There may be more pressing issues in the food world, or more ambitious projects to tackle, but I am here to talk about perfecting the simplest of kitchen basics.
A good piece of toast, whether smeared with butter or draped with prosciutto, is a many splendored thing. Attention must be paid. While a badly toasted slice won’t necessarily ruin your day, it won’t brighten it, either. Ideally, it should.
Of course, just how the toast should be is really a matter of personal preference. The ideal, if I may generalize, is this: the perfect color (golden), the perfect texture (it should have a little “give” in the center) and the perfect temperature (hot).
How do you get this perfect toast?
It’s the little details that matter. You must take charge of it while it cooks, and nurse it along. In all toasting, not just the toasting of bread, you want to achieve color gradually. Leave it too long on the fire and the moment is lost.
Nearly any cooking method technique or tool is valid for toasting as long as you pay attention. In the end, the best method is the one that works best for you.
In the morning in southern Spain, when you walk around, all you smell is toasted bread. As people huddle with their café con leche, they have two options: sweet or savory. For the former, it’s butter with jam or honey. I prefer the latter: a cruet of olive oil for drizzling along with a plate of raw garlic cloves for rubbing the toast. And if there’s a ripe red tomato to rub on the toast, too, so much the better.
Rustic Tomato Toast
2 slices of bread from a plain rustic loaf, cut about ø-inch thick
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 small ripe red tomato, halved, seeds squeezed out
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt or fleur de sel
Toast the bread on both sides under the broiler, on a stovetop grill or over coals, until it is perfectly browned, with a bit of give in the center, about 1 minute per side.
Pressing down firmly, rub the top of each toast with the garlic. Press the tomato, cut side down, against the toast. Rub to moisten the toast and give it a juicy red color.
Drizzle with olive oil and finish with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt. Serve immediately. Makes 2.