May 19th, 2009

From the Garden, No Cooking

I confess. This recovering caterer fell off the No Catering wagon.

Singlehandedly, I cooked a dinner for 80 this weekend. I know; what was I thinking?

But it was the kind of food that I love to make: Lasagna Bianca, layered with roasted vegetables, cheeses, and a rich, sundried-tomato-laced bechamel; hand-picked garden lettuces with sugar snaps, goat cheese, dried cherries and toasted almonds; blanched chilled asparagus drenched in a true green goddess dressing…

And, it was for good reason: a rehearsal dinner for a friend’s son and bride-to-be.

I had fun. The event was a success, the food well-loved, and I still got the chops.

The down side is that catering gets in the way of food blogging: When I’m in the midst of cranking out a big “blog-worthy” meal, I cannot stop to stage and photograph the beautiful dishes.
Or have a bite.

And, the day following such a culinary marathon, my kitchen and I are more than a little ravaged.
Basically, I’m. Cooked. Out.

So, what’s all that got to do with this posting’s lead photo?

Well, it’s to let you know that on the spring days when you feel “cooked-out,” and don’t want to go out, We’ve Got Options. There are simple, lively tastes you can make in minutes, without cooking a thing—as long as you don’t call putting bread in the toaster Cooking.

Tastes that are fresh, yet soothing. Comfort with a bite. Call them tartines or bruschettas or fancy open-faced sandwiches, when made with fresh-from-the-garden ingredients and served with a glass of sparkling water or chilled white, they will delight and restore. I made two styles for Bill and myself that are so easy, they really aren’t recipes, just combinations of good things.

The first one is my take on a French/Southwest Missouri favorite with the radish. I include Southwest Missouri, because that’s where Bill grew up, and he recalls radish-butter-salt sandwiches, made by his mom, with abiding fondness. Unlike the French model–No baguettes in Nevada, MO–his salted white radishes were placed between two buttered slices of American white bread.

I opt for the French manner: open faced, crusty, but with a couple of deviations. I toast the bread, like ciabatta, slap on some unsalted butter, top with sliced radish, a few curls of green onions, then a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Both early spring crops, radishes and spring onions pair rather nicely.

Now, the important part: Wait. Just a moment or two. You’ll see beads of water form as the salt “sweats” the radishes. This brings out the radishness, making for a juicier crunch.

Thanks to my friend Marilyn, who grew these radishes in her suburban farmette.

A Perfect Radish-Scallion-Butter Toast
Slice of a favorite Sturdy, Crusty Bread, wheat or white
Unsalted Butter ( not too soft, since it’s going on toast!)
Radishes (try the French Breakfast variety–long, scarlet with white base)
Coarse Sea Salt

These are all the ingredients required. No quantities, no measurements, for none are really needed: Maybe there’s the equivalent of one radish and a quarter of a scallion on a toast.

My second treat uses ripe local strawberries: I must indulge in them while they are here!
Again, I toast the bread, and slather it with soft goat cheese. Then I stagger sliced strawberries and arugula leaves across the top. That little sour arugula twang is so good with the berry-sweet.

Be judicious with the balsamic vinegar–just droplets over the berries; a little balsamic goes a long way. With a few grindings of black pepper, this tartine is ready to enjoy.

A Peppery Strawberry-Arugula-Chevre Tartine
Slice of a Favorite Crusty White Bread, like Ciabatta
Soft Chevre
Ripe Strawberries
Balsamic Vinegar
Cracked Black Pepper

Starring Strawberries from John Drury, Chevre from Bonnie Blue Farm, Arugula from the Nancy&Bill Belmont Farmette!

As for that No Catering Wagon, I’m ready to clamber back on…
And, surely, I will make the Lasagna Bianca for us
at some point anon,
and the Green Goddess–
I promise!

Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Recipes

8 Responses to “From the Garden, No Cooking”
  1. rhonda Says:

    I love the looks (and descriptions) of the tartines. Your photographs are outstanding!!! But, your opening paragraphs have me salivating for the more calorie laden lasagna bianco……so, I’m keeping my eye out for that dangling carrot………
    “And, surely, I will make the Lasagna Bianca for us
    at some point anon,
    and the Green Goddess–
    I promise!”

  2. Renee Says:

    I heard that Chef Nancy had a wonderful reading at Whole Foods last night. Congrats! When’s the next one?; I want to come!

  3. K-run Says:

    I love the open faced pick ups using radishes and other seasonal vegetables, you never see very many recipes using one of my favorites radishes. Your reading was wonderful at Whole foods last night. We can’t wait until your next reading.

  4. John Says:


    I love arugula, but never thought about using it as you have suggested. You’re making me think!


  5. claudia (cook eat fRET) Says:

    absolutely stunning food
    i love both of these equally…

  6. rebekka Says:

    Lovely! Perfect! And exactly what I’ve been eating for dinner lately. Assembling is much better than cooking sometimes.

  7. joycooks Says:

    me too!! I have both local strawberries and radishes from my garden– and this is the perfect thing to do with them!

  8. rach Says:

    oh deliciously simply…. delicious
    this is the way to celebrate and appreciate such nice ingredients – I adore radish sandwiches.
    I am intrigued by the arugula with the strawberries, I must try it.
    very glad to have found your writing.
    ps…dinner for 80…yikes

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