Appetizers

Mini Radish Ricotta and Green Onion Tartine

The trouble with travel, with being an expat, is that you leave little pieces of your heart scattered across the globe. A sizeable chunk of mine resides in France, and spring is a season that leaves me longing for long picnic lunches in Paris or gentle hikes through the lavender fields and cherry orchards near Aix-en-Provence. So I fix myself a little plate of radishes, butter, sea salt and baguette. Maybe with a barely-dressed green salad and an icy glass of rosé. It’s not the same as decamping to, say, La Bastide de Moustiers for the season, but it certainly soothes the wanderer’s malaise.

This classic French combo of Radis, Beurre and Sel de Mer is often served on tartines – open-faced sandwiches, so I translated them into hors d’oeuvres size to serve at a recent French wine tasting. They’re light, bright and a nice way to balance out a heavier lineup of small bites.

It’s worth the effort (all five minutes of it) to make your own creamy, fresh ricotta for these. If radishes aren’t your thing, you can also top the ricotta with sliced figs and a drizzle of honey, or arugula and proscuitto – whatever takes your fancy. By all means use some rustic baguette slices if you prefer – I typically use the cutouts, simply because they are so easy to eat mid-conversation with a glass of wine in the other hand.

Mini Radish, Ricotta and Green Onion Tartines
Makes about 16 appetizer/bite sized tartines

1 batch fresh ricotta OR 1/2 cup premade ricotta

For the Tartines
8 slices Pain au Levain or other rustic bread
4 tbsps butter, at room temperature
1 small bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 small bunch green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1/2 lemon
3 tbsps olive oil
sea salt

Special Equipment
Small round cookie or biscuit cutter.

Using cookie cutter, cut out circles from bread slices (save trimmings for breadcrumbs).

Place bread circles on cookie sheet and place under broiler until lightly toasted on both sides.

Remove from broiler and spread each circle with a little butter.

Place a heaped teaspoon of ricotta on each toast circle and arrange radish slices on top.

Sprinkle each with a liberal amount of green onions and sprinkle with sea salt.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and lemon juice and serve with a glass of wine and extra sea salt to taste.

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Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Spoons

There are some truly triumphant moments in the life of a vegetable gardener that make all the digging, scrubbing of dirty fingernails, and dead/bolted mishaps worth every minute. You may have your own favorites, but mine are eating crisp, sugar-fresh peas right off the vine, tucking into a bowl of earthy, newly dug potatoes with their wispy skin and waxy flesh, and making lazy, simple salads from juicy, fragrant tomatoes plucked straight from an overladen branch – all the better if they are still warm from the summer sunshine.

Using some leftover heirloom tomatoes from a very generous friend’s garden, I decided to make these little pre-dinner morsels to go with a chilled 2007 Château d’Aquéria Tavel Rose. I’m not entirely sure this is worthy of a recipe, but it looked pretty and tasted like summer, so I had to share.

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad Spoons
Makes about 8 spoonfuls or a light snack for 2 people.

2-3 slices day-old rustic or ciabatta bread
3 large heirloom tomatoes in contrasting colors
1 ball of burrata or buffalo mozzarella
handful of basil leaves, chiffonaded and a few tiny basil leaves from the top of the stem
extra virgin olive oil
aged balsamic or balsamic reduction
sea salt
Special Equipment
Japanese Soup Spoons to serve

Preheat oven to 425F. Carefully cut bread into 1/2″ cubes like tiny croutons. Toss with a little oil, place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown, checking frequently to avoid burning. Set aside to cool.

Cut tomatoes into 1/2″ cubes and set aside. Cut burrata or mozarella into 3/4″ squares.

To assemble, pour just enough olive oil into each spoon to coat the bottom. Carefully add a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Place a square of cheese on the spoon, and top with tomatoes, croutons and a few threads of basil or a couple of tiny basil leaves. Sprinkle with a little fleur de sel (or habanero salt for a spicy variation), and serve!

Serve on individual Japanese Soup Spoons or toss together like a mini-panzanella.

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