By Marsha Fottler –
A new French cafe opened in my town recently and it specializes in tartines. I’ve also been noticing an interest in this kind of French sandwich in other parts of the country leading me to suspect that the classic tartine (pronounced tar-TEEN) is enjoying a culinary moment. Tartines are so easy to make, you should experiment with tartines in your kitchen. They are wonderful for a light lunch, as a small plate to have with cocktails at happy hour or maybe a first course at dinner. Once in a while I have one for breakfast with a cup of strong black coffee. Creativity and a willingness to work with what you have in the house can yield some tempting signature tartines.
A tartine is an open-face sandwich made with country bread or baguette that is toasted or grilled on one side. Starting with the bread as a base you build a sandwich with a spread and then thin layers of meat, seafood, vegetables, cheese, salad ingredients, whatever. The trick is to slice your ingredients very thin and layer them thoughtfully. A tartine should look pretty when you’re ready to pronounce it finished.
If you are composing your tartines for an hors d’oeuvre tray, slice the tartine in easy-to-eat strips. If it’s your lunch, just pick it up and enjoy. Good bread is the basis of a successful tartine, but you can make one without bread. Just substitute a thick slab of grilled vegetable such as eggplant.
These three recipes are from Dorie Greenspan’s admirable cookbook called Around My French Table. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010). Her delightful and instructive big book offers 300 French recipes that an intermediate-level cook can and should make. But even beginners can produce world-class tartines.
1 large eggplant
3 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
2 celery stalks, trimmed and finely diced
½ Vidalia onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
1 clove garlic clove, minced
5 large green olives, pitted and slivered
1 tablespoons capers, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh oregano
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or nonstick aluminum foil. Using a vegetable peeler, working from top to bottom, cut away stripes of the eggplant’s peel at 2-inch intervals. Cut off the top and bottom of the eggplant and cut the eggplant crosswise into 6 slices, each about 1-inch hick. Put the slices on the lined baking sheet and brush each slice with about 1 teaspoon olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and roast the eggplant slices for about 45 minutes or until they are tender all the way through. Cool the eggplant and prepare the tartine. Slice the cucumber into very thin pieces. In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, celery, onion, garlic, olives, capers and oregano. Whisk together the vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Pour this dressing over the vegetables and toss well. Season with the red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Arrange the eggplant on plates or a platter and spoon the tomato salsa over it. Toss the cucumber slices with a drizzle of oil and strew them over the tartines. Sprinkle with a little salt.
1 very large slice country bread, about ?-inch thick
Cornichons or gherkin
2 paper-thin slices rarest-possible roast beef
Salt and pepper to taste
Lightly grill one side of the bread or toast it on one side in a toaster oven. As soon as it’s toasted, slather that side with mayonnaise. Thinly slice a cornichon or two (or past of a gherkin) and scatter over the bread, then cover the whole surface of the bread with the beef. Season with salt and pepper and using a heavy knife, but the bread crosswise into strips about 1-inch wide. Enjoy with a glass of red wine.
Goat Cheese and Strawberry Tartine
12 slices baguette, about ? inch thick
About ¼ cup soft, spreadable goat cheese
About 16 ripe strawberries hulled and cut in slices
Coarsely ground black pepper
Grill or toast one side of each baguette slice. Let it cool a bit and then spread on the goat cheese and top each tartine with berries. Sprinkle with pepper and finish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. These tartines make great appetizers as part of a larger cheese tray. Serve with a chilled white wine.