I can think of few things that wouldn’t be made better when slathered on a piece of crusty bread. Actually, maybe I can’t think of any. Perhaps it’s my recent half marathon training (and the extra carbohydrates that are encouraged as part of the training diet) that has led me to believe that every meal should include thick slices of bread. But whatever it is, toast is on my brain these days and it just makes me happy.
This past week we went out for the crispy pizza at Delancey, and had a selection of toasts and cocktails next door at Essex (its attached sister bar) while we waited for our table. The first was a lovely braised lamb toast with feta, mint and other goodies, and the other was a snap pea toast with ricotta, garnished with thinly sliced radishes. When I ordered this pea toast I happily assumed it would be a sort of green puree spread like this dish I’ve made in the past for parties. However, what arrived was a mound of sweet, crunchy pea pods and some jazzed up ricotta schmear on top of grilled bread.
The pizza I ate following this cocktail hour was of course delicious, but this pea toast captivated my attention. Probably because I knew I could make something that came close at home, and gobble up even more at my own discretion.
First stop was the farmer’s market, where I found baskets of these sugar snap peas just waiting for me. Even though spring has officially left the building, these peas are still a presence at the market. Then a pilgrimage to Columbia City Bakery to get a loaf of Pain De Campagne (and a half-dozen little cookies, you know, for the ride home). Great bread makes all the difference in the world for this dish. This particular bread looks like it was left in a wood-burning oven for a few minutes too long, and out came this deep crust and chewy center that makes for killer toast. It’s the kind of bread that looks sexy in photos on its own, at least to me. Behold:
Columbia City is obviously my local choice, but the important thing is to just look for the freshest, most rustic loaf you can find.
The thing I love about making toasts like this is you don’t really need a recipe, you can just pile as much or as little as you like on a piece of bread and it’s going to be delicious. However, I did write down a few measurements for posterity. Make these for a party appetizer, a pre-dinner snack or for a light lunch. Best eaten outside, in the sunshine, with a glass of rose (but what isn’t best eaten under these conditions?).
Snap Pea Toast
6-8 slices rustic French bread
1 lb sugar snap peas
1-2 radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup whole milk ricotta
Zest of half a lemon (about a half teaspoon)
1/2 tsp salt, plus more for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
Blanch the peas in a large pot of boiling water for about 30-60 seconds. Immediately transfer to an ice bath, which will not only cool them off but also stop the cooking process and make them into the desired cartoon green color. Give the peas a rough chop and set aside.
Brush each of the bread slices with olive oil and grill over medium heat until you see those beautiful grill marks. Or, set under the broiler for a few minutes to toast – but don’t walk away and let them burn! Let the toasts cool a bit so your ricotta doesn’t melt everywhere.
Combine ricotta, lemon zest, a drizzle of olive oil (about a teaspoon) and fresh black pepper in a bowl.
Now that you’ve got all the components, it’s time to build your toasts. Spread about 2 tablespoons of ricotta on a piece of toasted bread and top with a handful of chopped peas (go as big as you want to on this one). Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and fresh black pepper, and drizzle with olive oil to finish. Top with sliced radishes.
Serve warm or at room temperature (which I prefer because I think all those spring flavors really pop).
Because wines make any cooking session better. Cheers!