Thursday, July 31, 2014

Belarussian Bruschetta

I once read a line in a story about a sink that was filled with "summer dishes" — the detritus of 90+ degree days that is free of pots and pans and spatulas. Instead, it's the clink of water glass and iced tea glass, the puddle of melted ice cubes, and the drippy-sticky knives and boards and bowls left over from preparing fruit and salad.

That's pretty much what my sink looks like in these spate of summer days. And I have no regrets. It's been cold yogurt and jam for breakfast, and "meal" means salads full of butter lettuces and basil leaves and raw corn and peaches picked from over the office door. Sometimes there's a handful of chips of spoonful of ice cream, but that's pretty much it. Oh, and these Belarussian bruschetta.

I know, Russian food isn't most people's idea of summer dining. But, as I've argued before, it really should be. Yes, Russia is cold. But it also has hot, sticky summers. And people know how to make the best of them, with summer cabins and juicy-sour pickles and fresh sour cream. This tartine is my homage to that, an iteration of an open-faced sandwich that may never have been eaten in the motherland, but captures some of the best of its spirit.

My Brooklyn-Belarussian grandfather relished summertime meals, usually involving the tomatoes grown in his backyard buckets (after he ate the last one of the season, he would proclaim that he would not touch another tomato until the next harvest, which was a rather radical seasonal-dining manifesto in the 1980s). And on the hottest days, he would chop up a smattering of fresh herbs, mix them in with cottage cheese, and spread the mixture on some dark rye or pumpernickel bread. What more do you need?

As a good granddaughter, I've followed his example. I grabbed some farmer cheese instead of cottage cheese, though either would do fine. Instead of mixing everything together, I just lay a swipe of the cold cheese on toasted bread, then top with a few tomatoes, and sprinkle on the chopped herbs right before enjoying. The end result is a perfect Ruskie tartine, all sour bread and punchy herbs and mild cheese, tasting fresh and summery, but refreshing as a juicy dill pickle. It doesn't dirty much more than your cutting board, and it's just about perfect for a hot summer night.

Belarussian Bruschetta

makes as many as you'd like

sliced bread, preferably a nice dense rye or brown bread
farmer cheese
fresh tomatoes (halved, quartered or sliced, depending upon the size)
fresh scallions, thinly sliced
fresh dill, finely chopped
coarse salt and black pepper

Toast or (even better) grill your bread (if grilling, you can brush first with oil or melted butter). Spread with a generous swipe of farmer cheese, then pave with fresh tomatoes. Sprinkle on a generous dusting of fresh herbs, then season with salt and pepper. Enjoy.


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