What to put on toast when you’re done with avocados

  • Toasted slices of rye hold sauteed mushrooms and poblanos, glazed with cream and topped with melted cheese. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
  • Grilled pitas are the foundation for an open face sandwich piled with ground lamb, fresh tomatoes, chopped cucumbers and crumbled feta, all garnished with za'atar and sumac. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Somehow, despite the popularity of low-carb, no-carb and paleo diets, toast is having a moment. A long moment at that.

Avocado toast graces the menus of all manner of restaurants. Sliced, toasted rustic bread smeared with smashed ripe avocado and a sprinkle of salt. The combination has taken the country by storm. We eat it up! Happily. Carbs be damned.


Thank goodness. If there’s anything better than well-made bread, brushed with flavor and bronzed with heat, I’d like to know.

Glazed Mushrooms and Poblano on Rye Toast

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

Be sure to use enough heat to sear the mushrooms; don’t crowd the pan, or they will steam instead. If desired, add 2 or 3 ounces super-thin sliced medium-rare cooked steak or shaved roast beef to each bread slice before adding the mushrooms.

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing on bread

1 large poblano pepper, cored, seeded, diced

1 pound assorted sliced mushroom caps, such as shiitake, oyster, cremini, button

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth

1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream or creme fraiche

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon each: tarragon, freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

4 thick (about 1-inch) slices pumpernickel or rye bread

1/2 cup shredded cheese, such as Gouda, Gruyere, white cheddar or Parmesan

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, chives

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add poblano; cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add 2 tablespoons oil and half of the mushrooms to pan. Cook and stir until mushrooms are seared to a nice golden color, about 4 minutes. Add to plate with poblano. Repeat with 1 tablespoon oil and remaining mushrooms.

2. Return poblano and all mushrooms to skillet. Add garlic and wine. Cook on high heat to evaporate most of the wine, about 1 minute. Stir in cream, salt, tarragon, pepper and thyme. Cook and stir until mushrooms are glazed with cream, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Heat the broiler or a toaster oven to high. Brush both sides of the bread slices with oil. Put onto a baking sheet. Broil, 4 inches from heat source, just until edges of bread start to brown, usually about 1 minute. Do not walk away, or bread may burn. Flip and broil the second side.

4. Reheat mushroom mixture, and add a little more cream, if necessary, so the mixture is slightly saucy. Spoon evenly over each bread slice. Top each with a quarter of the cheese. Broil until cheese is golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Sprinkle generously with herbs, and serve.

Grilled Pita Toasts with Lamb, Tomatoes and Feta

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

1 pound ground lamb

1 small or half of a medium red onion, finely chopped, well rinsed, drained

1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes (or drained canned tomatoes)

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses or balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons za’atar seasoning

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3/4 teaspoon salt

4 thick pitas, about 6 inches round

Olive oil

1/3 cup hummus

1/2 cup crumbled feta or salted farmers cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint, optional

1 cup finely chopped seedless cucumber

1 cup shredded romaine lettuce

Ground sumac, optional

Sesame seeds

Balsamic glaze

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add lamb and two-thirds of the onion. Cook, stirring often and breaking meat apart into small clumps, until meat is golden, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, pomegranate molasses, za’atar seasoning, garlic and salt; cook and stir, 1 minute. Remove from heat.

2. Heat a gas grill to medium, or prepare a charcoal grill, and heat until coals are covered in gray ash. Put pitas directly over heat source to toast them lightly on both sides, about 1 minute depending on heat of the grill. (Alternatively, toast pitas directly over a gas burner or in a toaster or toaster oven.)


3. Put pitas onto a baking sheet and brush one side with oil. Spread each with a generous tablespoon of the hummus. Top each with one-quarter of the lamb mixture, spreading to cover the pita but leaving 1/2-inch edge all around. Sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons feta. Set on the grill rack away from the heat source; cover the grill, and cook until everything is hot and cheese is softened, about 5 minutes. (Alternatively, bake on a baking sheet or preheated pizza stone in a 425-degree oven, 8 to 10 minutes.)

4. Put 1 hot pita onto each plate. Sprinkle the pita and the plate with some of the remaining onion, cilantro, mint, cucumber and shredded romaine. Sprinkle everything and the plate with sumac and sesame seeds. Drizzle balsamic glaze over everything. Serve right away.