My Recipe Box

Grilled Bread

For Satisfying Sides, Starters & Mains

by Elizabeth Karmel

fromFine Cooking
Issue 87

When you think of grilling, bread probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But to me, there is no food that better captures the flavor of the grill. Think about it: Bread dipped in olive oil is good, but how about crunchy, smoky, grilled bread dipped in olive oil? It’s almost a meal in itself.

While grilled bread is delicious on its own, its real beauty lies in its versatility—it makes an excellent foundation for appetizers, sandwiches, and even salads. I first realized this when I started grilling bread to round out some of my favorite grilled-vegetable salads. The bread not only absorbed the vegetables’ flavorful juices, which otherwise would have pooled in the bottom of the bowl, but it also gave the salads a surprising crunch and delicious, smoky flavor notes. Once I made this discovery, I started grilling bread to use in many kinds of dishes.

Getting grilled bread just right

  • Choose artisan or rustic country breads; ciabatta is my favorite, but you can also try sourdough or a French boule.
  • Slice the bread 3/4 to 1 inch thick.
  • Make sure the cooking grates are clean and heated.
  • Grill bread, covered, over direct medium-low heat.
  • Have a pair of tongs handy to turn the bread and remove it from the grill.
  • Patience is the key to great grilled bread. Don’t be tempted to use higher heat, or the bread will burn.

At its simplest, grilled bread makes a perfect accompaniment to any summer meal. The Grilled Garlic Bread featured here is a more sophisticated version of the butter-soaked garlic bread that many of us grew up with, but it’s easier to make and tastier, too. If you add a topping, like the goat cheese and marinated roasted peppers, you have a wonderful starter. The peppers can be prepared in advance, making the crostini easy to assemble at the last minute.

And finally, for a more substantial dish, try using grilled bread as a component of a main-course salad, like the Grilled Corn, Shrimp & Chorizo Salad. Just before serving, pile this colorful salad onto grilled bread, which adds a great texture to the salad and makes it heartier, too.

Good things start with grilled bread

  • Slather grilled bread with tapenade, top with grilled asparagus and Asiago cheese, and serve as an open-face sandwich.
  • Top grilled bread with roughly mashed avocado, chopped shallots, and a slice of smoked salmon.
  • Make a grilled-bread BLT with lots of mayonnaise, applewood-smoked bacon, tomatoes, and Boston lettuce.
  • Spread pesto on grilled bread and layer on thin slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella.
  • Toss frisée with pancetta, apples, and a blue-cheese vinaigrette, and serve over slices of grilled bread.
  • Top grilled bread with sliced grilled Italian sausage, grilled onions, and sliced red cabbage tossed with warm vinegar and fennel-seed dressing.

Photos: Scott Phillips

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