Once the mainstay of tea rooms, toasted bread topped with a vigorously flavored mixture is, as they say, back in style. Just consider the rage and range of crostini, that Italian hors d'ouevre offered as an appetite arouser.

Savory toast can be made as lavish or as rustic as you like, and can serve as an appetizer, snack, accompaniment to soup, or as lunch, paired with a crisp green salad.

Slices of good bread, done to a golden brown finish in the toaster, over the hot coals of an outdoor grill or under the broiler become the base for a range of toppings.

The bread should be thick crusted and sturdy, and rough-hewn enough to stand up to whatever the cook wishes to lavish over the surface, without turning into a limp, sodden mess. Multi-grain, country-style white or wheat, sourdough, herb or onion bread are all fine choices. Slice the bread by hand into slices a good half inch thick, using a serrated knife.

The toasts get their character from the toppings, and these can be simple or elaborate, largely depending upon the season and market offerings: mellow spreads, based on things like baked eggplant, tuna, onions or roasted peppers; cooked beans (such as cannelini or great northern white) moistened with olive oil and spiked with herbs; oil- and herb-marinated cheese (goat or mozzarella); and, seasonal vegetables, tossed in a sheer vinaigrette dressing, or made into a cooked compote (such as caponata or ratatouille).

Assemble the toasts just before you wish to serve them, to preserve the texture of the bread. Toasts look particularly attractive presented in a single layer on a large platter or plate, decorated with wisps of fresh herbs.

CHOPPED TOMATO AND BASIL TOASTS (Makes 10 toasts)

A classic treatment of tomatoes and bread, a platter of tomato toasts can serve as a casual, rustic appetizer. Remember this recipe when vine-ripened tomatoes abound in the summertime.

3 small, bright, ripe home-grown tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

10 slices multi-grain wheat or sourdough bread, toasted

Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, basil, parsley and vinegar in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon some of the tomato mixture on each slice of bread, cut in half and serve.

Per toast: 104 calories, 3 gm protein, 13 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fat, .7 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 175 mg sodium.

BEAN AND RED ONION TOASTS (Makes 8 toasts)

For a more substantial topping, add 1/4 cup flaked oil-packed tuna to the bean and onion mixture.

1 cup cooked cannellini beans

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped red onion

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 slices multi-grain or wheat bread, toasted

Combine the beans, oil, vinegar and parsley in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon some of the bean mixture on each slice of bread, cut in half and serve.

Note: You can brush the toasted slices of bread with a little extra olive oil just before spooning on the topping.

Per toast: 125 calories, 4 gm protein, 18 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fat, .6 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 177 mg sodium.

MOZZARELLA AND ANCHOVY TOASTS (Makes 10 toasts)

In this topping, thin slices of fresh mozzarella are marinated briefly in an herb-infused olive oil mixture. Fresh herbs, just plucked from the window box or garden, would be the ideal flavoring agent for the cheese; otherwise, use a judicious amount of the dried variety.

1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

1/4 cup good olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (or substitute 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves)

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (or substitute 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves)

10 slices multi-grain, wheat, olive or country-style white bread, toasted

10 flat anchovy fillets

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the mozzarella on a dinner plate, drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle the herbs on top. Let the cheese stand for 15 minutes.

Place a slice of cheese (or two, depending on size) on each slice of bread, garnish with an anchovy fillet, grind a little pepper over all, cut in half and serve.

Per toast: 189 calories, 8 gm protein, 13 gm carbohydrates, 12 gm fat, 4 gm saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 408 mg sodium.

ONION AND HAM TOASTS (Makes 10 toasts)

The onion and thyme topping for these toasts is sparked with mango chutney; you could also use a zesty hot pepper jelly in place of the chutney.

1 large, mild onion, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Large pinch dried thyme

Large pinch dried oregano

1 tablespoon dry white vermouth

2 teaspoons mango chutney

1/3 cup coarsely chopped cooked ham (preferably apple-smoked ham)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

10 slices multi-grain, wheat or sourdough bread, toasted

Place the onion and olive oil in a skillet, set over moderately low heat and cook until the onion has softened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the thyme, oregano, vermouth, chutney and ham. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold through the parsley.

Spread some of the onion mixture on each slice of bread, cut in half and serve.

Per toast: 119 calories, 4 gm protein, 14 gm carbohydrates, 6 gm fat, .8 gm saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 246 mg sodium.

ROASTED PEPPER AND OLIVE TOASTS (Makes 8 toasts)

Apart from spooning over slices of toasted bread, this roasted pepper condiment is wonderful tossed through hot pasta, stirred into a robust tomato-flavored fish soup, or simply spooned over steamed green beans.

2 roasted red peppers, peeled, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons tiny nonpareil capers, chopped

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

2 dozen oil-cured black olives, pitted and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 slices multi-grain or crusty country-style white bread, toasted

Combine the peppers, olive oil, capers, parsley, garlic, vinegar and olives in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread some of the pepper mixture on each slice of bread, cut in half and serve.

Per toast: 88 calories, 3 gm protein, 14 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fat, .3 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 233 mg sodium.

EGGPLANT TOASTS (Makes 10 toasts)

Baked eggplant, mashed and blended with seasoning, makes a light, unctuous spread to lavish over slices of multi-grain or wheat bread. The toasts are delicious served with soup or salad.

1 small eggplant

3 tablespoons chopped red onion

1 garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon snipped chives

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

3 small canned plum tomatoes, well drained and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

10 slices multi-grain, wheat or sourdough bread, sliced

Bake the eggplant on a cookie sheet in a preheated 375-degree oven until completely tender, about 40 to 50 minutes. Turn over the eggplant halfway through the cooking time. Cool completely.

Cut the eggplant in half, scoop out the flesh and chop coarsely. Combine the eggplant with the onion, garlic, olive oil, oregano, vinegar, chives, parsley and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (The eggplant mixture may be made up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate in a tightly covered container.)

Spread some of the eggplant mixture on each slice of bread, cut in half and serve.

Per toast: 111 calories, 3 gm protein, 14 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fat, .7 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 177 mg sodium.

CHICKEN LIVER TOASTS (Makes 10 toasts)

Just before serving, the tops of the toasts may be sprinkled with crisp, crumbled bacon or additional chopped parsley.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 shallot, chopped

1/2 pound chicken livers, trimmed and patted dry on paper towels

1 tablespoon dry sherry

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

10 slices French bread, toasted

Place the butter in a medium-sized skillet, set over moderately low heat and stir in the onion and shallot. Cook over low heat until the onion is wilted and soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the chicken livers and saute' until firm and cooked through, stirring often. Add the sherry, stir, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold through the parsley. Spoon the mixture onto a cutting board and chop coarsely.

Spread some of the chopped liver mixture on each slice of bread, cut in half and serve.

Per toast: 139 calories, 8 gm protein, 13 gm carbohydrates, 6 gm fat, 3 gm saturated fat, 153 mg cholesterol, 188 mg sodium.

Lisa Yockelson's most recent book in her series on country baking is "Country Cookies: An Old-Fashioned Collection."