"Toast: 60 Ways to Butter Your Bread and Then Some," Jesse Ziff Cool

Pros: Succulent flavors; easy, simple, clear; kitchen-tested
Cons: None!
Rating: 5 out of 5

First published 11/4/2003

When my husband held up a cookbook called “Toast: 60 ways to butter your bread & then some” and said we had to get it, I was a little dubious. Who wants to buy a cookbook about toast? But I trust his judgment, and I knew that if he’d looked through the cookbook and the recipes hadn’t looked interesting and delicious he wouldn’t have suggested buying the book (well okay, maybe he would have…).

A Cookbook About Toast?!

As you might guess by the subtitle, “60 ways to butter your bread and then some,” this book isn’t about making toast–it’s about what you do with toast to turn it into something greater, something glorious. It starts out with a few basic words on toasting techniques and appliances, but it quickly moves on to the meat of the matter: chapters of breakfasts, appetizers, sandwiches, main courses, and desserts/sweet toasts.

Yes, you really can use toast for all occasions, all ages (the author, Jesse Ziff Cool, includes some of her childrens’ favorites), and all tastes!

Breakfasts include “Egg in the Eye” with Extra Toasts for Dipping, Jonah’s Beans and Toast, Toast with Green Eggs and Ham, Toast with Lox and Caper-Dill Cream Cheese, and Waffle-Iron Orange French Toast. It also includes two of my favorite recipes from this cookbook (although in all fairness I have to note that every recipe we’ve tried from this cookbook has been “one of my favorites”). One is the Summer Breakfast Sandwich with Tomatoes, Avocado, and Cheddar Cheese–the most delectable combination of flavors, especially when made with very ripe avocadoes and local farm-grown tomatoes. Note that it’s very messy to eat, however. The other is the Winter Breakfast Sandwich with Maple Syrup, Toasted Walnuts, and Cream Cheese, which also makes a fine dessert as well. Both recipes were so good that… well, I really don’t know how to explain just how good they were. I’ll just say that Ms. Cool has a real talent for finding the perfect balance and blend of flavors in a dish.

The Appetizers are, of course, every bit as good as the breakfasts. I think we made the Spanish Tomato Toast three or four days in a row because it was just so simple, easy to make, and delicious. (We were able to throw it together out of ingredients readily on hand in about 10 minutes’ time.) Here you’ll find everything from the homey and simple (Little Meatballs on Garlic Toast; Garlic Bread Cooked Over an Open Flame) to the elegant and fancy (Nasturtium-Goat Cheese Toast with Raspberry-Beet Salad; Little Toasts with Smoked Whitefish and Apples).

In the appetizers chapter you really get a feel for Ms. Cool’s range and versatility. She owns a catering company and a restaurant (at least), but she also seems to be a dedicated home cook, and both ends of the food spectrum are covered here. There’s everything from comfort food for the kids to dishes that will wow your guests, but each recipe is calibrated to work with the items and appliances you have in your own kitchen. Very few of them call for unusual ingredients.

Sandwiches again demonstrates the range of this cookbook, including such disparate recipes as Egg and Fennel Salad on Toast with Caviar, and My Mom’s Ooey-Gooey Cheese Sandwiches with Tomato-Pear Chutney. I think it focuses more on the unusual than the other chapters, however (and is also shorter than them)–probably because the arena of sandwiches has already been well explored by other people. Main Courses includes Tuna Melts with Avocado and Emmentaler Cheese, Toast with Turkey Burgers, Pot Roast on Toast, and Toasted Pepperoni Pizzas.

Sweet Toasts and Desserts makes use of toasting things other than bread–such as the Toasted Chocolate-Espresso Cake with Warm Chocolate Sauce, or the Toasted Lemon Pound Cake with Pears in Port. You’ll also find Grandma’s Healing Toast, Sweet-Spice Cinnamon Toast, Toast with Apple-Raisin Butter, and more. Yum!

The Details

The index is simple and easy to navigate. The layout of the recipes is very simple, clear, and easy to follow, including make-ahead tips and bread suggestions. There are color photos of a good handful of the recipes, and I suspect my husband may have selected this cookbook on the strength of those alone! They certainly look delectable and amazing.

The recipes have clearly been kitchen-tested using all the appliances of a home kitchen–we found the instructions worked very well for us as written. This is important because, as I was recently reminded, sometimes professional chefs don’t seem to bother to test things out using the same appliances a normal person would, and this can result in some frustrating difficulties (don’t even get me started on how some chefs seem to define the term “very low heat”).

This is a delightful book. It’s so wonderful in presentation, clarity, correctness, and flavor that it’s worth paying the full price for a cookbook that doesn’t contain hundreds of recipes.

Healthy Food Doesn’t Have to Suck

Posted in Cooking, Reviews

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