Our column Deconstructing the Dish appears monthly in Nfocus Magazine and we include it here for our cheaterchef.com readers.
Bruschetta, crostini, toast…it’s all grilled bread to us.
Any time your grill is hot, grill some bread. Serve it plain with your meal or use it as an appetizer/snack carrier for spreads, meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, you name it. If you’ve tried Pinewood Social’s “Things on Toast” appetizer, you know toppings can get creative. Pretty much everything works on a crusty foundation. And a rich smoky char from the grill is a plus.
A little bit of oil brushed on before grilling keeps the bread palatable longer and gives it incredible chew. Serve it warm or at room temp. Grilled bread rewarms easily in a toaster oven or briefly back on a low grill so make a big batch ahead of serving time.
Here’s what to do: lightly brush a little oil (whatever you like, olive oil works great) on one side of each slice. Place the slices directly on the grill grate, oil side down, and don’t leave your post, no matter what. Medium-high heat should be plenty for bread.
If you’ve been wondering where the hot spots on your grill are, you’ll find out. Use tongs to check the progress of each slice (they’ll brown faster or slower depending on where they are on the grate) and move the slices around as needed for even grilling. When a slice turns golden and picks up a little char (you decide how much char you like), flip the slice over to the other side and grill it a minute or two longer until they look the way you want them.
Serving grilled bread as-is alongside a meal or a spread is cool, but going one step further and composing little grilled bread apps is even cooler. We’re not too big on fussy tweezer food, but colorfully topped open-faced grilled bread is a party showstopper and fantastic with cocktails. Use the bread as the blank canvas for a study in color, texture and flavor. Cut the slices into three-bite shapes and have fun.
Don’t be afraid to incorporate your leftover cooked vegetables, grilled fish and meats, and sauces like pesto or chimichurri…isn’t the creative use of leftovers the whole idea behind baked beans on toast?
Here’s a pile of “things on grilled bread” ideas to get you started…get busy with all those little-used condiments and fridge leftovers and be inspired by what’s fresh at the farmers’ market.
Creamy cheese like ricotta or burrata topped with slices of ripe peach or a sprinkling of blueberries and sliced almonds. Add a drizzle of honey and/or coarse salt.
Packs of Italian cured meats with sliced Provolone. Top with something pickled.
Classic sliced Tennessee tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil or good American sharp cheddar is a forever classic.
Mash cooked baby lima beans or green peas with a little olive oil and lemon juice. Top with thinly sliced country ham.
Simple hard cooked eggs dressed with mustard and mayo topped with grilled red pepper or smoked salmon or trout. Or, drizzle with a spoonful of pesto.
Rethink your leftover squash and pile it on grilled bread with Parmesan cheese curls or paper-thin country ham.
There’s nothing wrong with grilled bologna or thin slices of leftover meatball or meatloaf with mustard, pickle chips and onion.
Combine a cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese with couple spoonfuls of muffaletta olive salad and a little mayo for a New Orleans take on pimento cheese.
We can’t get enough creamy grilled eggplant slices with roasted red peppers and herbed cheese like Boursin.
Well-drained cooked greens of any kind over a garlicy thick white bean puree is a new Southern staple.
Sauteed mushrooms and onions seasoned with thyme with a little grated Gruyere tastes great in any season.
Don’t forget the fresh figs coming late in the summer and in the fall. Pair sliced figs with a salty meat like prosciutto or blue cheese and chopped walnuts. You can make an easy blue cheese spread by adding a little cream cheese.
Thinly sliced cucumber on herbed Boursin is a cinch and a sophisticated take on Kentucky’s Benedictine.
How about natural crunchy peanut butter, sliced cucumbers and cilantro with a drizzle of sriracha.
Create a new style of “tuna salad” or mock lobster salad with your leftover salmon or grilled fish and mayo, celery and onion.
Recreate last night’s steak dinner on toast with thin slices of cooked potato and steak drizzled with the leftover chimichurri.
And don’t forget you can make open-faced grilled cheese toasts with any melting cheese you have on hand. Add a slice of fresh Tennessee tomato for a timeless classic.