The alchemy of savory toasts
A few times a week I like to conjure up a fancy savory toast for my client. Sometimes the toast is an afterthought-a realization that the table needs just one more tiny addition. Sometimes the toast is IT-the center of the luncheon universe. Today, It was more the latter. The surrounding dishes were lovely and tasted delightful, but didn’t have a lot of personality (sorry chicken and macaroni salads!). I felt an urge to create something with a little more depth and personality, and so foraged through the fridge until I came up with a winning combination.
I believe there are a few truths that are inherent in a good savory toast. One of course, is the bread. Please find a bread that was baked by someone who cared. Find a bread that you would eat as a plain piece of toast and really taste the soul of the flour, yeast, salt, water and hands that created it. It also must be sturdy, but not have too much going on. That done, the toppings (for me) tend to follow some sort of arc.
Something smooth and tangy (yogurt, cheese, a bean puree, etc..) is a good glue to add to the bread’s foundation. Today, I had the end of a lovely carton of homemade ricotta, and I simply grated some lemon zest straight into the container and swirled some olive oil and good salt along with it.
The next element is something umami, like mushrooms, smoked fish, or crumbled bacon. For this component, I sautéed shallots with a little garlic and tossed in some chopped fresh shiitake mushrooms. I blasted the heat and poured in the end of a bottle of chardonnay and finished with a little salt and some dried thyme. That mixture was then spooned over the thin schmear of ricotta.
From there, you can go more vegetal, either fresh or pickled. I chose marinated artichoke hearts, sliced any old way and laid down prettily on top of the mushroom mixture. To top your beauteous creation, you may sprinkle pretty edible flowers or herbs. To serve, drizzle something-balsamic glaze, pomegranate molasses, or just some good olive oil. And that’s it! I won’t make a table or a long list for you here. Just trying to guide you, give a little advice and let you take it from there. Experiment and make mistakes! That’s how you find the best combinations.