Make Ahead

Grilled Bread with Thyme Pesto & Preserved Lemon Cream

June 10, 2010
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
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... - fiveandspice —fiveandspice

Test Kitchen Notes

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&M —The Editors

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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!

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I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (, where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.