Somehow, tartines passed me by. For someone who claims to be a food-obsessive and, for that matter, work in the food industry, this is quite embarrassing. I think I was confused as the word looks so similar to ‘tarte tatin’ (it does), which is structurally the same – a carby chewy base, topped with flavourful fruit or vegetables. If I saw a picture of a tartine online or in a cookbook, my brain would hum out the word (maybe because I’m still unsure how to pronounce it) and I would think ‘bruschetta’ or ‘ooh some nice toast’. Essentially, no matter what you call it, it all comes down to a slice of bread.
Finally grasping this concept I realised I was already familiar with the dish as this is my usual mid-morning/pre-dinner snack. The bread is a vehicle to transport the tasty treats to your mouth. And if the bread is particularly good, say a buttery French baguette, it’s a win-win situation.
Tartines are an excellent excuse to enjoy my love of leftovers and ‘scrape the back of the fridge’ as my mum appealingly puts it. By raiding the fridge and kitchen cupboards you can build yourself a delicious breakfast, lunch or snack you didn’t know you needed. Sweet, savoury, both (therefore main course and dessert – am I right?) you name it. This morning I did exactly that and had a rummage through the vegetables, packets of bacon and cheese. I found a few slightly soft radishes, asparagus spears, a tub of ricotta which I had baked a couple of days ago with lemon zest, and some cooked cannellini beans.
I mashed up the beans with a few torn mint leaves, lemon zest and seasoning, and then piled it on toast. The asparagus was peeled into ribbons and macerated in olive oil and lemon juice for a bit of zing and painstakingly threaded on top (presentation is key). Finally I finely sliced the radishes and pickled them so they were sweet and sour – an easy endeavour with equal parts red wine vinegar and sugar but, be warned, they can smell particularly bad, like that immediate whiff when you open a jar of sauerkraut or kimchi.
First course done, time for dessert. I spread the ricotta generously over the second toast, covered it with chopped banana, and, after delving through the cupboards, mixed together a little honey, peanut butter and cinnamon. This I drizzled over the banana like a shiny sticky glaze and finished the tartine with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and cinnamon.
Both tartines disappeared at an alarming rate. The bread, a crusty white bloomer, was thickly sliced to support the hefty weight of its toppings. Now that I have, at last, discovered tartines my precious leftovers and I can be united with the added bonus of a piece of bread. What more could you want?