Olive Oil and Black Pepper Tartine Recipe

“La découverte d’un mets nouveau fait plus pour le bonheur du genre humain que la découverte d’une étoile.”

The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star*: this aphorism is the ninth of twenty that Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin lists as a prologue** to his book, The Physiology of Taste.

It is not quite as famous as aphorism number four (“Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es,” usually translated to “you are what you eat”) but it rings just as true, and I was reminded of it a few days ago, when Maxence and I jointly discovered our new favorite instant snack.

A drizzle of very good olive oil from Provence and an enthusiastic grind of a fruity black pepper on a section of baguette sliced in two resulted in a mind-blowingly good tartine.

We were hungry and we had some fresh baguette, but neither butter nor cheese on hand. We did, however, have a little canister of very good olive oil from Provence, and a pepper mill newly stocked with a subtle and fruity black pepper. A drizzle of one and an enthusiastic grind of the other on a section of baguette sliced in two resulted in a mind-blowingly good tartine.

It is simple in the extreme, and I’m certainly not claiming we are the first to think of it. But in my (almost) thirty-two years on this planet I had never eaten exactly this combination of ingredients in exactly this form, so in my universe it is very much like (or even better than, Jean Anthelme would say) the discovery of a new star.

To be specific, the baguette was a Piccola, our long-time favorite from Coquelicot. The olive oil is Hortense Meynier’s, as sold by Ecomusée L’Olivier (formerly Première Pression Provence). The black pepper is an Indian one from Malabar.

What about you: any recent stellar food discovery to share?

* M.F.K. Fisher‘s translation.

** Brillat-Savarin actually uses the term prolégomènes (prolegomena in English), which I wish people used more frequently, possibly as a name for their baby girl.

  • Oh, isn’t that an amazing treat? I sometimes do that and add just a touch of parmiggiano on top – sort of a cacio e pepe on a bread form


  • I had a similar aha! moment with an oven-baked shrimp recipe I found on Oui, chef recently, which I hastened to recreate (and adapt) at home.
    It’s not exactly as simple as your delicious tartine, but close.

  • Mmm. I just had some roasted cashews tossed with sea salt and black pepper the other day — I’d forgotten just how wonderful a seasoning pepper can be! There’s a reason it’s so ubiquitous — in its freshly-ground form, it is a beautiful thing.

  • My dad introduced me to sprinkle (or rather cover) a buttered toast with pepper (not the nice freshly ground variety but already finely ground pepper)and no other snack compares to it…I might try the olive oil on a baguette, but the peppery buttered toast will be the ‘Sun’ of the universe for me :-)


  • In Spain it’s quite usual to have toasted bread (either sandwich, but eww at that, or baguette style) with a drizzle of olive oil (can be plain, or infused with garlic and/or herbs) and a sprinkle of salt. I love it for breakfast.

    If you add grated tomato, then it becomes pan tumaca, which is a famous dish from Catalonia.

    • Yes I think spain must be the king of this simple way to eat. Like you said the pamtomaca is the most popular but years ago start to become very popular as well the tostas, they are just bread toasted with 100s of diferent toppings like cod with dill or ham with truffles

  • you are soooo sweet! This is wonderfully refreshing and humble. I love it.

    I love smearing unsalted butter on a nice sturdy piece of bread and sprinkling crunchy salt on top.

  • YES. I was JUST THINKING about how this is my favorite snack in the world.

    The only difference is that I put the olive oil on the bread and then grill it or sear it in a pan to get it nice and crispy and piping hot.

    Will be making myself a chunk of this when I get home today.

  • Mmmmm. I love when we think up amazing, simple snacks! This one looks super yum!

  • Jessica

    That looks very tasty, and I bet it meets 184 secrets of the thin requirements. Thanks for the post!

  • moonshadow aka patricia

    Chopped fresh tarragon smushed up in unsalted butter on fresh sweet corn made my husband want to dance!

  • oh, how simple and how delicious! love it!

  • Mo

    hmm.. this reminds me a snack my grandma used to make when we were kids, and also on a baguette, like yours. She would spread some (fresh from the farm) butter with a light drizzle of sugar and cinnamon… wonderful with café au lait as an afternoon snack ;)

  • Wendy Hutton

    If you can find “red” pepper (extra mature ripened peppercorns) from Cambodia, your baguette treat will be even more sublime. I bought some recently from the farm near Kampot in southern Cambodia and find this pepper is even better than the best pepper from India or Sarawak. You can also try a good sprinkle of sumac or za’atar made with fresh thyme for a Middle Eastern flavour

    • I’ll look for that red Cambodain pepper for sure!

  • Looks delicious! There’s nothing quite like the combination of good bread and olive oil.

  • Pepper is such an underrated spice. I personally love Cambodian pepper. It tastes incredible. I know that they sell it in Paris at this address.

    I would add some fleur de sel to this baguette but otherwise this combo sounds delicious.

    In fact, I wish I had one right now to snack on…

  • Niki

    My most recent discovery was the addition of anchovy fillet to mustard viniagrette for a green salad. The flavours were amazing!

  • What a wonderful post. So simple and beautifully written. Sigh, is there anythig better than a really good olive oil?

  • A tangy cheese drizzled with honey and a good baguette…not very original, but oh so good.

  • Yes, such simplicity is hard to beat. I have the slightest of preferences for Maldon salt (and would keep the top-notch pepper for sprinkling lavishly on plain fried potatoes).

  • You’re right about it being a simple dish but it’s just so darn yummy! I’ve heard smothering toasted bread with butter and sprinkling it with garlic powder makes an incredibly tasty snack.

  • Rachel

    My most recent simple discovery is that Irish brown bread is very good with almond butter. (But then, what isn’t good with almond butter?) And you’ve just inspired tremendous nostalgia for the Piccola, which I used to get every week… :'(

  • A thin slice of onion on top is not bad either!

  • I just picked up MFK Fisher’s translation of The Physiology of Taste at my local library’s book store, for $2. I am excited to get to reading it. Your quotes have given me the last push I need to actually sit down and get started.
    Thanks, as always, for your inspiration.

    • I couldn’t be happier. Thanks!

  • Even babies adore black pepper, as witness my 10-month-old grandson, who scoffed a sandwich made with black pepper Boursin cheese, while discarding other sandwich fillings!

  • Living in Mexico, I can not find baguettes anywhere. I make my own! So many wonderful ways to enjoy this bread, and personally, the simplest ways are THE BEST!

  • JC

    “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es”. The French (original?) version of this saying seems much more profound and with a philisophical side. The English version I have only ever seen taken literally.

  • JC

    I also add salt when doing olive oil and pepper on baguettes, as well as whatever spices strike my fancy at the moment.

    A recent discovery for me is thinly sliced cheese (using a ceramic vegetable peeler) on thin crackers, with pickle relish (sweet or sour). It sounds a bit tacky, but really is a simple elegant snack.

  • Aisha

    A sliced up orange sprinkled with a generous amount of cinnamon. Very pretty visually and ever so simple. And after you’re done gobbling up the orange slices, I recommend sipping up the cinnamon-infused orange juice. Very inelegant, but who’s watching?
    My husband goes crazy for this every time I make it, although I keep telling him it’s just a sliced orange with cinnamon…

    Oh and another one: adding some fried tofu, spring onions and a tablespoon of thai red curry paste to your bowl of ramen/instant noodles before pouring the boiling water on them, just takes the poor student’s noodles to all new heights of taste (and nutritional value)… Especially when the tofu is freshly homemade

    The baguette with olive oil is a favourite. I used to gag at the idea when i was a kid, until I had some of my grandma’s fresh bread with olive oil from my grandpa’s olive tree grove in Algeria… Indescribable goodness! Grandad has that for breakfast every morning…

  • Kam

    This is my breakfast every morning, but I add half of an avocado sliced on top. Yum!

  • This is so simple and looks so good! I recently came across your blog. Thanks for the idea. I’ll have to give this a try. I agree with the Irish brown bread and butter. Whenever I go to Ireland, I just can’t get enough of it.

  • I can’t think of anything I would like more right now than good bread, olive oil and black pepper.

  • I started pan roasting the peppercorns after attending a demonstration at William Sonoma and it takes pepper to another dimension. I now get requests far and wide for it. Sprinkled on mozzarella with a little good salt is amazing.

    • I’ll have to try that, Vicki, thank you!

  • Another pearl of wisdom, Clotilde. Genius! I often eat pasta with just a smothering of butter or olive oil, plus salt and pepper, but bread – this appeals immensely since I bake a lot of my own bread!

  • Barbara

    I had a gift card from Willims-Sonoma to use up and couldn’t make up my mind, until now, as to how to use it. Good Olive oil and the best peppercorns, and I’m ready for our snack this evening. Thanks..the bread will be bought on the way home, of course. :) thanks for your tips and great column.

    • I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! And thank you for your compliments. ^_^

  • Chris Ings

    I haven’t had time to read all of the previous comments, so someone may have already mentioned that to really intensify the explosion of peppery taste, follow the tartine with hot, strong coffee. Sensational.

  • Deb

    Not quite as fast or simple, but we blast roasted (550°) little red creamer potatoes, lightly coated with olive oil, salt and plenty of pepper, until they were just blackened – took potatoes to a new height.

  • stuart itter

    Ah. But, Yelp says L’Épicerie de Bruno is closed. And, a comment says that in the past it was closed sometimes because of health. Surely, I do not have to use McCormick.

    • Yes, sadly, L’Epicerie de Bruno is now closed. I do not know what became of Bruno, but I hope he’s okay. :/

  • Wedding Dresses

    great post, looks good

  • Wedding Dresses
  • ademarco

    toast rubbed with garlic and topped with calabrase pepper sauce which I always have in the fridge.

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