It was one of those picture perfect kind of days in Seattle. The kind that we don’t get very often here in the PNW with sunshine and blue skies. I think this was the day I started to see my first-of-the-year flip flop tan line appear across my feet, which were resting on the bottom rung of a barstool at Sitka and Spruce where Kristan and I were sharing a plate of perfectly charred asparagus with horseradish cream on top. We were laughing at the dog that was watching us out of his apartment window across the street. We were swapping the highs and lows of blogging. We were talking about her beautiful new book, On Toast.
As I flipped through On Toast the next morning, energized after spending the afternoon with Kristan’s kind creative soul (along with that evening with half a dozen other amazing, talented women in food), I found myself buzzing with ideas too. Her book made me think about toast in ways that went beyond the standard-if-not-overdone-but-still-deeply-loved avocado version. It made me want to create in my own kitchen, using toast as my trusty canvas.
I settled on zucchini, mostly because it was pretty much the only vegetable I had on hand. My paring knife just barely grazed its side, making thin emerald-streaked slices that I folded onto crunchy sourdough bread. A hemisphere of burrata cheese, it’s insides melting from the outer mozzarella skin, a quick dusting of red chili flakes, a scattering of fresh chive blossoms, and a handful of crushed marcona almonds rounded it out. The emptiness of my kitchen had turned into something and quite frankly it had turned into something I was kind of in love with.
Toast. Crispy, crunchy, charr-y zucchini-topped toast.
And I think that’s what I love most about Kristan’s book. It inspires me to think about this thing, this simple food staple eaten in various forms by cultures from around the globe, as something whose simplicity doesn’t render it insignificant in the food world. It’s full of possibilities for creation and recreation.
Later that week, I picked up the ingredients for Kristan’s Grilled Zucchini and Halloumi Toast, excited about this newfound love of zucchini toast and also enchanted by her subtle yet transformative instructions to rub garlic (or garlic spread) all over the crispy bread slices before topping them with cheese and grilled summer vegetables. She finishes hers with fresh corn but since I couldn’t find any at the market that day, I substituted grape tomatoes to keep the earthy sweetness of the dish in tact. I could barely photograph this before taking a big bite, the halloumi squeaking between my teeth, the grilled zucchini channeling many more warm summer days to come.
So, here for you today are two versions of my new summer favorite for the first official day of summer – zucchini toast – one adapted from Kristan’s version in On Toast and one my version…but also kind of hers since I have her to thank for my newfound love of a good ole slice of toasted bread.
- 2 thick slices of sourdough bread
- extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
- 1 small zucchini, sliced very thinly (about ⅛-inch thick)
- 1 ball of fresh burrata cheese, divided in half
- 1 teaspoon of freshly cracked red pepper
- ½ teaspoon of kosher salt
- ¼ cup of crushed marcona (or other) almonds
- 2 chives blossoms OR 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped chives
- 4 slices of zucchini, sliced ¼-inch thick
- extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
- ¼ cup of corn kernals (or grape/cherry tomatoes, sliced in half)
- 2 slices of semolina bread*
- 1-1/2 tablespoons of whipped garlic spread OR 1 garlic clove for rubbing bread
- 2 slices of halloumi cheese, sliced about ⅓-inch thick
- 2 lemon wedges
- chopped fresh parsley or basil, for garnish
- Toast the sourdough bread to your liking. Brush with olive oil. Top with zucchini slices, folding them over one another to create a more textured appearance, then top with burrata cheese, red pepper, salt, and almonds. Garnish with chive blossoms, if available, or freshly chopped chives.
- Preheat the grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the zucchini slices with olive oil and place in the hot grill pan. Grill the zucchini slices for about 5 minutes, flipping halfway through or until they are tender. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- If using corn, add the kernals to the pan and cook until charred. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Brush the bread with olive oil and toast. Spread each slice with a thin layer of whipped garlic spread, or, if you don't have whipped garlic spread, simply rub 1 clove of garlic gently, all over each slice of bread. Divide the zucchini and corn (or tomatoes, if using) between each slice of toast.
- Grill the halloumi on the grill pan until softened, about 2 minutes, flipping halfway through. Top each slice of toast with halloumi and garnish with a squeeze of lemon juice and freshly chopped herbs.