I learned to really appreciate the wonderfulness of simple cooking, made with the freshest, in-season ingredients during our trip to Europe back in 2009. There, we dined on the most exquisite food, but you know what? It wasn't particularly fancy or pretentious food that comes to mind...It was simple, down-to-earth dishes packed with flavor from what was in season at the time. To me, that's the best way to cook. Period.
This was most noticeable to us in Italy, where amazing toppings were carefully layered onto the pizzas, with thinner crusts than us Americans are used to, which really allowed the toppings to shine. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Earlier today, I came across an article written by the great Jacques Pepin, in which he recalled some of his favorite memories of Julia Child, one of which involved this simple, flavorful cooking technique. Here's an excerpt from that article, where Jacques recalls a dinner party at Julia's home one evening:
Excerpt from: Memories of a Friend, Sidekick and Foil by Jacques Pepin (nytimes.com)
"Gloria helped Paul with the oysters he was opening and arranging on a plate as Julia announced: “I have a rack of pork. What do you want to do with it?” I cut the rack into chops, which we sautéed and served with skillet potatoes and string beans with butter and rosemary. A green salad and a perfectly ripened Brie followed, and we finished with Julia’s compote of fruit served with ice cream. I do remember a delightful Chambertin from the late 1950s that Paul brought up from his cellar, which contained wonderful Burgundies. It was a simple, perfect meal to share with friends, my type and her type of cooking, which Julia always referred to as cuisine soignée, meaning a simple meal made with great care and the best possible ingredient."
The phrase and description of "cuisine soignée" really got me thinking and could be used to describe this recipe for Heirloom Tomato & Prosciutto Tartine perfectly. This recipe was completely inspired by my local farmers' market. Fresh, juicy, and colorful heirloom tomatoes bursting at the seams with flavor are absolutely the stars of this dish. They are layered on sourdough bread so fresh that it was practically still warm out of the oven, along with creamy local Gouda cheese, prosciutto, basil from my windowsill and a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Now that's my kind of food!
Simplicity + Fresh Ingredients = Pure Bliss
Taking a bite of this tartine is like biting into those last few weeks of summer...So wonderful yet fleeting, and you don't want it to end!
Bon Appetit, my friends!
Heirloom Tomato, Basil & Prosciutto Tartine with Gouda Cheese
6 large slices of fresh sourdough bread
5 - 6 oz. Gouda cheese, sliced
3 ripe heirloom tomatoes, assorted colors, sliced
4 slices prosciutto
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh basil, sliced
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pre-heat the broiler in your oven.
Place the slices of sourdough bread on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler. Lightly toast according to your preference.
Remove from oven and immediately place the sliced gouda cheese in a single layer on the bread. Top with the sliced heirloom tomatoes.
Tear the prosciutto into bite-sized pieces and nestle the pieces in between the tomato slices.
Lightly drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the top, followed by a sprinkling of fresh basil, salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.