each piece of warm toast.

Once the but­ter has melted a bit, gen­tly spread the goat cheese on each but­tered slice of toast. Scat­ter the blue­ber­ries on each por­tion, then driz­zle each one with the honey. Serve right away.

Per serv­ing: 250 calo­ries, 9 grams pro­tein, 29 g car­bo­hy­drates, 12 g fat, 8 g sat­u­rated fat, 30 mil­ligrams choles­terol, 420 mg sodium, 2 g di­etary fi­bre, 12 g su­gar

Mush­room Toast

The prepa­ra­tion couldn’t be sim­pler, and yet the re­sult is el­e­gant enough to serve as a din­ner party starter as well as for a spe­cial brunch; it’s rich, you bet.

Adapted from “Sim­ple Fare Spring/Sum­mer: A Guide to Ev­ery­day Cook­ing and Eat­ing,” by Karen Mordechai (Abrams, 2017).

MAKES 2 TO 4 SERV­INGS

3 ta­ble­spoons olive oil 2 large, thick slices sour­dough bread (about 4 ounces to­tal) 2 cloves gar­lic, each cut in half 1 tbsp salted but­ter 6 ounces beech mush­rooms, sep­a­rated into pieces Leaves from 2 or 3 sprigs thyme, chopped ¼ cup Sancerre (wine) ½ to ¾ cup heavy cream 2 tbsp crème fraîche Sea salt Freshly ground black pep­per ½ to 1 tea­spoon finely grated le­mon zest

Heat a grill pan over high heat. Use 2 ta­ble­spoons of the oil to brush both sides of each slice of bread, then place it in the pan; toast on both sides un­til golden. Trans­fer to a plate and im­me­di­ately rub with the cut sides of half the gar­lic. Heat the but­ter and the re­main­ing ta­ble­spoon of oil in a medium skil­let over medium heat. Add the re­main­ing gar­lic, the mush­rooms and most of the thyme leaves; cook for about five min­utes, stir­ring a few times.

Stir in the Sancerre; cook for about three min­utes, or un­til the liq­uid has re­duced. Stir in the cream (to taste) and cook for about three min­utes more, stir­ring, then re­move from the heat. Stir in the crème fraîche, then sea­son lightly with salt and pep­per.

Place a piece of toast on each plate. Di­vide the mush­room mix­ture be­tween them, spoon­ing it atop the toast. Sprin­kle with the le­mon zest (to taste), the re­main­ing thyme leaves and a lit­tle salt. (Cut each slice cross­wise in half, for four serv­ings.) Serve right away.

Per serv­ing: 340 calo­ries, 5 g pro­tein, 17 g car­bo­hy­drates, 28 g fat, 12 g sat­u­rated fat, 55 mg choles­terol, 250 mg sodium, 0 g di­etary fi­bre, 2 g su­gar

Roasted Toma­toes and Av­o­cado on Toast

Here, a thin layer of sweet-tart tomato jam keeps the toast from get­ting too soggy, and the ad­di­tion of a roasted tomato turns this into some­thing more sub­stan­tial.

Adapted from a recipe at Olivemagazine.com.

MAKES 2 TO 3 SERV­INGS

2 or 3 juicy Roma toma­toes, cut in half length­wise Olive oil Kosher salt Freshly ground black pep­per Flesh of 1 ripe av­o­cado (on the small side) 2 ta­ble­spoons fresh lime juice Pinch sweet Span­ish smoked pa­prika (pi­men­ton) or Aleppo pep­per 2 or 3 tbsp tomato jam (may sub­sti­tute no-su­gar apri­cot pre­serves) 2 slices sturdy, thick multi­grain or rye bread, toasted Water­cress or pea shoots, for garnish

Pre­heat the toaster oven to 425 F. Line a small bak­ing pan with alu­minum foil.

Ar­range the toma­toes, cut sides up, on the bak­ing pan. Driz­zle with the oil and sea­son lightly with salt and pep­per. Roast for 25 to 30 min­utes, or un­til soft­ened and a bit toasted at the edges.

Mean­while, com­bine the av­o­cado, lime juice, smoked pa­prika or Aleppo pep­per and a small pinch of salt in a medium bowl; use a fork to mash into a coarse con­sis­tency.

Spread the tomato jam (1 ta­ble­spoon per) on the toasted bread slices, then the av­o­cado mix­ture. Top with the roasted tomato halves (2 halves per) and the greens.

You may wish to cut the slices in half, for ease of eat­ing. Serve right away.

Per serv­ing (based on 3): 180 calo­ries, 3 g pro­tein, 25 g car­bo­hy­drates, 9 g fat, 1 g sat­u­rated fat, 0 mg choles­terol, 140 mg sodium, 4 g di­etary fi­bre, 8 g su­gar

Grilled Corn and Scal­lion Toast with Ci­lantro Crema

Lanky and charred, grilled scal­lions are easy to make and look so stun­ning heaped in a tan­gle on top of bread.

Ci­lantro crema, whirled in a food pro­ces­sor with plenty of lime and jalapeño, cush­ions the scal­lions; and smoky grilled corn, sliced off the cob, adds sweet­ness and crunch.

Crumbly Mex­i­can cotija cheese punc­tu­ates the toast with a salty bite. If you can’t find it, swap in ri­cotta salata or feta. The corn can be done on the grill as well. Make ahead: The crema can be re­frig­er­ated a day or two in ad­vance; you may have some left over, as well as some grilled corn. Feel free to com­bine the two for a quick side salad, or use the mix­ture as a base for a potato salad.

Adapted from “Toast: The Cook­book,” by Raquel Pelzel (Phaidon, 2015).

MAKES 4 SERV­INGS

For the top­ping ½ cup sour cream ¼ packed cup ci­lantro leaves ¼ cup crumbled cotija cheese (see head­note) ½ jalapeño pep­per, seeded and coarsely chopped Juice of 1 lime 1½ tea­spoons kosher salt 4 tsp ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 8 scal­lions, root ends trimmed 2 ears fresh corn, shucked For the toast 3 ta­ble­spoons ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil Four ¾-inch thick slices coun­try-style bread Kosher salt For serv­ing ½ cup crumbled cotija cheese (see head­note) 1 tsp ground cayenne pep­per 1 lime, cut into quar­ters

For the top­ping: Com­bine the sour cream, ci­lantro, cotija cheese, jalapeño, lime juice and 1 tea­spoon of the salt in a food pro­ces­sor; pulse to form a fairly smooth purée. Trans­fer to a bowl, cover with plas­tic wrap and re­frig­er­ate un­til ready to use (up to a day or two).

Heat a grill pan over high heat. Driz­zle 2 tea­spoons of the oil over the scal­lions and sprin­kle with ¼ tea­spoon of salt; grill on both sides un­til charred and soft, for four to five min­utes. Trans­fer to a plate.

Brush the re­main­ing 2 tea­spoons of oil over the corn and sea­son with the re­main­ing ¼ tea­spoon of salt; grill on all sides un­til the ker­nels are golden brown and slightly charred; this should take six to eight min­utes to­tal. Once the corn is cool enough to han­dle, slice the ker­nels off the cob.

For the toast: Use the 3 ta­ble­spoons of oil to driz­zle one side of each bread slice. Sea­son each slice with a pinch of salt. Grill the bread on both sides un­til toasted and grill marked, for two to four min­utes to­tal.

When ready to serve, top each toast with some crema, then di­vide the grilled corn among each por­tion. Lay 2 grilled scal­lions over each piece of toast, then sprin­kle with the cotija cheese.

Sprin­kle the cayenne pep­per on a small plate; dip one side of each lime wedge in it, to coat. Serve the lime on the side, let­ting peo­ple squeeze it over the toast be­fore eat­ing.

Per serv­ing (us­ing three-quar­ters of the crema and corn): 350 calo­ries, 9 g pro­tein, 25 g car­bo­hy­drates, 25 g fat, 8 g sat­u­rated fat, 35 mg choles­terol, 830 mg sodium, 2 g di­etary fi­bre, 4 g su­gar

PHO­TOS BY GORAN KOSANOVIC, FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Mush­room Toast.

Blue­berry and Goat Cheese Toast with Le­mon Thyme But­ter.

Corn-Scal­lion Toast with Ci­lantro Crema.

Roasted Toma­toes and Av­o­cado on Toast.

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