Heidi Swanson makes everything beautiful. Her new book, “Near and Far,” is inspired by her travels, and it’s full of the sort of cloudy-day photography and offhand-but-unerring combinations of flavors that make me want to fly to Morocco and spend all day shopping in the souks and then cooking with rose petals and harissa. Or jetting off to Jodhpur and then stirring up a saffron gin and tonic.
With her online boutique, blog and bestselling cookbooks, Swanson is a thinking cook’s Gwyneth Paltrow. And the recipes in “Near and Far” reflect a vegetarian tastemaker’s instinct for ingredients and techniques of the why-didn’t-I-think-of-that variety.
Take her collection of tartines, those open-faced sandwiches that are so Parisian, served long before anyone in California started crowing about avocado toast. Swanson offers three riffs: one with squash blossoms, scallions, macadamia nuts and, yes, avocados; one with fromage blanc, quick-pickled onions, cherries and watercress; and the one I couldn’t resist, featuring lemon-wilted endive, apricots, pecorino-Romano and marjoram leaves. It seems so simple, yet the textures and flavors play off one another wonderfully.
Swanson writes that it’s just the type of “formula lunch” she eats most days in Paris: tartine plus salad plus wine. But here in the States, I’m probably more likely to serve it as an appetizer before pasta, or perhaps with soup.
It would also make a fantastic take-to-work lunch, because you can prep the toppings ahead, brown-bag them, then toast your rustic sourdough slices and assemble the tartines when it’s time to eat. One day, perhaps, I’ll sit at my desk, soak up the cloud-filtered light and pretend I’m Swanson’s traveling companion and we’re in a Paris cafe instead of a downtown Washington office building. The only thing missing: the celebratory pop! of a cork.
2 to 4 servings (2 or 3 main-course servings or 4 appetizer servings)
These easy-to-put-together toasts feature a wonderful combination of flavors -- sweet, tart, salty, bitter -- plus crunchy and creamy textures. They are perfect for a breezy lunch with salad or soup and a glass of wine, or as a casual party appetizer.
Adapted from “Near and Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel,” by Heidi Swanson (Ten Speed Press, 2015).
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
Four 1/2-inch thick slices levain bread (5 ounces total)
3 Belgian endives, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 2 cups total)
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
8 dried apricots (1/2 cup), thinly sliced (may substitute 2 to 3 fresh, pitted apricots)
11/2 ounces (1/4 cup) pecans, toasted and cut lengthwise (see NOTE)
2 ounces (1/3 cup) crumbled or shaved hard sheep’s milk cheese, such as manchego, pecorino-Romano or Pyrenees
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram leaves
Lightly oil each slice of bread and toast or broil until golden and crisp.
A few minutes before serving, toss together the endives with the salt and lemon juice in a bowl. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes, until the endives wilt a bit. Add the apricots, pecans and cheese; toss to incorporate.
To assemble, evenly distribute the endive mixture across the bread, then finish with fresh marjoram and a drizzle of oil.
NOTE: Toast the pecans in a small, dry skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until they are fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan as needed to keep them from burning.
Nutrition | Per serving (based on 4): 340 calories, 9 g protein, 33 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 600 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 12 g sugar
Recipe tested by Joe Yonan; e-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org