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Pleasure Practices with Sami Schalk: The fanciest of toast

A quick guide to putting at-home sourdough skills and local bakery purchases to the test.

A quick guide to putting at-home sourdough skills and local bakery purchases to the test.

Illustration by Rodney Lambright II.

Maybe it’s the millennial in me, but I really love a fancy savory toast, even more than a sandwich sometimes. Recently a friend gifted me a loaf of homemade sourdough bread (thank you friends who learned new pandemic skills), so I’ve been making fancy toast with thick grilled slices of sourdough. I like to make my toast on the stove with a cast iron griddle. I melt some butter on it then press the bread on until it’s got a nice crust, then melt more butter and flip. I salt the first side after the flip too.

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Fancy toast is great for using up leftovers that don’t quite amount to a meal. It’s also great for folks who live alone or want a hearty solo snack. It brings me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction to make something decadent, pretty, or creative using whatever I have in the house. When I was in middle school, I used to make snacks for myself after school when I was home alone, and pretend I was on a cooking show. I would talk out loud about the steps and try to make a pretty-looking final product. I talk out loud to myself less as an adult (that’s what my cat’s for now), but I still love, despite my lack of high-level cooking skills, creating something visually and gustatorily pleasurable just for me. It’s an act of care and love for myself. And it’s something we all should do via food, our space, our music, or whatever else allows you to show love for yourself. Play some of your favorite music while you make it. Sing along. Lean into the joy of caring for yourself.

Here are two fancy toasts I’ve made and loved recently. I recommend getting quality, fresh bread: sourdough, hearty wheat, sliced baguette, country loaf, you get the point. Locally, Madison Sourdough is amazing, as is Batch Bakehouse, but even going to the bakery part of your local favorite grocery spot is better than a loaf of something off the corporate bread shelf for fancy toasts. When bread is the foundation and star, it’s worth getting the higher-quality stuff if you can.


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Carnitas Avocado Toast

  • Thick slice of bread, toasted however you’d like

  • Half an avocado

  • Carnitas (make them, use leftovers from another meal or purchase them specifically for this purpose)

  • Cotija cheese (optional)

  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder to taste

Mash half an avocado & add your desired amount of seasoning. Cook a small amount (~1/3 cup) of carnitas in a pan with a little oil until crispy. Spread the avocado mash over the bread, top with crispy carnitas and cotija cheese.

Pesto Caprese Toast

  • Thick slice of bread, toasted however you’d like

  • two tablespoons of pesto (fresh if possible!)

  • three to five small fresh mozzarella balls

  • three to five cherry tomatoes

  • Basil leaf

  • Garlic salt and pepper to taste

Spread the pesto on the toast. Slice the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls in half the place on the toast. Roughly tear the basil and sprinkle on top. Add garlic salt and pepper to taste.

These are just two of my favorite examples. You can make other kinds of fancy toast by adding other random ingredients you find in your house: leftover roasted chicken, sliced spicy Italian sausage, a red sauce, some sharp cheddar—whatever you got, it can probably go on some toast. Plate it up nice, say “I’m a badass bitch,” and enjoy!

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

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