To distract myself from politics and viruses (two equally illness-inducing things), I spent last week doing some experimental cookery. I mean to say, I played with my toaster.
I lacked the ambition for normal meal-making, opting to conserve energy for lying face down on the floor. I decided to try what looked like easy-peasy recipes featuring upright toasters, those unassuming appliances that wait patiently on our countertops and are mainly used for making toast, which I can now confidently say is their best use.
In fact, it’s probably safest not to try any of the following things. For those of you who are nevertheless intrigued, you’re about to get good at scraping burnt cheese off your toaster’s heating elements.
There are, of course, such things as toaster bags, designed to contain items that might melt or drip or make your toaster explode. Since I didn’t have any, I endeavored to go bagless — just me and my toaster, mano a mano.
This was the most successful snack, by far, and I will make it again. It’s simply a cheese-filled, toasted tortilla folded in such an ingenious way as to make leakage impossible, or at least unlikely. To avoid cracks, use a fresh, pliable flour tortilla (corn is too crumbly).
Make a heartier quesadilla with refried beans, pulled pork or shredded chicken. Spread the ingredients thinly so as not to interfere with folding, and don’t go all the way to the edges.
Place the tortilla on the counter in front of you, ingredient side up. Take the bottom half of the tortilla and fold it up to the top, covering all the ingredients, so that you have a half-moon. Take the left and right edges and fold them to overlap slightly in the center. You will have a sort of rectangle with a rounded top, like an unsealed envelope. Now take your tortilla pocket full of yummy stuff and stick it, folded side down, in your toaster. Toast on medium and remove carefully (it will be hot).
Make a sweet version with chocolate-hazelnut spread and thin banana or strawberry slices, or try different kinds of nut butters drizzled with honey.
These toasty little treats are reminiscent of Pop-Tarts, but I promise your kids will know the difference and they will never be fooled, so pretend otherwise at your own peril.
Take two very soft pieces of bread and cut the crusts off. On one slice, spread a little cream cheese, sweetened if you like with honey or brown sugar and cinnamon. On the other side, spread a thin layer of jam (I used apple butter for autumnal flavor). Leave a half-inch border of plain bread around the edge.
Put the slices together, plain side facing out, like a regular sandwich. Carefully pinch the edges shut, taking care not to tear the bread. Make a tight seal all the way around. Put in your toaster and toast on medium. The cream cheese should be slightly oozy and the jam and toast will be nice and warm.
Toasted Turkey ‘n’ Cheese
Of all the sandwiches you could make, this is one of them. It’s the kind of thing a college student makes in a dorm in the wee hours when better judgment has departed, as did mine. On the upside, my toaster is no longer coughing out clouds of acrid black smoke, so I must cling to small mercies.
Turn your toaster on its side. (I know — mind-blowing!) Put a thin slice of cheese onto one slice of bread, keeping the cheese away from the edges so it doesn’t ooze into your toaster. Shredded cheese, I discovered, can too easily fall into the toaster’s depths and make disgusting cheese smoke. Top the cheese with one slice of deli turkey, covering the cheese completely; the meat keeps the cheese from gucking up those little metal toast-grabbers.
Carefully ease the bread into the bottom slot, cheese and meat side up (obviously). Then put another piece of bread in the top slot. Toast sideways on medium-high but don’t leave the room. Stand next to the toaster, with a plate on the counter in front of the toaster. You don’t want a piece of hot cheesy toast shooting onto the kitchen floor while you step out to pet your cat. When it pops out, combine the two slices. Think about how much better a real grilled cheese sandwiches tastes.
Pizza Pita Pockets
This was a disaster, although it looked so easy on YouTube: take a pita pocket, fill it with toppings, then shove it into a toaster. Ta-da! More like ta-DON’T.
The pita, it turned out, was wider than my toaster slot. I imagine most pitas are wider than most toaster slots, and jamming them inside would result in your toaster’s untimely demise.
Further, the pita bread I purchased had — and this is where things went very wrong — no pockets. I tried making a pocket, but cut the edges all to shreds. Undaunted, I slathered sauce down in there and added mozzarella, roasted peppers and olives. I cheated and toasted it in a foil packet to keep the ingredients inside, and ended up with a lukewarm soggy mass.
In conclusion, my fellow Americans, remember that democracy is too large to fit in any toaster, although it could definitely benefit from more cheese.