There’s something very pleasing about an open-faced sandwich. While simple in concept, the open sandwich construction is popular in myriad cultures. For instance, it’s known as bruschetta in Italy, tartine in France, or smorrebrod in Scandinavia, and the arrangements range from simple and minimal (such as a smear of garlic and tomato) to hefty and filling. They can be visually rustic, fancy and fussy, and gravity-defyingly artistic.
By removing the top piece of bread from the equation, the sandwich filling becomes the topping, which is a lovely reflection of the sum of its parts and a visual tease, beckoning a bite. The bottom piece of bread serves as a plate, to which a smear of butter, fat, cheese or pate is added to seal the bread and serve as a (tasty) barrier, preventing moisture from the toppings from making it soggy. While this is both practical and utilitarian, the type of bread can be as distinctive as the toppings, ranging from day-old bread that gets a revitalizing toast on the grill, to dense and crusty country-style bread, to thin slices of malty ryebread.
I recommend using a country-style bread such as a rustic sourdough for this sandwich. A creamy fresh goat cheese provides the smear. Roasted baby beets crown the cheese and are dabbed with a vibrant garden pesto. This is not your traditional cheesy basil pesto, but rather a blend of garden-fresh herbs pureed with olive oil and lemon. I encourage mixing up the herbs to your taste, while making sure to include a generous amount of parsley and mint to the mix, which nicely complement the beets.
Beet and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes, plus roasting time for the beets
Yield: Makes 6 large or 12 small bruschetta
3 cups packed mixed garden herbs, such as Italian parsley, mint, cilantro, chives, chervil, tarragon
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 slices country-style bread, about 1/2-inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces fresh goat cheese
6 to 8 roasted and peeled baby beets, cut into 4 to 6 wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Finely grated lemon zest
Fresh herb sprigs and flowers for garnish
Make the pesto: Place the herbs, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice and zest in the bowl of a food processor.
Process until finely chopped. With the motor running, add the oil in a steady stream to blend. If too thick, add extra oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, to your desired consistency. The mixture should be slightly loose for dabbing, but not too runny. Add the salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.
Heat the oven broiler or a grill. Lightly brush the bread slices with oil. Broil or grill until toasted golden on both sides but still tender in the center. Remove and cool the bread 5 minutes.
Smear the cheese on the bread. Drizzle a little pesto over the cheese and top with the beets. Lightly dab the beets with more pesto if desired. Season each bruschetta with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper.
Garnish with lemon zest, herb sprigs and flowers. Serve whole or cut in half for smaller bites.