Is My Blog Burning? The Tartine Edition

Midterms start tomorrow, in all their grueling glory, so my tartine will be a simple, satisfying dish. Given a bit of forethought, this can be thrown together by a ravenous student in the few minutes between classes and study sessions.

I regret being unable to post a photo, as the colors are stunning: the vivid magenta of the beets and the deep jewel green of the asparagus against soft green of the avocado, all blanketed by the pale cream of the melting cheddar, and the contrast of these yielding textures and mingling colors against the springy tangle and mixed shades of the baby greens…Is quite lovely, and inspired in me a Cézanne-like appreciation of color as color and shape as shape.

I have included a recipe for items marked with an asterisk*.

Cézanne tartine:
(all amounts are approximate; serves one)
2 slices wheat bread*, lightly toasted
1 small roasted beet* (beetroot, betterave)
5-6 stalks roasted asparagus*
2 mushrooms, sliced thin
1/4 ripe avocado
1 ounce sharp cheddar cheese or mild goat cheese
2 cups mixed greens
splash of balsamic vinaigrette
1 ounce dried cranberries
1 ounce glazed walnuts*
kosher salt, black pepper, lemon juice (optional)

Mash avocado coarsely with a few drops of lemon juice, a pinch of kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Spread avocado on slices of lightly toasted whole wheat bread. Top with beet slices, asparagus, carrots, and sliced mushrooms. Dot with goat cheese or top with slice of cheddar; broil until cheese melts.

Slice diagonally; serve on bed of mixed greens lightly dressed with balsamic vinaigrette and tossed with glazed walnuts and dried cranberries.

The suave creaminess of the avocado and cheddar, barely seasoned with lemon and salt, melds beautifully with the earthy, sweet intensity of the roasted vegetables. The salad, with its slightly bitter mix of greens and piquant dressing, is fresh and crisp, an excellent foil for all that complex sweetness. The walnuts provide a crunch and echo the earthiness of the beets, while the cranberries give a bright flavor to each bite of greens.

While I love the simplicity and smoothness of cheddar for this tartine, the tang of a mild goat cheese works well, too, making a slightly more sophisticated dish of these simple ingredients.

roasted vegetables
beets, scrubbed
asparagus, stem end trimmed or snapped off
olive oil
kosher salt

You might also roast carrots, potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, onions.

Toss all vegetables in olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt; roast beets at 350 F for 20 minutes, then add asparagus; roast about twenty minutes more, tossing vegetables in pan occasionally. I can give only approximate times; the beets should be easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, and the other vegetables should be shrivelled with touches of caramelization.

You may prefer to roast the vegetables well ahead of time, as they do not suffer from a day or two in the refrigerator, well covered. Indeed, you might prefer to roast at a higher or lower temperature (325 to 400 F), adjusting times accordingly; these accommodating vegetables will happily share the oven with another dish, so I often make a batch while I bake bread.

I have been very successful roasting beets in the microwave oven, although you must pierce them several times to prevent explosive bursting, which splatters the interior of the oven with great gouts of magenta juice. I haven’t tried roasting other vegetables in the microwave, but according to Barbara Kafka, it should work quite well.

glazed walnuts
1 cup walnut pieces or halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

Mix sugar and water in small saucepan; boil five minutes to make simple syrup. Toss walnuts in cooled syrup, then spread in one layer on plate, foil, or parchment, or toast in 350 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Store in air-tight container. I often add a pinch of cayenne or chili powder to the syrup for a bit of zing.

wheat bread, 2 loaves
1 scant tablespoon (one packet) dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (maximum of 110 degree F)
1 cup milk (lowfat is fine)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter or oil
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar or turbinado sugar
6 to 7 cups flour (I use equal amounts of whole wheat and white, but any proportion is fine)

Scald milk, remove skin. This removes a protein that inhibits rising. Heat with 1 cup of the water, butter, salt, and sugar. Remove from heat and cool until 9 F or less.

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water (not hotter than 110 F), let sit five minutes. Mix with milk mixture, gradually stir in 4 cups of flour. Let sit 20 minutes. Gradually knead in more flour until dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with clean towel or cling film; let rise until double in bulk, about 45 minutes. Punch down; shape into loaves. Let rise in buttered bread tins or ceramic casseroles until doubled, about 45 minutes. Slash immediately before baking. Bake at 350 F for 50 minutes. For a softer crust, brush with butter or milk when they comes out of the oven.

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