Ricotta Tartines

Tartine - 7

Early last summer my 16-year old daughter introduced me to tartines, those classic French open-faced sandwiches that suggest a vibrant fruit tart but with vegetables. I had taken her to lunch at a nearby café to celebrate the start of her summer vacation. As she scanned the menu, she pointed to a section labeled “Tartines” and mentioned that her high school French class had talked about them a few weeks earlier. She then launched into an enthusiastic explanation of how they are made.

I was reminded of that day a few weeks ago when I was browsing recipes in the New York Times and ran across a David Tanis column on the subject. In Grilled Cheese? Try a Tartine Recipe Instead, Tanis describes tartines as similar to a small pizza made of toasted bread, cheese, and any number of savory toppings. He also observes that tartines are a popular menu item in tiny neighborhood cafes and bistros in Paris presumably because of their convenience.

This got me to thinking about how tartines could be a great weekday option for busy families. They can be prepared on the fly and customized to fit both the time of day and individual preferences. Cleanup is minimal since they require the use of only a few dishes. Most importantly, everyone can participate in their preparation, even the kids.

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Marinara Sauce

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A few weeks ago I did a post calculating the astonishing amount of sugar that a five-year-old could consume in a single day by eating typical processed and restaurant food.  As a follow-up I said that I would post some recipes for dishes that could be substituted for the more sugary, processed items that populate grocery store shelves.  Today’s post, marinara sauce, is the third in that series.

Marinara sauce is one of those kitchen staples I try to always have on hand.  It’s the simplest of tomato sauces, consisting of just tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and a few seasonings, simmered together until the sauce has reduced slightly and the flavors have blended.  (Depending on whom you ask, it may or may not have onions – my preference is to leave them out.)  It’s also extremely versatile, serving as a sauce for not only pasta but vegetables and meat as well.

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Weeknight Tomato Soup

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Soup is one of my favorite go-to dishes for busy weeknights.  It can be made ahead and in large batches, which means you can easily prepare single-serving size portions to use later.  It’s flexible, performing equally well as an appetizer, paired with a salad or a sandwich, or standing alone as the main course.  Its roster of ingredients can be varied at a moment’s notice, allowing you to use up that aging zucchini or lonely potato hiding in the back of the vegetable drawer.

Best of all, soup is an undeniable marker of the seasons.  Who doesn’t associate gazpacho with late summer’s abundance of fresh tomatoes or creamy butternut squash soup with the Thanksgiving table? Read More