Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: Less than a minute (for asparagus and peas)
These open-face sandwiches are a fine example of a healthy balance: bread and vegetables (carbohydrates, fiber and vitamins), plus cheese (protein and calcium). Wrap them in plastic wrap and they're perfect for a lunchbox.
Recipe adapted from "Nature: Simple, Healthy, and Good" by Alain Ducasse (Rizzoli, $42, 360 pages).
Salt, for the cooking water
2 1/2 inches of tips from 16 thin green asparagus spears
Handful freshly shelled peas
4 small slices whole-wheat or multigrain bread, toasted (preferably on one side only)
3 to 5 ounces cream cheese (can use low-fat)
20 cherry tomatoes, washed, dried and cut in half
1/4 bulb fennel, cored, rinsed and cut into 1/8-inch slices
About 5 radishes, peeled if desired, then rinsed and cut into 1/8-inch rounds
4 to 8 small arugula leaves
Block Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler into thin pieces (1.5 ounces total)
Freshly ground black pepper
Have a medium bowl of ice cubes and water at hand. Spread a clean dish towel on the counter.
Bring a wide saucepan of water to a boil over high heat; add a generous pinch of salt. Add the asparagus tips and peas; cook for 20 to 25 seconds, then use a slotted spoon or Chinese skimmer to transfer them to the ice-water bath. Let cool there for 2 minutes, then transfer the spears and peas to the dish towel to drain.
Lay the bread slices on a work surface. Spread their toasted sides with the cheese (to taste).
Arrange a row of the tomatoes, cut sides down, down the center of each piece of bread. Layer the fennel and radish slices and the peas on top of the cheese and tomatoes.
Cut the cooked asparagus tips lengthwise and scatter them over each portion, then top each one with a leaf or two of arugula and the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Finish each tartine with a generous twist of freshly ground black pepper. Serve right away.
Per serving: 260 calories, 11 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 500 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar