Summertime, when everyone is off doing something active — swimming lessons, biking, fishing, hiking — I like having quick snack/lunch options at the ready, something to supplement fresh strawberries and granola bars. Lately, I've been making lots of open-faced toasted sandwiches. Some favorites have included ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced spring onions and shavings of cool Stilton, as well as any leftover bits of grilled fish or chicken, piled high onto toast and drizzled with bright-green zhoug or leftover salsa.
And with Alaskans and their savvy foraging ways, I've been rich in wild mushrooms lately as well. They're delicious sautéed, then piled high on toasted bread with melted cheese.
The first few times I made this, I realized that the bread steamed slightly when piled with other ingredients. So, pre-toasting the bread is crucial. I've found it's best to use a sturdy bread, something with depth of flavor and hefty enough to stand up to melting cheese. I really like Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop's Pain Ordinaire for these open-faced tartines, but you could use sourdough or another favorite kind.
As to the mushrooms, if you don't have access to any secret foraging places, seek out a variety from your local farmers market or store, including king trumpets, shiitake, chanterelles and morels. For the cheese, I like raclette, a Swiss semi-hard cow's milk cheese best known for its melting qualities, but a smoked provolone or good Comté work just as well. For a kick of blue, try Gorgonzola or Roquefort.
Wild mushroom and cheese toasts
Makes 2 servings
For the toast:
2 to 3 thick slices country bread such as Pain Ordinaire or sourdough
1 large clove garlic, cut in half lengthwise
For the mushrooms:
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds wild mushrooms, trimmed and wiped clean with a damp towel, cut into similarly shaped pieces
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil or thyme
2 to 3 ounces raclette (or Comté, fontina or Roquefort cheese)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in oven for 5 minutes. Turn slices and toast other side another 5 to 8 minutes, until golden. Remove pan from oven and, using the cut side of garlic, rub the toasts on all sides, including the crusts. Set back on the baking sheet.
Set a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat until oil is shimmering. Pat dry mushrooms thoroughly and add to the hot oil in a single layer. Reduce heat to medium, if too hot. Let mushrooms crisp on one side — try not to move them too much — about 5 minutes. Toss and let cook, another 5 to 8 minutes, or until golden brown on all sides. DO NOT add salt at this point. If mushrooms are releasing too much liquid, drain mushrooms in a colander, discarding liquid and place mushrooms back into hot pan and let finish cooking until golden brown all over. Add shallot and toss and cook one minute. Add garlic and parsley and toss. Remove from heat.
Heat oven to broil (high). Divide the mushrooms evenly over the toasted bread slices. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the cheese and divide evenly over the mushrooms. Place pan in oven and broil on high, 3 to 5 minutes, being careful not to burn, until the toasts are golden brown and cheese is bubbling. Let cool slightly and cut bread into triangles and serve warm or whole pieces with a green salad as a main course.