I wait not very patiently for tomato season, and then I have them every day. I love that we made this sandwich. It has everything: perfectly grilled bread that holds up to moisture in the tomatoes; a tangy pesto to make it lively; beets and tomatoes, who needs to say more; and then those seeds. And when you start toasting seeds, make plenty, they store well and you will start adding them to everything – salads, eggs, you get the idea.
Yield: 8 tartines
6 small or 4 medium beets (red, golden or both),
4-5 medium heirloom tomatoes (preferably several colors)
A splash of sherry or Banyuls vinegar
Best-quality olive oil
8 slices country white bread (if you are in the Seattle area, Grand Central Bakery Como Loaf can’t be beat!)
Crunchy sea salt, such as Maldon or Murray River Pink
1 recipe Mixed Seed Topping (see below)
1 small clove of garlic, minced or pressed
2/3 cup tarragon leaves
1/3 cup toasted pecans
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (you can use olive oil for a vegan version)
1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus additional, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus additional, to taste
Salt, to taste
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Wash the beets and trim the roots. Wrap the beets tightly in aluminum foil, place them on a sheet pan and roast until they are very tender, 40-60 minutes, depending on the size of your beets.
While the beets are cooking, make the tarragon pesto: Place the garlic, tarragon and pecans in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the mayonnaise, lemon zest, lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt. Pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.
Brush the bread lightly with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt. To cook the toasts in the oven, place the bread on a rimmed sheet pan and place in the oven with the beets. Toast the bread, turning once, until it is light golden-brown, the edges are crispy and the center is still soft, 8-12 minutes. You can also cook the bread on a medium-hot grill or grill pan until char marks appear, 3-4 minutes.
When the beets are tender, use paper towels to rub the skins off (you may want to wear kitchen gloves for this) and set aside to cool slightly.
When you are ready to assemble the tartines, thinly slice the beets and place them in a medium bowl. Add a splash of vinegar and a generous pinch of salt, use your hand to gently toss the beets in the vinegar. Taste and add more vinegar or salt if necessary. Set aside.
Slice the tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside.
If the pesto is very thick, thin it with olive oil or water to reach your desired consistency. Spread some of the tarragon pesto onto the toasted or grilled bread. Arrange the tomatoes and dressed beets over the pesto and drizzle with a bit of your best olive oil. Sprinkle the tartines with the Mixed Seed Topping and crunchy salt. Serve immediately.
Mixed Seed Topping
Yield: About 2/3 cup
4 teaspoons sesame seeds (white or black)
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 teaspoons yellow mustard seed
2 teaspoon black mustard seed
2 teaspoon fennel seed
2 teaspoon nigella seed (optional)
2 teaspoon poppy seeds
Place the sesame seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden brown. Remove to a small bowl to cool.
Wipe out the skillet and add the cumin, mustard seeds, fennel and nigella. Toast, stirring often, until the seeds are fragrant and begin to pop. Transfer to the bowl with the sesame seeds.
Add the poppy seeds to the bowl. Stir to combine.
*Note: Mixed Seed Topping will keep in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 6 months.