5 Ways to Make Toast a Meal

The new cookbook "Open Faced" turns toast into the main course.

Erica Riveraby Erica Rivera
Above: Garlic Shrimp Montaditos.

“Everything tastes better on bread,” writes Karen Kaplan in the introduction to her new cookbook Open Faced. “Today, open-faced sandwiches in all of their chef-driven, cutting-edge interpretations are the ne plus ultra of casual-chic comfort food. They are having a moment, and that moment is not going to be over any time soon, if ever.”

Open Faced by Karen KaplanOpen-faced sandwiches (or, if we may be so colloquial, toasts with toppings) are not new; they’ve been consumed across the globe for centuries. As Kaplan notes, most countries have their own version of breaded bliss: from the crostini of Italy to the montaditos of Spain, from the butterbrote of Germany to the molletes of Mexico. On a personal level, toast is probably one of the first foods you learned to prepare for yourself. It’s quick, easy, and versatile. You don’t need a culinary degree to choose a few tasty morsels and scoop them onto a crispy piece of bread (nor do you need utensils or a plate to eat it!).

But if you are in the market for fresh ideas on how to construct a heartier, more satisfying open-faced sandwich — one that qualifies as a meal — Open Faced is the instruction manual you’ve been waiting for. In the lusciously photographed cookbook, Kaplan takes readers (and eaters) on a recipe tour of American, British, European, and Latin American flavor combinations that will tantalize your taste buds.

Here are five ways to transform your ho-hum toast into something spectacular for any meal of the day.

Garlic Shrimp Montaditos

Tapas are the culinary family to which montaditos (from the Spanish verb montar, or “to mount”) belong. Made hot or cold, these bite-sized baguette toasts can be served hot or cold. This version features garlic shrimp, traditionally cooked in a cazuela (earthenware casserole). Enjoy with chilled Manzanilla or Fino sherry or a Galician Albariño white wine.

Also: New Ways to Grill Brats and Burgers

Sautéed Sausage and Four Cheeses Crostini

Sauteed Sausage and Four Cheeses Crostini

Crostini is the Italian way to make sure bread doesn’t go to waste. These “little toasts” are thin, small slices of bread. When topped, they’re the perfect antipasto, or appetizer. Use a white baguette for best results, drizzle or brush with olive oil, bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, and rub with garlic. Toasts should cool completely before you sprinkle with grated Italian cheeses and cooked sausage, then broil. Serve with an Italian red wine.

German Potatoes and Fried Eggs Butterbrote

German Potatoes with Fried Eggs Butterbrote

Germans love their loaves. The country boasts more than 300 varieties of breads, often made with rye flour and infused with ingredients like cheese, herbs, seeds, or oats. Butterbrote, or “butter bread,” can be enhanced with sweet or savory accompaniments. Try topping dark rye or pumpernickel toasts with German style pan-fried potatoes (read: onions and bacon!) and a fried egg. If you’re the type to drink beer with breakfast, pair this open-faced comfort food with a German lager.

Traditional Molletes with Pico de Gallo

Traditional Molletes

Mexicans were quietly enjoying topped toast long before Americans caught wind of the tasty trend. Dubbed “molletes,” open-faced sandwiches south of the border traditionally start with a bolillo (a white roll) that is smeared in refried beans and sprinkled cheese before being broiled. This version features a Pico de Gallo garnish for a refreshing bite. Wash it down with a Modelo Especial.

Hummus with Greek Salad and Yogurt Toasts

Hummus with Greek Salad and Yogurt

For the days you want a light, healthy, meatless meal, turn to this inventive variation on Greek salad. Spread thick, toasted slices of whole-wheat or whole-grain bread with hummus, then top with a mixture of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, olives, and green onions tossed with garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Finish it off with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a dill garnish. Serve with a white  from the Campania wine region.

Photographs by Heidi Marie Wagstaff from Open Faced by Karen Kaplan, reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith.