Goat Cheese, Tomato, Toasted Pinenut, and Honey Tartine
Sometimes in life, it's the simple things that really blow us away. We've all been there - you're just going about your merry life, and then something so incredibly simple it verges on mundane will cross your path and make you want to smack yourself in the forehead and say, "Why didn't I think of that?!"
This happens to me most often with food. As exciting as it is to experience entirely new, exotic products, for me it is arguably more interesting to encounter a new combination of old-hat ingredients. I love it when I encounter a dish that is made up of components that I've eaten a million times before, but they have been reconfigured in a new, revelatory way. It's like rearranging your tastebuds and giving them something they thought they knew, but reimagined.
Most recently, this happened to me while in Paris this past spring. My husband and I had been wandering around all day, and all of a sudden realized that it was 3 o'clock in the afternoon and we still hadn't eaten lunch. We stopped in to a fairly unprepossessing cafe for a couple glasses of wine and a light bite to eat. Without asking what it was, I ordered their daily tartine selection (for those of you who are unfamiliar with tartines, they're basically a more refined, paired down, very *French* version of an openfaced sandwhich).
What came to the table was beautiful, but a bit baffling upon first glance. It was a thinly sliced piece of crispy, toasted wheat bread, with a layer of very thinly sliced tomatoes, a few dollops of ash-rinded goat cheese, some toasted pinenuts, and a very light drizzle of honey on top. All of it made sense to me... until I encountered the honey. Honey and tomatoes? Really? But you know what - it totally worked. The creamy, funkiness of the cheese paired with with the light, freshness of the tomatoes, then combined with the varied crunchiness and nuttiness of the bread and pinenuts, and finally all counterbalanced with a light note of floral sweetness - it was perfection.
I've made this tartine a few times since coming back to the US, and different cheeses work really well with it. If you have an ash-ripened goat cheese on hand (like Bonne Bouche or Selles sur Cher), those work really well. I've also used bloomy rinds like Cottonseed from Boxcarr Handmade Cheese, which are also great. The one that I made this morning, however, had some MountainTop Bleu from Firefly Farms - it's a great combination of a soft, bloomy goat's milk pyramid mixed with a light application of blue mold. The funkiness of the blue and goat's milk work really well in adding depth and character to this gorgeous tartine.
Also, word to the wise - I hesitate to even really call this a recipe. By that I mean, it is by no means rigid - feel free to alter the proportions as you see fit.
2 pieces whole wheat/multigrain bread, each about 8-10 inches in length, thinly sliced (preferably use a nice loaf of artisanal bread rather than pre-sliced grocery store bread - it will make a world of difference)
1 medium-small tomato, very thinly sliced, most of seeds/liquid discarded
6 quarter inch thick slabs of MountainTop Bleu (or similar - see above for suggestions)
1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted
1 TB honey for drizzling
-Preheat broiler and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
-Toast bread slices until fairly crispy (you're going to broil them at the end, so don't kill them on this step)
-When the toast is fairly dried out, divide the tomato slices between the two pieces of toast and arrange in a flat layer on top
-Arrange 3 pieces of cheese on top of each slice of toast
-Place toast on the baking sheet and broil until cheese is slighly melted (or super melted - you choose)
-Finish tartines by sprinkling with pinenuts and drizzling with honey
Yield: 2 Tartines
Serving suggestion: Green side salad with vinegrette