I recently had a very bad dining experience but fortunately something good came out of it. A very close friend who is going through a rough patch needed a night out and she chose Dinette. It is a restaurant that has been around for quite a while but it is a place that she had never tried. Dinette is adorable and their focus is toasts. They come in thick and chewy varieties and thin and crispy varieties. Each type has about four different topping choices. There are also some lovely salads and about five entrées on the menu.
The food we ate was very good. There were plenty of interesting vegetarian choices. The prices were very fair. The vibe in the place was very sweet. The service was, in a word, terrible. I won’t go on and on about the multitude of ways our server was rude but I do have to tell you about the olive.
My friend ordered their martini and asked for extra olives which is something she always does and I would do too if I drank martinis. The waitress snarkily told her that she would have to charge for extra olives because they were stuffed with blue cheese. It was at that point, after several rude things had already happened, that I would have gotten up and walked out. But my friend was fragile and getting back in the car in search of another place seemed like a bit much. The waitress returned with the martini and, wait for it, two olives. We checked the menu. The cocktail description said the martini was served with Gorgonzola stuffed olives. Plural. How exactly is a total of two extra?
The evening went on. She continued to be rude. We did our best to ignore her and talk and enjoy our food. When she brought the bill, I nearly fell out of my chair. There was a $1 charge for the extra olive. Now, I am a good tipper. I start at 20% and will leave more for very good service. I always tip on the full amount of the bill, regardless of whether I am using a coupon or some kind of discount. I did not tip this woman. I wrote on the back of the receipt (because she had disappeared) that by choosing to charge us $1 for one freaking olive, she had lost a $20 tip. I came home, tweeted about it, put it up on Facebook, and am now telling you. I sent the owner of the restaurant an email telling her not just about the olive, but about how rudely we were treated. I never heard a word. It is surprising to me, in this day and age not of “they told two friends and so on and so on” but “they told two friends who tweeted it and posted about it on Facebook and wrote a long blog post about it”, that there would be silence.
But! The good news! Toasts! We ordered two. Each was essentially a very large slice of bread cut into four manageable sized pieces. One was topped with some kind of oozy cheese, frisée and an unfortunate amount of truffle oil which completely overpowered the toast. The other was topped with carmelized onions, thin slices of sautéed zucchini and goat cheese. This was the kind of thing which you finish and immediately want another piece. Like forget the salad, entrée and dessert – just give me more of those toasts.
There were so many things right with this beauty starting with the bread. It was a nice thick slice and toasted just enough to make it interesting without hurting your teeth or scratching the roof of your mouth. The bread was very dense and hearty with just the slightest tang. A few days later, I happened upon a bread in the grocery store that I thought might be the one they used. It was made by the Essential Baking Company here in Seattle and I bought that loaf with the idea for our dinner that night now firmly decided. I had zucchini and onions and I decided to swap out the goat cheese for a saltier Pecorino Romano.
I had some Roasted Red Pepper Pesto in my refrigerator from dinner the previous night and I also had some fresh baby artichokes because I can never resist them when I see them at the farmers’ market. (We have two artichoke seasons here in the Northwest – spring and fall.) I decided to braise the hearts in shallots and white wine and purée them a bit in my food processor. Toast #1 was the zucchini rendition and toast #2 was slathered with the pesto and then the artichokes and sprinkled with fresh thyme. Both were so good, I decided to make them as my sandwich offering at Saturday’s yoga retreat with my friend Jen. People really loved them, especially the artichoke one. Maybe I’ll sell my idea to Dinette and charge them a dollar.
Some tips. Cut your bread about an inch thick – this is not a crostini. Make sure you drizzle it with olive oil to coat the surface – you want to keep the bread relatively soft. For this reason, you will also want to stay near the oven so they don’t overbake. Because you are using a thick piece of bread, the toppings should be generous. If you don’t have access to fresh artichokes or don’t want to spend the time breaking them down, you can certainly either use frozen ones, cooked the same way as described, or you can use jarred marinated hearts. I would rinse them well (I don’t appreciate that pickle-y flavor here) and just purée them.
Whenever I need to caramelize onions for something, I make extra. It takes no extra effort, they keep well, and are delicious in so many things.
1 large 1-inch thick whole wheat sourdough bread
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. good quality balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Place the slice of bread on a baking sheet and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Put the sheet in the oven and bake until the surface is slightly crisp, but there is still quite a bit of give when you push down on it, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the onions and a large pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and starting to become translucent, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are very fragrant and a deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. (If have a cast iron skillet, use it. I love how evenly and quickly the onions caramelize in mine. You can make these up to 5 days ahead. Once cool, cover and refrigerate.)
Heat another sauté pan over medium heat. Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the zucchini slices and a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is cooked through and browning in places, about 7 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, then pour in the balsamic vinegar, stirring to coat the zucchini slices. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary, keeping in mind that Pecorino Romano is a salty cheese.
To assemble, lay the caramelized onions over the toasted bread, then shingle the zucchini slices on top. Sprinkle the whole toast with the cheese and return it to the oven to melt the cheese slightly, 5 to 7 minutes. Cut into four pieces.
Toast with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Artichokes
Dana Treat Original
You will definitely have more pesto than you need for this recipe and might have more artichoke purée than you need – both of which are wonderful problems to have.
1 large 1-inch thick whole wheat sourdough bread
1 large shallot, diced
4 baby artichokes
½ cup of white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto (recipe follows)
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
Make the pesto. Prepare the bread as described in the recipe above.
Fill a small bowl with cold water. Trim off the top ¼ of the artichokes. Tear off and discard most of the outer leaves. Trim the base and stem so that they are flush with the leaves and then slice each heart in half. Since they are babies, there is no choke to remove. Place the halves in the lemon water and repeat with the remaining artichokes.
Heat a sauté pan with a lid over medium heat. Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, and add the shallots and a pinch of salt. Cook until just starting to brown, about 5 minutes, then add the artichoke hearts. Give them a good stir then pour in the wine. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover the pan. Cook until the hearts are fork tender, about 7 minutes, adding more wine if the pan becomes too dry. On the other hand, if there is a lot of liquid left after the hearts are tender, remove the lid and continue cooking until most of the wine has evaporated. You don’t want them bone dry.
Scrape the mixture into a food processor, add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and pulse about 7 times, just enough to create a speadable consistency, but not too uniform. Chunks are fine. If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit of olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
To assemble, spread a generous portion of Roasted Red Pepper Pesto over the surface of the toast. Dollop a 1-inch thick line of the artichokes down the center width-wise. Sprinkle the whole toast with fresh thyme and cut into four pieces.
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
Makes about 1 cup
1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, well drained
½ cup walnuts
1 large garlic clove, chopped
¼ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (you can also use Parmesan)
Place the peppers, walnuts, garlic, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse the mixture until chopped. With the machine running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube and process until the mixture is fairly uniform but with some small chunks. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the cheese by hand.