Fall rolls around and the pace of life suddenly picks right up again, which can mean less and less time dedicated to dinner. I’m constantly thinking about next to effortless dinners that still feel a bit special and elegant. My friend Athena recently sent me a copy of her cookbook, and she really hits the nail on the head with this. There are so many thoughtful dishes that are elegant in their simplicity but elevated with bright herbs, citrus, and tangy dressings.


I’m choosing to share my version of two of the toasts in Cook Beautiful, mostly because in the fall, toast can easily become a vessel for me at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There are endless variations on these recipes – use the leftover ricotta for toasts topped with roasted mushrooms or poached eggs – or top the ricotta with jam if you’re out of grapes – stir into pastas and more. A note for the radicchio toasts: radicchio can be rather bitter so if bitter is not your thing, you could use milder endive, or watercress and some sprouts.


I’m looking forward to carrying this beautiful yet effortless cooking into each season to come (just as the cookbook is organized; by season) and cooking my way through the book. I have plenty already bookmarked like her creamy cauliflower soup with dukkah and watercress pesto, slow-roasted arctic char, and tons of the veggie dishes like delicata squash agrodolce, roasted cauliflower with lemon zest, parsley, capers, and jalapeno, and charred broccolini with green relish and feta. Congratulations to Athena, I know she will make a lot of happy home cooks!


PS since we are on the topic of all things toasts, my absolute favorite GF breads are the country loaf from Kim and Jake’s, everything Vegan Mario, and Honey Hi’s sourdough.



Makes 4 toasts

Meyer Lemon Ricotta Toasts with Blistered Grapes

  • 12 ounces seedless red or black grapes
  • 4 sprigs fresh tarragon, divided
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 cup vegan ricotta (recipe below) or fresh ricotta as calls for in the book  
  • ½ Meyer lemon, zested and juiced
  • 4 slices crusty bread, gluten free as desired
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • Saba or syrupy balsamic vinegar, for drizzling


Vegan ricotta (Note: the original recipe calls for ricotta, which you can certainly use but I sub in this homemade vegan version)

  • 1 cup raw macadamia nuts, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 8-10 tablespoons filtered water (start with a couple tablespoons)
  • Fine pink salt or sea salt, to taste

To make the vegan ricotta: In a high-speed blender, blend the nuts, nutritional yeast, vinegar, lemon juice, and 4 tablespoons of water on high, scraping down the sides and adding more water until you get a smooth, but fluffy consistency.  taste and adjust the salt and/or vinegar and lemon juice.  place in the fridge until ready to use.  macadamia ricotta can be made in advance and will stay fresh in a lidded container in the refrigerator for 1 week.


To make the toasts: Preheat the oven to 400F. Spread the grapes across a baking sheet and top them with 2 tarragon sprigs. Drizzle with oil and toss the grapes until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the grapes until they have just started to burst, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly, discard the tarragon, and squeeze the lemon juice evenly over the grapes.


While the grapes are roasting, use a wire whisk to combine the lemon and ricotta.


Just before you are ready to serve the toasts, heat up the broiler. Place the bread on a baking sheet and drizzle it lightly with oil on both sides. Broil until golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side depending on the strength of your broiler. Let the toasts cool slightly. Pluck the leaves from the remaining tarragon sprigs. Spread the ricotta mixture over each slice of bread and top with the grapes and pine nuts. Finish with a sprinkling of tarragon and a drizzle of saba.

Makes 4 toasts

White Bean Toasts with Radicchio and Lemon-Parsley Relish

  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for coating the bread and drizzling
  • 2 cloves garlic, 1 sliced and 1 roughly chopped
  • 1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup chicken stock or water
  • 4 slices country bread, gluten free as needed
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 head radicchio or treviso, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (soaked in ice cold water for 30 mins to tone down bitterness)
  • Flaky sea salt, for serving

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beans and stock to loosen, and cook until warmed through, 3 to 5 minutes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, smash about a quarter of the beans just enough so they hold together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the broiler to high. Using a pastry brush, coat both sides of the bread with oil. Place it on a baking sheet and broil until the bread is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side.


Gather the parsley and chopped garlic on a cutting board and season with salt. Chop everything together until the mixture is finely chopped/almost pasty. Transfer the mixture to a bowl with the radicchio, lemon juice + zest, and remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil.


Divide the beans among the toasts and top with a handful of the lemon-parsley relish. To finish, drizzle the crostini with oil, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.


Note: the original recipe calls for half of the whole fruit of the lemon (peel, pith and all) to be finely chopped with the parsley and garlic – I decided to tone down the bitterness by using just the juice and zest. If you love bitter, go for it!