The French call them tartines, the Americans Toasts and the Italians Bruschetta. The Webster Dictionary defines them as: an open sandwich, one with a rich or elaborate topping. No matter what you call them, we all seem to love them! I love serving Tartines as a heavier passed appetizer at parties. Serve them with a salad, and they add a flavorful bite to the perfect light lunch.
Prosciutto wrapped around Brie on top of apple butter
Toasting began as a common method of making stale bread more palatable. The browning is the result of a Maillard reaction, altering the flavor of the bread as well as making it firmer so that it is easier to spread toppings on it. This chemical reaction is between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor.
As with most dishes, the French perfected this toasting process with their tartines. A classic French tartines is scrambled egg with caviar. A little cooking secret is to fold a little creme fraiché in your scrambled eggs while in the skillet. I prefer serving the eggs on toasted pumpernickel bread with a dollop of your favorite caviar, sprinkle with fresh chives, and the classic is complete.
American chefs have crafted these tasty treats of our own, even if you have only heard of the term toast referred to as raising your glass! I am sure you have heard of the open faced avocado sandwich which appears on even the most discriminating menu. For this classic toast, you will want a good piece of bread that is crusty on the outside, and soft on the inside. Brush a little olive oil on each side and grill until lightly brown. Add slice of avocado and place a few drops white balsamic on top. The acid from the vinegar prevents the avocado from oxidizing. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste and garnish with a few radish slices. Voila! You have successfully prepared one of the most popular toasts in America.
The Italian word bruschetta is derived from the Tuscan dialect word bruscare which means to toast or burn. Bruschetta can be as simple as toasted piece of bread with tomatoes toasted in olive oil with salt and pepper. A popular alternative to bruschetta is served with apples and melted brie. My personal favorite is more on the simple side with fresh burrata, olive oil, Maldon salt, pepper, and watercress. Using a high quality olive oil is the key to enhancing the flavor of this bruschetta.
Regardless of whether your palate leads you towards French, American or Italian, there are endless variations of toasts and opportunities to serve them. Whether a ladies lunch, casual get together with friends or formal cocktail party, toasts should become a staple of your cooking repertoire!
Crusty bread from Green City Farmers Market