Believe it or not, toast can be topped with other-than-avocado foods. Take beans, for example. The Brits have long been obsessed with their classic beans on toast, but their preferred method involves canned baked beans and a thin slice of sandwich bread.
No offense, but when I put beans on toast (or crostini or bruschetta, if you’re feeling Italian) I like to think it through a little bit more and try a little harder. Of course, the bread is important: Choose something rustic and chewy, and broil it carefully after a brush of olive oil.
Even more important, make the beans delicious. When they’re left over from another use, or even canned, infuse them with garlic or other bean-friendly flavorings (oregano, perhaps thyme, even smoked paprika or ground chiles), and season them well. I often make this on the fly, topping the bean mixture with crunchy and/or tart things I find in my fridge. I’ve never written down the approach, which is why I was glad to see that Athena Calderone had done the work for me in “Cook Beautiful” (Abrams, 2017).
On top of her garlicky white beans on toast goes a quick radicchio slaw, adding a little bitterness to the earthy, creamy beans. And on top of that goes a finely chopped mixture of parsley, lemon and garlic — the classic Italian gremolata. This punchy condiment/garnish acts as a counterpoint, and as I sliced and ate forkfuls of the layers, I knew: This is just what any dish of beans on toast needs.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstakenly listed the publisher of “Cook Beautiful” as Adams. It is Abrams.
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Serve with a salad or soup.
Adapted from “Cook Beautiful,” by Athena Calderone (Abrams, 2017).
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
One 15-ounce can no-salt-added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup water
¾ teaspoon sea salt, or more as needed
4 slices country bread (about ½ inch thick)
1 lemon, halved and seeded
½ cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 small head radicchio or treviso (about 6 ounces), halved lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced
Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add half the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the beans, water and ¼ teaspoon of the salt; cook until warmed through, 3 to 5 minutes. Use the back of a wooden spoon to mash about a quarter of the beans, just enough to thicken the mixture. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
Position an oven rack to 4 to 6 inches from the broiler; preheat to broil. Use a brush and another 2 teaspoons of the oil to lightly coat the bread on each side. Arrange on a baking sheet and broil just until the bread is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side, watching closely to avoid burning.
Thinly slice half the lemon, then coarsely chop the slices (peel included). Gather the parsley, chopped lemon and the remaining chopped garlic on your cutting board and sprinkle with another ¼ teaspoon salt. Finely chop everything together to create a loose relish.
Toss the radicchio in a medium bowl with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Squeeze the juice from the remaining lemon half in, and toss to combine.
Spread the beans on each piece of toast. Top with the radicchio and the relish. Drizzle with a little oil and serve.
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