Earlier this year, one of the hotly debated topics in the food world had to do with a certain one-ingredient dish. Some people enthusiastically believed it was high time this item got the recognition it deserved, while others expressed outrage over its exorbitant price tag on menus in trendy coffee shops and cafés. The latter didn’t understand why you would pay so much for something you could prepare in minutes in your own kitchen. One article called it a way in which San Francisco, the city either thanked or blamed for the trend, “fetishizes its maker class,” while another delved deep into the phenomenon’s story of origin and found that it’s about more than just food.
So what was all the hoopla about? It wasn’t pour-over coffee. Or bacon anything. It was something you’ve eaten, probably before work, on your way out the door. The topic of debate was toast.
I think that relegating toast to the “on-the-run breakfast” category does it a disservice, as does limiting its toppings to butter and jam. While charging several dollars for one piece of bread is certainly pricy, I’m happy to see toast being elevated to something beyond an afterthought of a breakfast side dish.
At its core, toast is just a vehicle for a topping. And while the traditional toppings are consistently great, you can get creative with what you put on top. Inspired by ABC Kitchen, I paired butternut squash and ricotta cheese, but also included fennel, shallots and a crunchy pistachio garnish. A seasonal recipe that takes this trendy dish from secondary to the star of the show? I’ll toast to that!
Toast with Butternut Squash and Ricotta Cheese
1 large butternut squash (about 2½ pounds), peeled and seeded, then cut in half lengthwise and sliced into ¼-inch slices
¼ cup roughly diced fennel stalks
3 roughly diced shallots
⅓ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling on bread
3 tablespoons honey, divided
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Rustic bread, sliced into ½-inch-thick pieces (I used a loaf of Iggy’s Francese bread)
Ricotta cheese (I used about ¼ cup of cheese for each slice of bread)
Pistachios, chopped, for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine squash, fennel and shallots on baking sheet. In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, 2 tablespoons honey and maple syrup. Drizzle over vegetables and stir until evenly coated. Spread out on baking sheet into one layer or until squash is barely overlapping. (If necessary, use second baking sheet.) Bake until soft and some slices are starting to brown, about 30 minutes.
2. Slice and toast bread. Drizzle with olive oil. Season ricotta with salt, pepper and honey. Spread seasoned ricotta onto toast and shingle squash slices on top, spooning some shallot and fennel pieces over squash.
3. In small bowl, mix together remaining tablespoon honey, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Drizzle over toasts, then garnish with chopped pistachios.