Stuck in a jam, or bored with plain old butter? No reason to despair. Options abound when you look past these mundane toast toppers and tap into some amicable alternatives for your favorite loaves. Next time you’re fixing a sandwich, sneaking a midday snack, or setting up dinner, take a break from the usual–from ethnic spreads to flavored versions of the ol’ standby, you’ll taste the difference between good, butter, and best.
- Make a bolder butter. Mix fresh herbs, spices, garlic, and citrus zest into softened butter until evenly combined, and then refrigerate in a bar shape, florettes, or crock for later use. Try spreading on bread and broiling before serving, and you’ll open up a rich world of delicious opportunities.
- Spill the beans… right into the food processor. Hummus, a Middle Eastern puree of chick peas, garlic, tahini, olive oil, and lemon juice, traditionally tops pita bread, but why leave it at that when any bread will do? And don’t stop with chick peas. Try substituting white beans or pintos and leave out the tahini.
- Eat your vegetables. Another Middle Eastern favorite, baba gannoujh, gets its full-bodied flavor from roasted eggplant that’s been processed smooth. Other roasted veggies will work, too. Try red bell peppers, artichoke hearts, or sweet roasted garlic.
- When creamy sounds dreamy, give aioli a try. A garlicky version of fresh mayonnaise that combines garlic, egg yolks, lemon juice, and olive oil, the Spanish have been serving this decadent dip with their breadbaskets for eons.
- Bring out the pesto. Just because you first saw it on pasta, doesn’t mean it only belongs on your entrée. Herb pestos can spark up sandwiches or stand alone on crackers and bread for a flavorful beginning to a delicious meal. While the most traditional version uses basil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan cheese, you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you experiment with other herb and nut combos.
- Let them eat cheese. The more malleable the better. Fresh cheeses such as chevre and young cheeses are the most spreadable. From the very pungent Italian telleggio to the mild buttery California teleme, your selection of soft cheeses is seemingly limitless. Whatever you choose, make sure to bring it up to room temperature before serving, as both flavor and texture will benefit.
- A paté by any other name is still often chopped liver. Elegant foie gras or rustic chicken liver, mixed with minced shallots, a splash of wine, and seasonings–there’s nothing quite like this rich delicacy. Spread it on crusty French baguette slices or crisp crackers, keep the red wine flowing, and, finally, remember to leave room for dinner!