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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

T is for Tartine

Nutella & Caramelized Banana Tartine

If you are going to bake bread, then you had better understand the concept of tartine.

Definition: tar·tine (tär-tēn') - A French open-faced sandwich, especially one with a rich or fancy spread. [French, from Old French, diminutive of tarte, tart.]
From: The New Food Lover's Companion, 3rd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst, published by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

Well that's all fine and good, but what does that mean exactly? For me, it means the perfect balance of bread and spread. There are really an infinite number of possibilities, but I really believe that simplicity reigns in this case.

In its simplest of forms, a tartine could be composed of a slice of bread and butter (salted, of course). A little more intriguing would see the bread spread with Nutella. For a more worldly touch? Add Vegemite. As comfort food? Add PB & J. For a sophisticated feel? Add fig jam, crumbled blue cheese, walnuts, and a drizzle of honey.

A piece of bread can transport you to any place in the world, at any time of day, without a lot of effort. It is a medium by which to communicate flavors, bring back memories, and convey feelings.

Here are some of my all time favorites (in no particular order):

  • Nutella
  • Nutella with Caramelized Banana (slice the banana, sprinkle with sugar, and torch it!! or, broil it until caramelized)
  • Butter & Good Quality Shaved Dark Chocolate (shave it with a potato peeler or grate it)
  • Butter & Jam (I love St Dalfour Jamswhich are all natural, sugar free, meaning only natural sweetness!)
  • Cream Cheese, Thin Shaved Red Onion, Smoked Salmon (topped with caviar anyone??)
  • Grilled Chicken & Mango Chutney
  • Grainy Mustard & Emmental Cheese
  • Sliced Crisp Red Apple & Sharp Cheddar
  • Fig Jam, Crumbled Blue Cheese, Walnuts, and Honey Drizzle
The question now is: When does it become a sandwich??? Well, duh, when you add another slice of bread!

So why not? Why not rid ourselves of this confusing, half sandwich ''tartine" (a.k.a. "open faced sandwich) and give in to the conventional sandwich?

After much deliberation, here is my conclusion (and please, feel free to drawn your own)… as the tartine is a French term, and the French are known for richness and moderation, two slices of bread warrants more spread, more filling, and more calories to maintain the same balance of flavor and texture as the tartine while maintaining the svelte French figure (reference the book, French Women Don't Get Fat). Therefore, one slice is better. I mean, you have to remember also, we are not talking about your typical white sandwich bread here. We are talking about a thick slice of freshly baked, rustic country bread. With two slices, how would you fit it into your mouth? Let's go try....

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