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Recipe

Artisan Toast Bar

Servings: 6 to 8

Inviting guests to create their own custom toasts is a great way to get a party started. Prepare toppings ahead of time (some can be prepped up to 5 days ahead), and then grill or broil the bread at the last minute. Put all the components on the kitchen counter or an outdoor table, and let guests assemble their own.

Ingredients

For the herbed goat cheese

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 oz. fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
  • Finely grated lemon zest, as needed
  • 4 tsp. roughly chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
  • 4 tsp. chopped fresh mint
  • Kosher salt

For the pickled red onions

  • 8 oz. thinly sliced red onions
  • 1 medium clove garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh or dried coriander seeds
  • 2 strips lemon zest (optional)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
  • 3/4 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

For the roasted cherry tomatoes

  • 10 oz. large cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (or 2 generous cups halved)
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt

For the rustic herb oil

  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup tightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds, toasted pine nuts, or toasted chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
  • 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the crispy shiitake

  • 10 oz. large shiitake caps, stemmed and sliced into pieces about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt

For the grilled toast

  • 24 slices ciabatta (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick); multigrain or other peasant bread (1/2 inch thick); or naan (24 mini-naans or 12 large naans sliced into two half-moon-shaped pieces)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Kosher salt

For serving

  • 4 very thinly sliced radishes
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 to 3 Hass avocados
  • 4 packed cups (about 5 oz.) baby arugula, baby kale, baby spinach, frisée, or a mix of baby lettuces
  • 1/2 cup chopped or sliced pitted green and black cured olives
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped toasted pecans, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, or pine nuts
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 6 oz. soft-ripened (or washed rind) cheese, such as Brie or Camembert
  • 6 oz. blue cheese, such as Roquefort or Stilton
  • Balsamic glaze (see tip, below)
  • Honey or pure maple syrup
  • Black peppercorns

Preparation

Make the herbed goat cheese

  • In a small skillet or saucepan, combine the oil, garlic, and pepper flakes over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, until the oil is bubbling and the garlic is fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the garlic and set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the goat cheese, oil, lemon zest to taste, herbs, and a pinch of salt. Mash and stir together until smooth. If serving right away, transfer to a serving dish, and garnish with the reserved garlic and a sprig of thyme. If using later, transfer to a small crock or glass container, put the garlic cloves on top of the cheese, cover well, and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Make the pickled onions

  • Wash a small, deep glass bowl or 16-oz. mason jar, and dry thoroughly. Put the onions, garlic, coriander, zest (if using), and thyme (if using) in the bowl.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt, and immediately remove from the heat. Let the brine sit for a few minutes, and then pour over the onions and aromatics. Let the mixture cool to room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes, and then cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. You can use the pickled onions the next day, but the flavor will improve over several days. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to a few weeks.

Make the roasted tomatoes

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 425°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet
    with parchment.
  • Toss the tomatoes with the oil and a big pinch of salt. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, in one layer on the baking sheet. Roast until the tomatoes are shrunken and deep brown around the edges, 22 to 24 minutes.
  • Let the tomatoes cool for about 10 minutes on the pan, and then remove them. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Make the herb oil

  • In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, herbs, and nuts. Process until finely chopped, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the oil, zest, a few big pinches of salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Process again until well combined. The mixture should be loose, but you can loosen it further with more oil, if you like. Season to taste with salt. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature and shake to remix before serving.

Make the crispy shiitake

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 425°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Toss the sliced shiitake with the oil and a pinch of salt, and spread on the sheet. Bake, rotating the pan once, until the shiitake are shrunken, golden brown, and crisp, 12 to 16 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the mushrooms. Serve immediately.

Make the grilled toast

  • Prepare a medium-high (400°F to 475°F) gas- or charcoal-grill fire, or heat the oven broiler on high. Brush both sides of the bread generously with oil, and sprinkle one side with salt. If grilling, oil the grate, and place the bread on the hot grill grate; if broiling, arrange the bread on one or two baking sheets. Grill or broil, one sheet pan at a time, until golden brown, flipping once, about 2 minutes on the first side and 1 to 1-1/2 minutes on the second side. (If using naan, remove while still tender.)

Assemble the toast bar

  • Put the radishes in a small glass bowl. Add 1 tsp. of the lemon juice, a big pinch of salt, and a big pinch of sugar; toss well. Let sit while assembling the other ingredients.
  • In another small bowl, whisk the remaining 1 tsp. lemon juice with the olive oil. Halve and slice the avocados; arrange them on a plate. Brush with a little bit of the lemon-olive oil mixture. Put the baby greens in a bowl, add a pinch of salt, and add the remainder of the lemon-oil mixture. Toss to very lightly coat.
  • Arrange small bowls of the radishes, shiitake, tomatoes, pickled onions, olives, nuts, and sea salt near the bread and cheese on a board or platter. Put out the herb oil, balsamic glaze (and maple syrup or honey, if using), and a pepper grinder. Make sure there are small spoons or other serving utensils for each item.

Tip

Balsamic glaze is stocked in the supermarket near the vinegars; if you can’t find it you can make your own by simmering 1 cup balsamic vinegar with 6 Tbs. brown sugar, stirring often, until it’s reduced by between one-third
and one-half of its original volume, about 2 minutes.

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