I’m not gonna lie. It’s a comfort to know my way around the kitchen. That I can routinely lean on the line-up of recipes that live in my head to get food on the table is a useful life skill. But in its own way, my ability to knock out a meal on the fly is a crutch. It’s too easy to be complacent, stay in my comfort zone with ingredients and techniques, and be lazy about expanding my kids’ culinary horizons.

This is why I’m launching a series this summer called Cook From Books. It’s my little attempt to fight apathy at the stove. My plan is to cook through the most recent additions to my cookbook collection, and in so doing, broaden my repertoire, improve my craft, and share what I’ve learned with all of you. I hope you’ll join me in the journey.

Since we’re talking repertoire here, I thought I’d start the series with a recipe from one of the best new books to trip across my consciousness this year. It happens to be called Repertoire.

The book is written by Jessica Battilana, a fellow mom and San Francisco writer (who happens to sport a pixie cut just like yours truly, so we’re practically twins). I had the privilege of meeting Jessica and tasting several dishes from the book before diving into the recipes myself. None have disappointed, most especially her Tortilla Espanola and Repertoire Chocolate Cake. It was hard to choose just one to launch the Cook From Books Series, but I was so smitten with this recipe, I figured you might be too.

Smashed Pea Toast with Feta

This fancy toast, as Jessica calls it, is just the sort of pre-dinner nibble I want to set out when friends come to dinner:  Not complicated, won’t spoil everyone’s appetite, and plainly delicious. Indeed, I could easily make a weeknight meal out of these with a salad on the side.  Don’t worry if you don’t have the time or desire to shell peas. Either outsource the task to your kids (isn’t that what those little hands are for?) or use frozen ones (which is just what I did).

Smashed Pea Toast with Feta

Smashed Pea Toast with Marinated Feta

Course Appetizer
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 20 crostini
Author Jessica Battilana

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the crostini
  • 1 baguette, cut diagonally into 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the crostini
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup feta, preferably sheep’s milk
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup shelled fresh or frozen peas (defrosted)
  • 5 mint leaves

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

  2. Arrange the slices of baguette on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. With a pastry brush, brush each toast on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the oven and bake until the crostini are crisp but not brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let cool. Crostini are best the same day they’re made.

  3. Crumble the feta into large pieces over a bowl and add about half the olive oil, the thyme, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest. Stir gently to combine and let stand 30 minutes. (The marinated feta can be made ahead; wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to 3 days and let come to room temperature before using.)

  4. Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining olive oil, mint, salt, and lemon juice and pulse into a chunky mash.

  5. Spread some of the pea mash on each crostini and top each with some of the marinated feta and freshly ground black pepper.

This recipe is lightly adapted and used with permission from Jessica Battilana, author of Repertoire (Little, Brown and Company, 2018)