“Tradition is an aesthetic in modern cooking,” writes Todd Richards, Atlanta, Georgia chef and author of Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes. “My ancestral tree has its roots in West Africa, where the indigenous cuisine’s pairing of savory items with sweet is as ancient as the continent itself. From simple dishes of toast and honey or sweet potatoes with bitter greens, sweet and savory have long been the hallmark of traditional coastal African cooking. “
Food & Drink
Grilled Peach Toast with Pimento Cheese
Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as an entrée
Chef Todd Richards blends two Southern classics for a sweet and savory treat
photo: Greg Dupree
For the Toast
2 firm-ripe peaches, halved and pitted
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon blended oil
1 medium-size ripe avocado
4 (1⁄2-inch-thick) slices multigrain boule-style bread
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup thinly sliced red radishes (about 3 ounces)
1 bunch watercress
1 teaspoon gray sea salt
1⁄2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
For the Pimento Cheese
4 bacon slices
1 tablespoon blended olive oil
2 small red bell peppers, stems removed, finely diced (about 1 1⁄4 cups)
2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers
1⁄4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1⁄2 teaspoon dry mustard
1⁄2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1⁄4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
4 ounces white Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
For the Toast:
Preheat a grill to medium-high (450°F).
Brush the peach halves with 1 tablespoon of the blended oil, and place on the grill grates, cut sides down. Grill, uncovered, until grill marks appear and the juices begin to release, about 3 minutes. Remove from the grill, and slice. Set aside.
Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, pit, and brush cut sides with 1 teaspoon of the blended oil. Place halves, cut sides down, on the grill grates. Grill, uncovered, just until the avocado is charred and begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from the grill.
Brush the bread slices with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and place on the grill grates. Grill until the bread is toasted, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the grill.
Spread Pimento Cheese onto 1 side of each piece of toast. Cut each piece into 4 equal rectangles, keeping the pieces together.
Scoop the avocado from the peel into a medium bowl and mash with 1 tablespoon of the extra-virgin olive oil until it is chunky and spreadable. Spoon onto the toast, and top with sliced peaches.
Top the toast slices with radish slices and watercress leaves. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil over the toast slices, and sprinkle with gray sea salt and black pepper.
Note: If watercress is unavailable, arugula or curly mustard greens can be substituted.
For the Pimento Cheese:
“Great pimento cheese is all about spice. Red peppers and hot sauce are essential to cutting through the richness of the cream cheese and Cheddar. You need that spicy zing to tame the fat. Mustard also steps in to balance the rich flavors.” —Chef Todd Richards
Cook bacon in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high 5 to 6 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet and drain on paper towels; chop. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon drippings, and set aside. Wipe the skillet clean.
Return the skillet to medium. Add the blended oil and the red bell peppers. Cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the bacon drippings. Add the adobo sauce, and cook 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the bacon, mayonnaise, vinegar, hot sauce, dry mustard, granulated garlic, and black pepper.
Combine the Cheddar cheeses, cream cheese, and bell pepper mixture in a large bowl. Stir in the chives, and serve at room temperature.
Recipe excerpted with permission from Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes, by Todd Richards
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