The Café is having a bit of an identity crisis today! You see, I have been featuring tartines for the past few days which are French-inspired open-face sandwiches. I got excited about these when I had them in London last week, since I realized that the variation possibilities are endless! Tartines are also a wonderful go-to lunch or dinner when you’re in a pinch for time. As I was trying to decide a tartine for today’s post, I was somehow reminded of one of my all time favorite pizza’s, Pizza Margherita.
Pizza Margherita is probably one of the simplest, yet tastiest pizzas I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. The origins of it go back to Italy in the late 1800’s. The story is told that in 1889, Queen Margherita Teresa Giovanni visited Naples. Don Raffaele Esposito, a local chef, was asked to prepare a special dish in honor of the Queen’s visit. He developed a pizza which featured tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil; not by accident representing all the colors of the Italian flag! He named it Pizza Margherita and the Queen absolutely adored it! Over the years Pizza Margherita’s fame has spread and this simple, delicious pizza is now enjoyed around the world.
Now you understand what I mean about the “identity crisis”. Legendary Italian toppings on a classic, distinguished French sandwich? I might get myself in a bit of international trouble for this, but trust me, this is an amazing combination!! Because this tartine features just a few very simple ingredients, try to use the best you can find; fresh Mozzarella, fresh basil, juicy red ripe tomatoes, a sprinkle of good Parmesan and a drizzle of quality olive oil.
In order to keep in sync with the identity crisis theme I served this lovely tartine with a salad featuring Italian ingredients and a classic French vinaigrette! The vinaigrette is nothing like the American bottled dressing that is reddish-orange in color. It is more like the type of dressing you would receive on your salad at a charming cafe in Paris. In France (and England!) they almost never ask you what type of dressing you would like on your salad. The salad just arrives with a lovely, light, yet delicious dressing that compliments all the components. Authentic French Vinaigrette is a simple oil and vinegar combination. Usually it has a bit of good mustard, some shallot or garlic and might include various fresh herbs. I put together some beautiful fresh greens, sun-dried tomatoes and a perfectly ripe avocado along with sauteed Portobella mushrooms and lots of fresh basil – a delicious compliment to the Tartine Margherita – despite the nationality confusion. I guess this is what they call “fusion” cooking!
P.S. This is my last tartine post, but think of this once again as template cooking; taking a basic recipe and changing it to suit your taste and/or what you might have available.
4 thick slices rustic bread
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, cut in half
8 ounces fresh Mozzarella, buffalo, if possible
about 20 grape or cherry tomatoes, or thinly sliced regular tomatoes, best quaility you can find
1/4 cup or Parmesan cheese, finely grated
extra virgin olive oil, your best, for drizzling
fresh basil, very thinly sliced or torn
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted*
1. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of each slice of bread lightly with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and set under the broiler for about 1 minute or until golden brown, flip bread slices to other side and repeat. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Remove baking sheet from oven. Rub each tartine with the garlic cloves on both sides.
2. Top each with 1/4 of the fresh Mozarella, sliced and roughly torn. Nestle the cherry or grape tomatoes amongst the cheese and sprinkle liberally with Italian seasoning. Finish by sprinkling each tartine with 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese.
3. Place back under broiler for a further 1-2 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and melted.
4. Drizzle each tartine with 1 teaspoon of olive oil . Season lightly with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with pine nuts and fresh basil.
*To toast pine nuts; place in a small pan and bake at 300-325 for 10 min or so.
Classic French Vinaigrette
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2/3 c. olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1-2 tsp. honey
1 tbsp. grainy mustard
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Add all ingredients into a wide mouth mason jar or dressing bottle and shake well. Try to let the dressing sit for 24 hours before serving so the flavors can meld. Store in the fridge for up to 2 months.
*Feel free to add fresh herbs to the recipe if you choose; a sprig or two of thyme, rosemary or a few basil leaves finely chopped work best.