Most Sundays of my childhood included a midday family dinner. At the center of many of those meals was an eye of the round roast. Cut from the hindquarter of the cow, a region that gets a lot of movement, this roast is leaner and less tender than more expensive cuts of beef. Mom laid thin strips of salt pork over the roast, the fat from which basted the meat and flavored the drippings. She’d buy a big enough eye of the round and make plenty of pan gravy so that Monday night’s supper could be hot roast beef sandwiches: a piece of toasted Vienna bread, a layer of shaved beef and gobs of gravy, with frozen peas on the side.

Fast forward 40 years and I’m walking with my kid in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, where he now lives. We pass one of the southern California outposts of Tartine, the famed artisanal bakery that originated in San Francisco. Since 2002, owners Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt have produced much-lauded loaves and pastries (and cookbooks). In the cafes attached to their bakeries, they serve open-faced sandwiches that the French call tartines.

While Tartine’s tartines are topped with trendy ingredient combinations like smashed avocado, salsa seca, nutritional yeast and cilantro; or smoked salmon, whipped cream cheese, preserved lemon, and pickled mustard seeds and onions, the underlying concept is the same as Mom’s. There is no sense wasting day-old bread when it can be toasted to help bring another meal to the table.

We can also push toast further to help curb other food waste in the kitchen. We can ask it to host all kinds of leftovers or any imperfect fruits and vegetables sitting in the fridge that might look unappetizing but are still perfectly edible.

Kelley Foley operates the Bog’s Bakery TOAST food truck which she regularly parks on both the Eastern and Western Promenades in Portland, and takes to special events in southern Maine. Foley’s Lobster Toast is served on sea salt focaccia and is topped fresh Maine lobster in brown butter and a squiggle of lemon tarragon aioli. Her seasonal sourdough toasts include Peach Toast (grilled peaches, fresh mozzarella and arugula pesto with a drizzle of balsamic reduction) and Strawberry Toast (hot honey labneh, fresh local strawberries, and fresh basil).

When she’s creating a new toast combination, Foley incorporates contrasting flavors, textures and temperatures that play well with each other and with the underlying bread. Thinking along those lines, I experimented with salty sardines, sun-ripened sliced tomatoes and a dollop of crème fraîche on seeded rye toast; local Alpine cheese melted on whole wheat toast, topped with slices of thick bacon and a drizzle of maple syrup; and kimchi tossed with sautéed spinach and topped with a fried egg, a squirt of sriracha and a few sesame seeds.

Summer Fruit Seconds Toast, with smashed strawberries, lemon, honey-ginger ricotta and Thai basil. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Though Foley isn’t using up leftovers at her TOAST truck, I took her advice to heart earlier this month when assembling several dinnertime toasts from the leftovers in my fridge and the bread aging in the drawer. Extra toppings from burger night turned into a dark rye toast layered with Boursin herbed cheese, warm sautéed local mushrooms and garlic scapes, pickled red onions and crispy local microgreens. Taco Tuesday led to Toast Wednesday when I slathered the last of the guacamole on the toasted heel of a sourdough loaf and topped it with spicy chicken and salsa, crumbled cotija, and chopped cilantro stems. For a sweeter bent, I mashed bruised strawberries left in the bottom of the quart container with minced Fresno chili pepper and lemon zest and mixed up a bit of ricotta cheese with grated ginger and honey. After slathering both toppings on toast, I garnished the meal with Thai basil.

Hamburger Toppings Toast incorporated Boursin, sautéed mushrooms, quick-pickled red onions and microgreens. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

I’d eat any one of these again, for sure, though I doubt I’ll ever have this exact combination of leftovers in my fridge again. But that’s both the point and the fun of this exercise.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer, tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

Sautéed Kimchi and Spinach Toast, topped with a fried egg. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Kimchi and Spinach Toast

With this recipe I tip my hat to my neighbors, who appeared at a post-lockdown neighborhood potluck with an easy salad that sustained them through the pandemic: kimchi tossed with baby spinach. Throw a piece of toast under it, add sliced cucumber and an egg on top, and call it Dinner.

Serves 2

2 slices hearty, dark bread
Olive oil
4 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup kimchi
2 large eggs
Sriracha sauce
Toasted sesame seeds

Toast the bread.

Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to a large non-stick skillet and place over medium heat. Add the spinach and stir. Cook until spinach is just wilted, barely a minute or so. Add the kimchi and toss to combine. Divide the mixture between the 2 pieces of toast.

Place the pan back over medium heat. Crack the eggs into the pan. Cook sunny side up until the whites are set but the yolk is still runny, 3-4 minutes.

Place 1 egg on top of each serving of toast. Squirt as much sriracha over the egg as you can handle and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve warm.


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