At the farmer's market today I was very excited to buy some fresh herbs to plant, specifically chocolate mint. My foodtastic roommate, Madeline, and I began a love affair with chocolate mint last Summer when my mom was in town and planted us an herb garden with purchases from the Sunday market. Madeline would make the most wonderful snacks and treats accented with the bounty from our little garden. She especially loved the chocolate mint - which I believe was a new discovery for her. She put it in and on water, tea, coffee (yes, coffee), salads, and toast to name a few. I quite liked it in a Summery pasta salad or chopped up and sprinkled over ice cream.
Well, we have since moved from the house with our herb garden. We actually tried to bring the chocolate mint that was potted but it was never the same and very recently I decided it was truly over for our special, transplanted treat. So you can imagine my sorrow when I was told by my favorite herb guy at the market that chocolate mint won't be in season and available for another two months - and that his spearmint was only just now available. I did purchase some nasturtium however - another favorite at our house - which I planted this afternoon. Nasturtium is great. It has a slightly peppery and very fresh taste reminiscent of watercress. I've found it to be wonderful in salads and cold pasta dishes - perhaps a nasturtium pesto or even risotto... I imagine it would be a great compliment with salmon.
Let me begin by mentioning that Madeline has this way of taking very simple dishes and making them magical. She makes this insanely thick, strong coffee with raw milk, sugar and a bit of salt (salt?!). The coffee is fantastic. I'm not really a scrambled egg person but whatever she does to hers is so special and yummy, decadent, rich and perfectly, slightly underdone. I've tried to emulate both of these morning delights of hers with varying success. She still does them best. One night for a small gathering of our friends she made one of the most delicious, tender and juicy roast chickens (with perfectly crisped skin) I've ever had - all of our friends were in agreement. We're talking about coffee, scrambled eggs and chicken here, not Babette's feast. It's amazing.
This brings me to the toast.
During Summer, 2007 (a season that will go down in history/infamy for Madeline and me for numerous reasons) my concept of toast changed forever thanks to Miss M. It's also one of the few things I've gleaned from her that I feel I have confidently mastered. Today - with thoughts of chocolate mint - I returned from the market, put away my produce, put fresh flowers around the house, planted the nasturtium, and decided to make some toast to eat while I did the Sunday crossword.
The freshness and seasonality of the ingredients are key here...
(My favorite) INGREDIENTS
1 batard or rustic loaf with good crust
1 heirloom tomato (red, yellow, orange or "black" are all fun for colorful times)
1 hass avocado (ripe)
1 clove of garlic, peeled
Approximately 1 Tablespoon of super, nice extra virgin olive oil
Fresh basil leaves
1/2 Meyer lemon
Fresh cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt
Slice the tomato and avocado and sprinkle salt over them. A squeeze of lemon is nice as well.
Simply cut (or tear) yourself a chunk of the bread and toast it to crispyness.
Take your clove of garlic and rub it all over the toast.
Drizzle the oil over the toast.
Layer the herbs, tomato and avocado in an aesthetic and user-friendly manner over the toast (so you get all the flavors in each bite).
Salt and pepper to taste.
You can't go wrong with a smattering of all sorts of fresh herbs you may have around.
Add shallot or red onion thinly sliced.
Add splash of balsamic vinegar.
I know it seems simple, maybe too simple. But try it. It's great in the morning with coffee and eggs, as an afternoon snack with a glass of Lillet, or perhaps a preamble to dinner. And although I may be jumping the gun a little, nothing tastes more like summer.
“No bread. Then bring me some toast!”