Romesco Toast with Mustard Greens from Toast By Raquel Pelzel

If you follow food trends at all, you’ll know that toast is so popular, it now has entire sections of menus devoted to it.

Instead of #putaneggonit,” it’s put it on toast.

Following any big restaurant food trend usually comes at least one cookbook, which often act as the backlash to the backlash in the trend cycle. I happened to have two friends write books about toast this year, including the aptly named Toast: The Cookbook, by Raquel Pelzel.

Toast: The Cookbook

As an unabashed carb lover, I’m on board with this trend. Let me re-phrase: I resent paying $12 at a restaurant for toast (unless it’s truly exceptional), but I’m delighted that it’s now considered an acceptable dinner.

Of course, when I have toast as a meal, I usually set out, say, a container of ricotta, some roasted chiles and maybe some greens. Then I just tell whoever is at the table to have at it.

Raquel, who has has been a sort of fairy godsister to me since I started my freelance career two years ago, proves that the toast dinner is worthy of an upgrade. I was thrilled to test a few recipes for her book and am even more excited that the book is here.

A former Cooks Illustrated recipe tester and collaborator on seventeen cookbooks and counting, Raquel creates foolproof recipes with exacting instructions. They almost might seem fussy until you try the results.

For example, when I tested the lovely, luscious, Sweet Shrimp and Fava Smash Toast in her book, she has you halve the shrimp lengthwise. The few minutes of extra work, however, gives you the impression that you’ve doubled the amount of (expensive) shrimp you have. Plus, they cook lightning fast and the pieces are delicate, rather than clunky, so they stay on your toast.

For making toast itself, she stresses her strong preference for using a broiler so you can brush them with olive oil or butter first. It’s slightly more cumbersome than popping bread in the toaster, but you end up with bread that’s especially crisp, with a custardy center, and an almost smoky flavor.

While flipping through the book recently, the toast recipe in the photo called out to me. I love a good romesco—the Spanish roasted pepper and almond sauce that’s sometimes thickened with bread. This one appealed to me more than usual because it doesn’t call for red bell peppers (my least favorite vegetable). Instead, the base is more tomatoey, with a bit of complex fruity chile flavor and slight heat from a dried guajillo.

Like most romescos, the instructions involve a few steps: First you broil a tomato; then you cook the garlic and a chile in a pool of hot oil, before soaking the chile in boiling water. Finally, you toast bread cubes and almonds in the oil and finally blend everything together with vinegar and salt. During the process, it’s satisfying to watch and smell all of these raw ingredients undergo the effects of, ahem, toasting, taking on more delicious dimensions.

Because of the little bit of work involved, I made a double batch of the romesco. It’s never a bad sauce to have around. For example, after I ate these garlicky greens-topped toasts  for lunch (so, so delicious), I spooned the sauce alongside my salmon for dinner. As I write this, I’ve got some roasted winter squash cooling on the counter that’s looking to get in on the action. Maybe with some pork chops? Or, perhaps, I’ll just put it on toast (again) and call it dinner, along with a glass of wine, of course.

Speaking of wine, let’s just say that mustard greens are a challenging pairing. I ended up focusing more on the romesco and serving these with a light, fruity Cabernet Franc from the Bourgueil region of France. Any similar red, like Beaujolais or simple styles of Spanish Tempranillo, will do. And, of course, don’t forget to share a toast. (Sorry, I had to!) continue reading

WineShelfTalker

Guaranteed to get you ‘suburban mom drunk’ and other funny wine reviews. (Thanks, Margaret, for the tip-off!)

A jaded look at what makes for a best-selling cookbook.

I’m always looking for a new way to roast a chicken. Besides having to clean the oven rack afterwards, I can’t find any issues with this! Looking forward to trying.

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Hate your tile backsplash but can’t afford to take it out just yet? Paint it.

ToDoListI’m interrupting this regularly scheduled program of food and drink to talk about an easy way I changed my to-do lists to help me feel more in control of my time. Hope you enjoy!

I’m a list-making junkie. I start my day by reviewing a to-do list and end it by creating one for the next day.  I think Bullet Journaling is just brilliant. I was this way before I became an entrepreneurial mom and now I’m even more diligent.

The problem is that sometimes, I over plan; I  jam too much into a day and feel defeated when it’s not all accomplished. I realized that I wasn’t building in time for the grunt work that surrounds many fun tasks. So, guess what? I started adding them all to the list.

For example, when developing recipes for my book, I put “clean kitchen” as a to-do. Why? Because before I did this, I’d finish testing the recipes on my list but ended my day with the kitchen in chaos right before I’d have to get my daughter from her babysitter. Then the kitchen would stay dirty until after she went to bed, leaving my husband with an unfair number of dishes to do at night or leaving me with a dirty kitchen to clean before cooking in the morning.

By adding “clean the kitchen” and other similarly boring items to my list, I acknowledge that these tasks are necessary parts of my day and then budget time for them. And, of course, I get the great satisfaction and happy jolt that only checking off a “to-do” can provide. (Fellow to-do list junkies will know the feeling).

Pasta is used as more of a sideshow rather than the opening act in this delicious summery mussels recipe.

This post could also be titled, How I got suckered into buying a $10 bag of pasta, again. Have you tried the pastas from Sfoglini? The company puts the dough through brass dies and extrudes fun shapes with textured surfaces that sauces love to cling to. When I splurge on this pasta, I like to use it as part of a dish rather than as the main component. That way, a bag of it lasts longer and a dish is often healthier (with more veggies and protein than pasta) to boot.

I most recently bought the Sfoglini Malloreddus, which look a lot like cavatelli but contain a bit of saffron. The shell shape and slight saffron flavor had me thinking seafood, so I added a few handfuls to some steamed mussels made fragrant with fresh, mild red chile; basil and tarragon. I also threw in some corn because, you know, it’s still summer, even though it’s September.

Wine pairing here is a bit tricky. The sweet corn tends to make dry wines taste pretty awful. The solution: A wine with a little bit of sweetness and a lot of acidity to go with the mussels. I like a slightly off-dry Riesling; something marked feinherb or kabinett from Germany is a good bet. Just make sure it doesn’t say trocken, which means dry. If that’s all just too confusing, get this wine. All you need to know: It’s a Riesling from New York and it’s delicious.

SfogliniPastaSfogliniPastaOpenBagSfogliniPastaDetail continue reading