First things first

Ricotta and broccoli raab sandwich

Good technique: Rustic bread, sweet caramel, fresh ricotta and a shake of the Japanese red peppers make for a memorable sandwich. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

Recently a tartine smiled at me from a bakery case. I'm ashamed to say I didn't smile back.

I had just finished an elaborate New York City lunch. I had a train to catch. It didn't seem the time to take on a tartine, even a lovely one lounging on rustic whole wheat. The sandwich, all open-faced innocence and creamy ricotta, didn't look as if it would take lightly to travel.

Obviously foolish. I should have run a few laps around SoHo. Or skipped the train. I should have maintained a lighter grip on my schedule and tighter grip on my priorities.

Because that sandwich haunted me. Back home, I thought about it. Was its whole-wheat slab soft or crisp? Was its ricotta plain or spiced? Were those roasted greens garlic-spiked? And that streak of caramel! Daring.

Finally I tracked down the tartine's creator, New York bakery genius Maury Rubin. He explained his tartine technique, which is more of an approach than a recipe: good bread, sweet caramel, fresh ricotta and a shake of the Japanese red peppers called shichimi. Apparently, I'd daydreamed the greens.

I tried Rubin's recipe (which he credits to City Bakery savory chef Ilene Rosen). I decided I preferred the bread pan-crisped and the ricotta spread thin. I moved the caramel from the bottom to the top. And reinstalled my imaginary garlic-spiked greens.

It was a good lesson in the mechanics of sandwich building. And in the importance of knowing what's important.

Ricotta tartine

Olive oil

Coarse salt

Rustic whole wheat country bread, sliced

Whole-milk ricotta cheese

Roasted broccolini, see recipe

Shichimi red pepper mix, see note

Caramel sauce (homemade or purchased), optional

1. Heat a thin layer of olive oil and a pinch of salt in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

2. For each tartine, sizzle 1 slice of bread in the oil until golden brown, about 1 minute per side.

3. Settle on a plate. Spread with a thin layer of ricotta.

Featured Stories

CTnow is using Facebook comments on stories. To comment on articles, sign into Facebook and enter your comment in the field below. Comments will appear in your Facebook News Feed unless you choose otherwise. To report spam or abuse, click the X next to the comment. For guidelines on commenting, click here.