Tomato Tartine

Tartine.

A sexier-sounding French word for what is basically an open-faced sandwich, usually with a rich spread.

I had my first one when I arrived in D.C. at the beginning of summer after graduating college. I knew one or two people in the area, I had a friend’s futon to crash on, and an apartment to find. It was the middle of the day, and I ended up at a little French-American restaurant somewhere. I sat down with Craigslist on my laptop screen and ordered a lemonade instead of my usual water.

I watched people walk by my table next to the window and tried to take it all in. I was done with school. My friends, nearby for the last four years, were all spread out. And I was far from home. My car was left behind in Florida, and I had the metro system to figure out. Everything was unfamiliar, and I chose something new for lunch. A tartine. I forget exactly what was on that one, but it was like a salad on bread and refreshing on a warm day. It was also something I’d had before, just this time with better ingredients and a different name.

I found an apartment soon enough in the lovely Eastern Market area at the edge of the Hill. On weekends I walked the two blocks to the Eastern Market, a fantastic place with fresh fruits, vegetables, trinkets and art for sale. Good cheese, pancakes, and cupcakes were offered in the indoor part of the market. By June, the heat was intense. Light sundresses bought at the same market and ponytails were the way to go.

For lunch? This simple tomato tartine. It’s perfect at the height of summer when the thought of turning on the stove or the oven makes you wince, and the unrelenting heat has robbed you of your usual appetite anyway.

Today’s high: 90.

tomato tartine

With such basic ingredients, make sure they are good. Get a deep red, flavorful tomato, and hold off on this tartine if all you can find are those sorry, insipid excuses for the real thing.

1 medium tomato, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
2 slices of good crusty bread
salted butter
brie cheese or goat cheese
pecorino romano cheese
a few basil leaves, torn or sliced thinly into a chiffonade
extra-virgin olive oil

Place the tomato slices on a cutting board. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper over the slices.

Toast bread. Spread a couple of pieces of salted butter on one side of each slice. Spread a few pieces of brie on each buttered slice. Sit two tomato slices on top of each slice. Grate some pecorino romano over the sandwich. Sprinkle a bit more sea salt and pepper. Top off with basil and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Serves 1.

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