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Four ways to top toast anytime

By Bonnie S. Benwick

The Washington Post 

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 flavor 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 – savory, sweet and somewhere in between.

Editor’s note: Some of these ingredients are a little hard to find here, though the ideas are good. We’re going to suggest substitutions along the way, and put them in parentheses.

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

Adapted from “Melts: Over 50 Delicious Toasted and Grilled Sandwich Recipes,” by Fern Green (Hardie Grant, 2017). 2 servings

Blueberry and Goat Cheese Toast With Lemon Thyme Butter

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon thyme leaves, minced (from 4 sprigs) (or plain thyme)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

Pinch sea salt

2 thin slices multigrain bread, toasted and warm (about 2 2/5 ounces total)

2 ounces (1/2 cup) soft goat cheese

2 ounces (1/2 cup) fresh blueberries, some cut in half (stemmed and rinsed)

1 tablespoon 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.

Nutrition — Per serving: 250 calories, 9 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 420 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 12 g sugar.

Mushroom Toast

2 to 4 servings

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).

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large, thick slices sourdough bread (about 4 ounces total)

2 cloves garlic, each cut in half

1 tablespoon salted butter

6 ounces beech mushrooms, separated into pieces (white, button mushrooms work, as well)

Leaves from 2 or 3 sprigs thyme, chopped

1/4 cup Sancerre (wine) (sauvignon blanc white wine)

1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons crème fraîche (can substitute sour cream)

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 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 5 minutes, stirring a few times.

Stir in the Sancerre; cook for about 3 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced. Stir in the cream (to taste) and cook for about 3 minutes, 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 4 servings.) Serve right away.

(You can make a version of créme fraîche by combining a cup of whipping cream — NOT the ultra-pastueurized kind — with 2 tablespoons cultured buttermilk. Cover with cheesecloth or a damp paper towel and let stand at room temperature for 8-24 hours. Stir well, then refrigerate for up to 10 days.)

Nutrition — 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 fiber, 2 g sugar.

Roasted Tomatoes and Avocado on Toast

2 to 3 servings

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.

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 tablespoons tomato jam (may substitute no-sugar apricot preserves)

2 slices sturdy, thick multigrain or rye bread, toasted

Watercress or pea shoots, for garnish

Steps

Preheat the toaster oven to 425 degrees. 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.

Nutrition — 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 fiber, 8 g sugar.

Grilled Corn and Scallion Toast With Cilantro Crema

4 servings

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).

For the topping

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 packed cup cilantro leaves

1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese (see headnote)

1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

Juice of 1 lime

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 scallions, root ends trimmed

2 ears fresh corn, shucked

For the toast

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Four 3/4-inch thick slices country-style bread

Kosher salt

For serving

1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese (see headnote)

1 teaspoon 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 puree. 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 1/4 teaspoon of salt; grill on both sides until charred and soft, for 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Brush the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over the corn and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt; grill on all sides until the kernels are golden brown and slightly charred; this should take 6 to 8 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 2 to 4 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.

Nutrition — 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 fiber, 4 g sugar.

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