Toast for Dinner
Something for when there's nothing to cook
Hello folks — I hope this unseasonable month is treating you as well as it can. Things seem to be busier than ever, at least in the inchoate, distinctly post-covid way that life has settled on for the time being, so this week I’ll be upping the lazy factor a bit.
When I’m too spent to assemble a proper dinner and have ruled out other options — fridge soup, a big salad, a takeout rotisserie chicken or its leftover golden broth — I like to lean on toast. Not your average white bread or whole wheat; if I want that, I’ll defer to the standing reservation my fiancée Julie and I have at our neighborhood diner. Instead, I’ll slice off a nice hunk of really good bread, ideally from She Wolf bakery; sourdough batard most often, but more recently its dark, tangy miche loaf. This sculptural specimen of bread is then shallow-fried (okay, so it’s not really toast toast) in good olive oil until golden brown, and vigorously rubbed with garlic until the clove essentially disappears into the crust.
The base of the dish now quickly and easily formed, it can then be topped with anything of your liking: tinned fish, smoked fish, a rarebit-esque smothering of cheese, mushrooms and caramelized onions, or perhaps just good butter and good anchovies. All of these would make an excellent quick dinner, along with a green salad or a cup of soup.
One toast innovation I stumbled upon recently, and enjoyed quite a bit, was a mash-up of my other favorite lazy weeknight meal: escarole and beans. I nestled the fried bread into a loose stew of beans and greens, and topped it with escarole that was rapidly seared and wilted in very hot olive oil, along with a few anchovies for good measure. This, I think, deserves to be a thing.
1 head of escarole, washed thoroughly and dried
1 can of cannelini or white beans
2-3 slices of good bread, cut roughly 2 inches thick
1 garlic clove per bread slice
6-7 additional cloves of garlic, smashed
High-quality anchovies (optional)
Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
Extra virgin olive oil
Heat olive oil in a pan; when hot, add the slices of bread. Cook until they are golden brown on one side. Remove and set aside.
Rub a garlic clove into the fried, crusty side of each slice of bread.
Slice the escarole in half; reserve one half with the root side intact. Roughly chop the other half.
Add a generous amount of olive oil to a pot and set it over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic cloves and cook until they are golden brown.
Add the beans to the pot; fill the empty can with water and add to the beans. Bring to a boil.
Let the beans simmer for 5-7 minutes and then add the chopped escarole. Simmer until the escarole is completely softened, approx. 15-20 minutes.
Set a wide pan over high heat and add a generous amount of olive oil. When the oil is very hot, add the intact half of the escarole; it will start loudly sputtering (you may want to use a splatter guard). Let it fry on high heat until the underside is clearly browned and the escarole begins to wilt. Remove and set aside.
Slice the seared escarole vertically into approx. 3 thin ribbons, or roughly chop if desired.
Plate the escarole and beans; place the bread in the center of the stew. Top the bread with the seared escarole; dress with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and flaky salt. Garnish with anchovies and grated cheese.
I did this last night! Toasted sourdough (wish I had she wolf) with leftover tomato sauce and sardines. Variations on this are my favorite quick pantry meal.