These toasts make a satisfying lunch or dinner, especially with the addition of a runny egg. Both the salad and the whipped Feta can be made ahead, although neither takes long to pull off. The salad also makes a good accompaniment to pork and lamb; try it instead of coleslaw on your next pulled pork sandwich. Or, stir it into couscous, or the grain of your choice.
The Feta can also be repurposed: spooned over pasta, with potatoes, or with sliced apples (and maybe some crushed Marcona almonds, why not?) on more toast. You can also serve this on small crostini at a party. Both elements are multi-purpose, and I think speak to late winter–deep and flavorful, but bright. I used French Feta for my whip, which tends to be mild and not too salty. Feel free to use your favorite origin Feta, but keep in mind that saltiness will vary; taste before you add any additional salt or not. The whip can be made up to 4 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The salad is good for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
If you are bringing these for a picnic, I recommend packing the salad, the whipped feta, and the toasts separately, and then allowing people to build their own tartines on site. —Cristina Sciarra
1 small red onion
2 garlic cloves
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon harissa
2 teaspoons za’atar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 14-ounce can chickpeas
1 medium fennel bulb
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons tablespoons olive oil, divided
Set out a large mixing bowl–you will toss all the salad ingredients into it as you prepare them. Mince the small red onion and the garlic cloves. Pull the leaves off the thyme sprigs. Add the harissa, the za’atar, the salt, and several cracks of the pepper. Rinse the can goop off of the chickpeas, and then add them to the bowl too. Cut the fronds away from the fennel. Wash the bulb, and peel away any brown spots. Halve the bulb lengthwise, and then shave each half crosswise into thin slices (I use a mandoline). Add 1/2 cup of the lemon juice and 1/4 cup of the olive oil to the bowl, and stir all of the ingredients together, until all is evenly incorporated. I like to make this salad a night ahead (store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container). An hour before eating, take the salad out of the refrigerator, and stir in the chives and the parsley. You can also make the salad just a few hours ahead, or make it and serve it right away.
Now whip the feta: Roughly chop the Feta, and add it to the bowl of a food processor, along with the cream cheese. Pulse the cheeses a couple of times. Start the machine, and slowly pour in 6 tablespoons of the olive oil, and then the remaining 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Mix until the whip is creamy and smooth. Add a flurry of cracked black pepper, and pulse just to combine.
Heat the oven to 375F. Cut the bread into chunky slices, about 3/4-inch thick. Lay the slices on a baking sheet and brush each with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Move the toast to the oven for 10 minutes, or until the the bread is crisp on the outside, but still soft on the inside. Allow the toast to cool for 5 minutes.
When the toast is still warm but no longer hot, pile a dollop of the whipped feta onto each slice. Scoop the marinated salad on top of the Feta. Serve as is, or with a fried or poached egg on top.
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at theroamingkitchen.com.