Grilled Bread with Thyme Pesto and Preserved Lemon Cream

By • June 10, 2010 • 78 Comments



Author Notes: I can't really say where the inspiration for this recipe came from, except that it was literally the first thing that popped into my head when I read "lemon, thyme and a grill." Then when I made it, I found myself staring down at my bread and saying, "where have you been all my life?" It's a wonderful appetizer or side to make if you're grilling. The smokey grill flavor and crustiness of the bread combined with the salty, tangy, nutty, creamy, herbiness of the toppings is wonderful enough by itself, but it can also serve as a jumping off point for any number of sandwiches. You can top the bread and spreads off with slices of grilled chicken or a runny fried egg and grilled asparagus, for example, and your life will never be the same... - fiveandspicefiveandspice

Food52 Review: We love the simple, rustic quality of this dish -- and its ability to inspire endless adaptations: you use a different herb for the pesto, dab with ricotta instead of lemon cream, or, as fiveandspice illustrates in her blog, top with a fried egg. Grilled bread is so much better than toasted, and the heady perfume of the thyme pesto seduces you before you can even get the toast to your mouth. The preserved lemon cream softens any rough edges and adds richness. Unless you have many people to feed -- and to help you strip the thyme leaves from their stems -- we recommend halving the pesto recipe. - A&MA&M

Serves 6 slices

  • 2 cups baby spinach, cleaned and torn into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh thyme leaves (stems removed)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 2 teaspoons minced preserved lemon
  • 6 thick slices of good Italian country bread
  1. In a food processor, combine the spinach, thyme, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan, and salt. Process until the ingredients are roughly chopped. With the processor running, gradually drizzle in the olive oil until you have a chunky pesto. Set aside. (This will make more pesto than needed; the rest can be kept refrigerated for about a week and used in other dishes like pasta, chicken, and fish.)
  2. In a small bowl, combine creme fraiche and preserved lemon. Allow to stand in the refrigerator for about a half hour for the flavors to combine.
  3. Heat the grill. Lightly brush each slice of bread with olive oil on both sides. Grill the slices a minute or two per side until they are crusty and have charred grill marks but are still soft in the middle.
  4. Spread each slice of bread with the pesto, and top with a generous smear of preserved lemon cream. Enjoy!
Jump to Comments (78)

Tags: barbecue, light, Summer

Comments (78) Questions (2)

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25 days ago LauriL

This was amazing! found some three cheese Italian bread at a farmers market in CT and it was "over the top" with the pesto. I had leftover pesto and brush it on tuna kabobs before grilling....wonderful! I

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3 months ago cjbollinger

I was intrigued by this recipe combo...and honestly wasn't sure the flavors would work together. It was a real hit at my party! A lovely and lively mix of spring time deliciousness.

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7 months ago jameny

Would it be okay to mix the preserved lemon and creme fraiche a day in advance? Hoping to do most of the steps ahead of time...

Sausage2

7 months ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Yes, you definitely could.

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about 1 year ago Kathlyn Powell

I intend to try this lemon preserve recipe b/c I LOVE lemon; but, I do watch my salt intake. How would this recipe work if I were to reduce the amount of salt?

Sausage2

about 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Well, the lemons are preserved in salt, so they're naturally quite salty, like pickles. You could try rinsing before using, which would remove some of the salt. If you were really worried you could replace the preserved lemons with some lemon zest and juice, but it would definitely give you a different flavor. Preserved lemons taste quite unique.

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8 months ago Carolyn

I used ricotta cheese (I couldn't find the lemon preserve or creme at my local supermarket) with lemon zest and juice. Everyone thought it was delicious!

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over 2 years ago ltosoc

With the lemon preserved which one should I buy? I've seen some brined in olive oil? Is there a certain one I should look for?

Sausage2

over 2 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

You know, I always make my own, so I'm not entirely sure what to look for in bought ones, but I think the kind brined in olive oil would be good. What I've usually seen are lemons that are brined/preserved in a mixture of salt, lemon juice, and olive oil.

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over 2 years ago currypaste

I have made this a few times for parties and it is completely delicious. Even better than it sounds!

Sausage2

over 2 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

That's so great! Thanks!

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over 2 years ago Crispy

To die for!!

Sausage2

over 2 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Aw, thanks so much!

Mandy

over 2 years ago Mandy Cox

Preserved Lemon Cream sounds like a wonderful addition to so many things! I will be borrowing that idea for sure!

Sausage2

over 2 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Oh my gosh, yes, it's very versatile! I love it on pan seared fish or scallops, especially. It's also be good over roasted chicken breast, or on different Middle Eastern spiced meats and vegetables wrapped up in pita, or on garlicky sauteed greens, or add slices of cucumbers to make a cool side dish in the summer... Lots of fun things to do!

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almost 3 years ago rep_woman

Made this last week. Loved it!!!

Sausage2

almost 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Yay! I'm so happy you liked it!!!

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almost 3 years ago currypaste

I am late to the party on this recipe, but we made it tonight and it was demolished within about 3 minutes. So so delicious with a bit of grated lemon zest and pepper on top. Thank you-- will be making again and again, year round.

Sausage2

almost 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Oh, thanks for letting me know! That is just great to hear!

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about 3 years ago Italianshortie

Can you buy preserved lemons or do you have to make them?

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about 3 years ago susan g

Here's a recipe, and in the comments a lead to a quick version.

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about 3 years ago susan g

You'd like to see the link?
http://www.food52.com/recipes...

Sausage2

about 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

They do take about a week of sitting and preserving, but otherwise they're quite easy to make! Here is the recipe I use: http://www.epicurious.com...
It's based on Paula Wolfert's - who is simply brilliant - approach.

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about 3 years ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Sure thing. I'll definitely be making this again very soon. In fact, it was the highlight blog post on my site tonight so hopefully others try it too. Many thanks! :)

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about 3 years ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

We just made this and ate every bit (did halve the pesto but wish we hadn't). Mamma mia this is good!! Great recipe fiveandspice!

Sausage2

about 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Oh, thank you em-i-lis! I'm thrilled to hear you guys liked it!

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over 3 years ago susan g

Happy that this has popped up "12 minutes ago." Another destination for my preserved lemons!

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

That's great! I would love to hear what you think!

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almost 4 years ago digitalfoodie

Yum....

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thanks!

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about 4 years ago coffeefoodwritergirl

This looks absolutely yummy! Going to try it this weekend. =)

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Sorry I didn't see your comment sooner - I don't always seem to get the notifications. But, thanks and I hope you enjoyed it!

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about 4 years ago Waverly

Lemon, thyme and a grill has been my favorite contest so far. What a fabulous combination - and look at all the great recipes. This one in particular is outside the box - and I mean that in the most complimentary way. I love it. Your photograph makes me want to eat it right off my screen. With an egg on top - wow. Great recipe. Congratulations.

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about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thanks Waverly!

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about 4 years ago thirschfeld

I really really can't wait to try this

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about 4 years ago lapadia

Yipee...a Wild Card!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Yipee, for sure!

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about 4 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

Congratulations..........sounds heavenly - especially being a thyme lover!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you! I'm a thyme lover too, probably my favorite herb.

Mrs._larkin_370

about 4 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Congrats on the wildcard win, fiveandspice!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thanks mrslarkin!

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about 4 years ago dymnyno

Congrats!!! you wild one!!!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Oh, I do like wild one as a nick name! Thanks!

Me

about 4 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I just picked up some preserved lemon and am looking forward to making this tonight. Congrats on your wildcard win!!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you ChezSuzanne!

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about 4 years ago ENunn

Great! This is like world cup soccer, but without the vuvuzelas! This was a hard one to vote on, and I'm thrilled for both you and thirschfeld, who is a tough act to compete with!

Congrats!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Love the comparison (next time maybe we'll bring in some vuvuzelas, haha), and thank you!

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about 4 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Congratulations--great recipe!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you drbabs.

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about 4 years ago Lizthechef

I knew this was a winner - congratulations !!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thanks Liz!

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about 4 years ago thirschfeld

I am so glad this got a wild card. I made it the other night and it is fabulous. Congrats.

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you! I'm glad you like it. The chops are on my docket for as soon as I get some veal from my meat CSA!

Winnie100

about 4 years ago WinnieAb

So happy to see this was chosen as a wildcard winner- what a great recipe!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you Winnie!

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about 4 years ago VeggieVal

Always looking for a good use of preserved lemon. Made this on the grill and it was fabulous and adaptable. Hope you win!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thanks so much VeggieVal!

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about 4 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

This sounds really great--am looking forward to trying it! (grilled bread...yum...)

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Let me know how you like it!

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about 4 years ago monkeymom

I've never tried grilled bread and am now anxious to do so! Congrats fiveandspice!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Oh, grilled bread is so good! I hope you like it - keep me posted.

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Oh! And if anyone is feeling daunted by stripping thyme leaves (which, admittedly, can be a process), know that you don't have to do a perfect job. The food processor can generally take care of little thin bits of the branches, but not the really twiggy parts.

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about 4 years ago ENunn

Yes, congrats! This super-lovely, and I'll take it with the egg.

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Good choice :). The egg adds extra goopy goodness.

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thanks everyone for your congratulations!!! You guys are just too nice for words :).

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about 4 years ago TasteFood

What a great recipe - I love the idea of preserved lemon cream. Congratulations!

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about 4 years ago slulibby

the colour alone on this is beautiful!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Doesn't it just remind you of a Crayola crayon colour?!

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about 4 years ago dymnyno

My grill is calling out to this one!! Congrats on a good recipe.

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about 4 years ago lapadia

Seriously, after checking out and commenting on your mozzarella recipe, only few pre-finalist hours ago; I took time to view this one and saved it! Now I am voting on it, I like many of your recipes....Great job!

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about 4 years ago Lizthechef

great recipe - got my Meyer lemons and lemon thyme in the garden all set to go!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Ooh, love the sound of that combo!

Mrs._larkin_370

about 4 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

yum yum! Congrats fiveandspice on being a finalist!

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about 4 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Mmmmm. Gorgeous! Sounds so tasty. Just shot to the top of my "must try" list. Congratulations. You deserve this honor. ;o)

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about 4 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

This looks really good - I'm definitely trying it. Congrats on making finalist!

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about 4 years ago cheese1227

This is lovely! It's in my saved recipe files and will have it on the menu all summer long!

Sausage2

about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

I hope you enjoy it!

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about 4 years ago thirschfeld

congrats fiveandspice on a great recipe