Category: Tart

Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel

May 21, 2013

You may not agree with me but I think the tendency to hang on to things is genetic.  I am a purger.  Randy is a saver.  (Not hoarder.  No cat skeletons hiding under mountains of garbage in our house.)  My parents have barely held on to anything from out childhoods except for photographs.  Randy’s parents periodically send us packages containing things (books, art work, letters) from his youth.  My parents purge and Randy’s save.

There is no time when those differences are clearer than when you move.  Each time I have moved, I have gotten rid of a tremendous amount of stuff.  I basically eye each thing I am about to put in a box and ask myself, “Do I want to pack this, only to have to unpack it?”  Many times the answer is no.  So off to Goodwill it goes.  Randy has a harder time with this process.  He often can’t give things away because he either “paid good money for it” or because the thing in question has sentimental value.  I might be thinking in particular of a hideous green and yellow jersey that, while I have not successfully persuaded him to toss, I have successfully persuaded him he should not wear.

This last time, for our move to Oakland, we had movers who packed us up.  This incredible service was paid for by his company and I can honestly say I’m never doing it any other way.  You basically just live your life in your house with all your stuff until the moving day and then bam! a team of professionals descends on you and packs everything in sight.  They wrap all the dishes and glassware, have special boxes for hanging clothes, and label everything clearly.  I’ve heard some people say that these types of teams even pack the garbage in the garbage can but that was not our experience.

Having this service was an incredible luxury with one caveat.  Because I wasn’t packing each box myself, or loading each thing on a truck, quite a bit slipped through the cracks.  Once we got to Oakland, they put all the boxes and furniture in the right rooms but we were responsible for the unpacking part.  About 100 times, I asked, “Why did this make it here?”  We had done a purge before they arrived but there is no purge like the one where you look hard at something and ask yourself whether or not it should make the trip.

All this to say that we have this little basket with a top that I would probably have donated to Goodwill sitting beside our couch.  It acts as a mini coffee table for Randy’s watching-tv-glass-of-water or bourbon.  Sometimes he remembers to bring that glass of water back over to the sink at night and sometimes he does not.  Recently, the boys were horsing around in that room and knocked over the leftover water (which, thankfully, was water and not bourbon) and as I was cleaning up, I realized that there were food magazines stashed away in that basket.  Not just food magazines, but a few copies of Gourmet from 2007.

Now, we all miss Gourmet, right?  I know I do.  I have years and years of recipes cut our from that magazine along with Bon Appétit and Food & Wine.  Paging through the issues that I had left, I found recipes for things that I wanted to make immediately.  One of which was this onion tart.  I make a great Pissaladière,  which this tart resembles but with some intriguing differences.  The base is a yeasted tart dough rather than puff pastry, it features a slick of mustard on the bottom of the crust, fennel seeds sautéed with the onions, and a topping of Parmesan cheese.  I had the kindergarten moms come for dinner last week and this tart swiftly went on the menu.

I love a recipe that can be made for lunch, brunch, dinner, or an appetizer and this one fits the bill.  I thought the dough was incredibly sticky and I might have cursed Gourmet a few times (I love you! I miss you! I hate you!) but in the end this was an incredibly fragrant and powerfully flavored tart.  Unlike a Pissaladière, the crust is very neutral tasting but with a bit of crunch, so the onions are really the star of the show.  Just that little bit of cheese is a beautiful balance of savory to the gorgeous sweetness of the onions and the mustard gives you a nice hit of spice.  I let the tart cool to room temperature and then cut it into small pieces, but it could easily but cut into nice wedges for more of a main course.

UPDATE 5-25-13: I had wedges of this tart left over.  I wrapped them in foil and stored them in the fridge.  Days later, I reheated them, in a 250º oven, and the tart tasted as good as the day it was made.

Two Years Ago:  Spiced Cocktail Nuts
Three Years Ago:  Lighter Fettucine Alfredo, Curried Tofu and Avocado Dip, Giant Chocolate Cake
Four Years Ago:  Roasted Asparagus with a Poached Egg, Ginger Ice Cream, Tofu and Cucumber Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves about 8 as an appetizer

I like to slow cook my onions in a cast iron skillet.  I find the evenness and the retention of the heat works really well.  I would avoid a non-stick pan as it can take longer for them to caramelize.  The round of parchment helps keep the onions really moist and takes them to a jammier texture but you can omit that step.  Just make sure the heat is nice and low, stir them occasionally, and allow them at least an hour (or more) to achieve their dreamy potential.

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (a ¼-ounce package)
½ cup warm water (105-115°F)
1½ to 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 pound yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½  cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Stir together yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)

Put 1 ½ cups flour in a medium bowl, then make a well in center of flour and add yeast mixture to well. Stir together egg, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt with a fork. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and mix with a wooden spoon or your fingertips, gradually incorporating flour, until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead, working in additional flour (up to ¼ cup) as necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. (DT: I used a lot of flour on my board to keep the dough from sticking.)  Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 ½ hours.

While dough rises, heat remaining 1/3 cup oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then sauté fennel seeds until a shade darker, about 30 seconds. Stir in onions, remaining teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover onions directly with a round of parchment paper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and golden brown, 1 to 1¼ hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Knead dough gently on a floured surface with floured hands to deflate.  Transfer dough to a heavy baking sheet lined with parchment paper.   Pat out dough into a roughly 15- by 12-inch rectangle, turning up or crimping edge, then brush mustard evenly over dough, leaving a ½-inch border around edge. Spread onions evenly over mustard, then sprinkle evenly with cheese.

Bake tart until crust is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into 2-inch squares or diamonds and serve warm or at room temperature.

Five Years and a Strawberry Tart

May 10, 2013

Today marks five years since I started this blog. In some ways, I am surprised I started it at all. I don’t know what Myers Briggs personality type I am but I can be tentative, hesitant. Certainly far from the first to start or join anything. I wait in the wings until I feel safe and then maybe I join in. When I started writing here, I felt I was already really late to the party. The writers whose blogs I admired had already been at it for a year or two. Was it worth it to even start? Silly now to even think about how I felt then.

It is also a little surprising that I started given my, not fear, but deep discomfort around technology. The fact that I got a web site up and running, figured out how to upload photos, found a designer to help me with the aesthetics of it, all of this makes me realize that I was really motivated to write. And I’m so glad I bit the bullet. In the past five years, I have made some wonderful friends (some of whom have made the move to the Bay Area much more friendly), have been able to travel a bit to learn about companies and products, have pushed myself outside my comfort zone as a cook and as a writer.

Randy was out of town the first part of the week and I decided to invite some friends over for dinner. This is something I did often in Seattle and am just starting to do here in Oakland. I get the urge to cook but I don’t want to cook for just myself. So I have friends come sit around the table with me. I decided on this Strawberry Tart for dessert because strawberries are in full swing here and it seems a shame not to celebrate them. Every June, which is when strawberries start to make an appearance in the Seattle markets, I would bemoan my lack of a perfect strawberry dessert. When they are small and sweet and too soft to travel far, strawberries are a revelation. They have always been Randy’s favorite fruit but the first time he popped a real strawberry in his mouth, his eyes got wide and he was speechless. The taste is so clean and pure and sweet. My favorite berry is definitely the blueberry but very little can compare to the taste of the first of the season strawberry.

With a fruit this special, you want a dessert to honor it. Not crush it or overpower it, but celebrate it and make it even better than it already is. I have made many attempts over the years, but I have not found the right thing. So when I happened upon this Strawberry Tart in Dan Lepard’s Short & Sweet, I thought I might have found the one.  In that moment, I started mentally composing this post. I would give you the background (see above) of my search for the perfect dessert to celebrate the strawberry and then I would reveal that (ta-da!) I had found it. Except it didn’t go like that. The crust, which was described as easy to work with and not crumbly, was hard to work with and crumbly. The filling, which sounded smooth and slightly tangy, had little bits of clumped cornstarch in it. The boys ate through all my small and delicate strawberries so I was relegated to the large (but still local) grocery store kind. I was annoyed as I assembled the tart. But in the end, it looked pretty and tasted wonderful. The crust had a nice snap and just a subtle sweetness, the filling was smooth and slightly tangy, and you could not tell that there was any undissolved cornstarch. The berries left a little to be desired but I dressed them up with a drizzle of my most expensive balsamic vinegar, a gift from a friend.

In thinking about this tart and my expectations for it, I realized that it is really a metaphor for this blog. Expectations, sometimes realistic and sometimes not, set, dashed, and then redeemed.  I started this blog because I wanted to write about food but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t secretly hoping for big things.  What those big things were are hard to say.  A cookbook deal.  Lots of recognition.  Money.  I was a theatre major and there is still a very small (very small!) part of me waiting to be “discovered”.  I’m cringing as I’m typing this – it is embarrassing but it is the truth.  My first few months worth of posts are not written in my voice.  I was channeling other people.  My food, other people’s voices.  Then I slowly started to find my groove.  People started to read.  And I realized that I liked writing.  A lot.  I liked keeping a record of  the food I made and I liked writing about my family.  I like the interactions I have had with my readers.  I like to think of you as a relatively small but loyal group of friends.  I am proud of the work I have done here.  So no publishers have been knocking down my door begging me to write a book and no brands have been begging me to be their representative.  But I haven’t chased those things down either.

Anyway.  Five years is a long time to do anything.  I know the past year has not seen the usual number of food posts here and I hope you haven’t lost patience.  A lot of travel and a big move in 2012 put me off kilter.  I am grateful for this space.  I am extremely grateful to those of you who read, those of you who comment and email.  I got my first negative comment the other day.  It was short and not a big deal and I deleted it.  But it made me realize how fortunate I am.  Five years with only love coming from you.  Thanks to everyone.

Two Years Ago:  Stir-Fried Sesame Broccoli and Tofu with Rice Noodles
Three Years Ago:  Corn Salad Sandwich with Tomatillos and Jack Cheese
Four Years Ago:  Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Sandwiches, Moroccan Carrot and Hummus Sandwiches
Five Years Ago:  Meet Me
Strawberry Tart
Short & Sweet
Makes one 9-inch tart

½ recipe Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (recipe follows)
Flour for rolling
½ cup milk
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 egg white
¼ cup super-fine sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup crème fraîche
3 cups strawberries

Chill the pastry for 30 minutes, then roll it out and line a shallow 9-inch tart pan.  Line the pan with parchment paper and dried beans and blind bake at 325ºF for about 30 minutes until a really golden color all over, removing the parchment paper and beans halfway though.  Allow the shell to cool completely.

Whisk the milk with the cornstarch, egg white, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan till smooth, then heat, whisking constantly, till boiling.  Remove from the heat, spoon into a bowl and cover with a plate to stop a thick skin from forming as it cools.  When cold, beat in the crème fraîche and spoon this into the pastry shell.  Hull the strawberries, slice them in half, and fan them over the top.  (DT:  I drizzled the berries with just a tiny bit of really good balsamic vinegar.  If you don’t have a good sweet one, take a cheaper version and cook it down, in a saucepan, until about half its original volume.  You want it syrupy and sweet.)

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
Makes enough for two 9-inch tarts

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
10 tbsp unsalted butter, cold but pliable
2 egg yolks
1-3 tbsp. ice water

Spoon the flour, sugar, and salt into a bowl.  Break the butter into small pieces and rub this through the flour until it vanishes.  Stir the egg yolks with the water and mist this into the flour to form a very soft and smooth paste.  (DT: I needed an additional 2+ tablespoons of water to make this work.)  Pat it into a flat block, wrap well, and chill for at least 30 minutes before using as it needs time to firm up.

Apple Crumb Crostata

January 20, 2013

When I was a kid and then a teenager, I spent the first half of every summer at Camp Nor’wester.   The pain I experienced when it was time to go back home is something I have rarely felt since.  Leaving the intense friendships that were made in that short time felt physically painful.  We would be on the deck of the ferry grasping on to each other and crying, and when the announcement came that we had to board the buses because the ferry was about to dock, people would wail.  We didn’t have email or blogs or Facebook or cell phones or any other way of staying in touch other than letters and long distance phone conversations.  We would say to one another, with hope in our voices, “It’s not goodbye, it is ‘see you later.'”

This past summer, as we were getting ready to leave Seattle, we tried to see as many friends as possible.  I decided against having a big blow out party because, although I am sometimes disguised as an extrovert, I am actually an introvert and big parties – even if I know everyone – can be hard for me.  I decided I would rather make lots of dates with the people we were going to be heartbroken to leave, and spend our remaining weeks that way.  The problem was, we still didn’t have time to see everyone and saying goodbye to the ones we did didn’t make it any easier to leave them.  We do have email and blogs and Facebook and cell phones and all of those things make it easier to stay in touch.  But we knew we would miss our friends and family.  So we made sure to buy a house with a guest bedroom and we encouraged our friends and family to come visit, and we just hoped that they would take us up on the offer.  Not goodbye, just see you later.

We’ve been in place for about four months and already we’ve had quite a few visitors.  Thankfully.  We are learning the places we need to take these visitors.  That list was very short when we had our first guest and it has grown impressively since then.  It will continue to grow, especially once we start making a dent in the endless list of day trips that are a stone’s throw from our great new city.  We’ve fallen into a nice pattern with regards to dinner.  Over a weekend, one night out and one night in.  If we have three nights, one of them in Oakland, one of them in San Francisco, and the last at home.  I love the casualness of a Saturday afternoon spent prepping for a big dinner.  When our house is full of friendly voices and the happy hour starts promptly at 5pm on the deck.  The kids get nachos for dinner, then popcorn and a movie and extra treats and the adults can just stay put enjoying a leisurely dinner and dessert, then have one more glass of wine or two before rolling into bed.

Some of our best friends came to town last weekend.  A man and a woman, a boy and a girl.  I have known John and Lauren since the summer of 1996, just after my first wedding and just before their only wedding.  I wrote about them here.   I visited their boy in the hospital the day after he was born and he was a six month old baby at Randy’s and my wedding.  I met their girl a few months after she was born, after we returned from London and while I was pregnant with Graham.  We love them all.  My boys love them all.   When we made the difficult decision to move, this family was at the top of the list of people we would miss.  They are easy and fun to be with.

One of my favorite Kid Meets Dessert stories involves John and Lauren’s son.  When Randy and I got married, I made our wedding cake.  It was a very impressive feat given that I had an oven that barely worked, about 1 foot of counter space in my kitchen, and was not nearly as good a baker as I am now.  It had three tiers and would probably have topped any “Least Impressive Looking Wedding Cake” lists.  It was towering, listing to one side, a bit greasy because it was warm and there was approximately one ton of butter in the buttercream frosting, but it remains one of the best tasting wedding cakes I’ve ever had.  My brother still talks about it.  I have re-created it twice, in smaller and non-listing form, and one of the times their son, who was around 18 months at the time, took a bit of his mom’s cake and then just stuck his face in the cake.  Like “let’s dispense with this plate and fork crap and just get that cake in my mouth”.  This boy, now 11 years old, remains a big fan of my treats.  So when I see him, I make sure I have something special to share.

Couple this with his father’s love of pie (the only sweet he really likes), and I knew this Apple Crumb Crostata, which has been rolling around in my brain for over a month, was the dessert for Saturday night.  How is a crostada different from a galette?  When John asked me that question, I guessed that crostata is Italian for galette and it turns out I was right.  They are both free form tarts which means they are not made in a tart pan.  The dough is rolled out, the filling is placed in the middle, and the dough is pulled up and crimped around the filling.  I’ve never made a galette that I didn’t like but this one was extra special with a crumb topping.  I am a sucker for a crumb topping.  Galettes/Crostatas are amazing in my opinion because they look kind of sloppy when they are unbaked but come out looking professionally rustic.  And I mean that in the very best way.  I served this beauty with homemade salted caramel ice cream but a good store-bought vanilla would be terrific too.

One Year Ago:  Spinach Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Champagne Vinaigrette
Two Years Ago:  Deluxe Double Chocolate Cookies, Winter Market Soup
Three Years Ago:  Lasagne with Eggplant and Chard
Four Years Ago:  Pea Salad with Radishes and Feta Cheese

Apple Crumb Crostata
Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts
Serves 10

This wonderful dessert has three parts to it but don’t let that deter you.  I made both the crust and the topping a day ahead and just kept them in my refrigerator.  You could probably also make the apple filling a day ahead too.  Be sure to follow the directions about rolling out the dough and filling it on the baking sheet.  It is nearly impossible to transfer a filled crostata to a baking sheet – not that I’ve ever tried.  Ahem.  Finally, you will need space in your refrigerator to put the finished crostata before baking and if that is a challenge for your kitchen, embrace winter and put it in the garage.

For the crust:
2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
½ tsp. coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 1 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 large egg yolks, plus 1 large whole egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
3 tbsp. ice water
Fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling

For the Filling:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 pounds tart, firm apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
1½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
¼ tsp. coarse salt
½ cup granulated sugar

For the topping:
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground allspice
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Make the crust:
With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat flour, sugar, salt, and butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add egg yolks, and beat slightly.  Drizzle ice water over mixture, and beat until just combined.  Form dough into a disk; wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate until firm, 1 hour or up to 3 days.

Make the filling:
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add apples, zests, and salt, stirring until coated.  Sprinkle sugar over mixture, and cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, liquid has thickened, and apples are almost golden, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, and let cool to room temperature.

Make the topping:
In a food processor, pulse flour, sugars, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and butter just until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.  On a lightly floured piece of parchment, roll out dough to a 14-inch round, ¼-inch thick.  Place dough and parchment on a baking sheet.  Pile cooled apple mixture in center, leaving a 3-inch border.  Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over apples.  Fold edges of dough over apples, overlapping and leaving an opening in the center.

Refrigerate or freeze until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.  Lightly brush dough with beaten egg, and sprinkle dough with fine sanding sugar.  Bake until pastry is golden brown and apples are tender, 40 to 50 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Spicy Squash and Feta Puff Pastry Tarts

December 17, 2011

For my December baking class, I taught my students how to work with store-bought filo dough and puff pastry.  We also made no-knead bread, a gorgeous beet tart, and that incredible brown sugar pound cake.  For the puff pastry, I was planning on doing some classic riff on butternut squash, leeks, and thyme.  Until I flipped through the appetizer section of a new-to-me cookbook and found a version using squash, spicy harissa, and feta cheese.  Hello?  Hello!

I tested the recipe for a party we threw for Randy’s work.  I tweaked it a bit.  I wondered if it would be too spicy or too out-there for a group of people I didn’t really know.  It was one of those times when I put the plate of mini-tarts out, turned my back for a moment or two to finish something at the stove, turned back around to find them gone.  Gone.  I got more comments on those little tarts than I did on anything else I made for that night (including a very cool Bûche de Noël – recipe coming soon).

When I made them for the party, I used my default favorite squash – the delicata.  I love those little guys for their ease of preparation (you don’t have to peel them) and for their subtle flavor.  But I didn’t like how the slices looked on the tart and I think the flavor got lost.  When I made them for the class (and the subsequent times after – yes, I’ve made them three times in two weeks), I used butternut.  I advise looking for a squash with a long neck since the slices you get from the neck are more uniform than the ones you get from the body.  Unless you are able to find a very small squash, you will likely have leftovers.  Personally, having a little stash of roasted squash in my refrigerator to add to all manner of things (risotto, pasta, soup, salad), makes me very happy.

Now permit me a paragraph of utter geekdom as I talk about store-bought puff pastry.  Having used it for years and now having taught how to work with it to several classes, I know a thing or two about it.  Let’s start with the fact that you don’t want to use Pepperidge Farm if you can possibly help it.  I know it is widely available and I know it is cheap, but I also know that puff pastry should only contain three ingredients (flour, butter, and salt), and possibly four (sugar).  Pepperidge Farm not only is not an all-butter puff, it is a no-butter puff.  There is a long list of ingredients on the side of the package, not one of them is butter and most of them I can’t pronounce.  So unless that is your only option, steer clear.  In Seattle, we are lucky to have two excellent sources of store-bought puff – DeLaurenti and Grand Central Bakery.  Both are affordable and terrific and only contain the three or four ingredients I mentioned.  Nationally, Trader Joe’s carries puff pastry seasonally, and that season is right now.  I tried it for the first time recently and found it to be fine.  Not terrific but good, four ingredients, affordable.  So stock up!  One other option if price is not an issue is DuFour, an exquisite puff that comes with the exquisite price tag of $16/pound.

Each type of store-bought puff (and yes, I am aware on into my second paragraph of geeking out) comes in a different amount, so be flexible when working with this recipe.  I call for 12 ounces because I tested it using the DeLaurenti brand and theirs comes in a 12-ounce sheet.  Yours might be different.  It’s all good – just roll with it.  No pun intended.  Also, remember you can make these lovely spicy pastries bite-size or larger for more of a substantial first course.  You could even serve them as a main course.

One Year Ago:  Sweet & Salty Brownie
Two Years Ago:  Caramel Chocolate Treasures
Three Years Ago:  Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread

Spicy Squash and Feta Puff Pastry Tarts

Inspired by Vegetarian
Makes about 16-32 tarts (depending on how you cut them)

1 medium butternut squash, preferably one with a long neck
Olive oil
Kosher salt
7 ounces Fage 2% Greek yogurt
1-2 tbsp. harissa
7 ounces feta cheese, 2 ounces crumbled finely, 5 ounces cut into small cubes
12 ounces all-butter puff pastry
4 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Peel and seed the squash.  Split the neck in half and thinly slice into semi-circles.  Slice the base into thin crescents.  Put all the squash onto a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a large pinch of salt.  Use your hands to mix together well.  Spread out on the sheet and bake for 25 minutes, or until tender.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Mix together the Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon of the harissa, and the 2 ounces of crumbled feta.  Taste it and add more harissa if you would like more heat. Set aside.

Unfold the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll it out with a rolling pin, just to even out the folds and to make an even rectangle.  Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut into 16 rectangles.  If you are making cocktail sized appetizers, cut each rectangle in half.

Transfer the rectangles to two baking sheets.  Spoon about a tablespoon of the yogurt mixture onto each rectangle and top with a slice of squash.  Add one or two cubes of feta to each pastry.  Repeat with the remaining rectangles.  Sprinkle them all with thyme and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until puffed and golden.  Serve warm or cool the tarts on a wire rack.


Stilton Tart with Cranberry Chutney

November 11, 2011

Ever since moving into my first apartment many many years ago, I have subscribed to food magazines.  The roster has changed a bit, but receiving at least one and as many as five magazines full of glossy food pages has been a constant in my cooking life.  I do love cookbooks, oh how I love cookbooks, but I also love how current magazines are and I also love the monthly inspiration.  My routine was that every couple of months, I would sit down and tear out recipes that I had flagged, then I would cut them out, then I would tape them into binders I have that are filled with almost twenty years of magazine recipes.

Then life got super super busy.  I have an over two year backlog of magazines in our bulging magazine holder and a whole other pile of recipes that are cut out but need to be taped.  Periodically I feel guilty.  So many recipes waiting to take up residence in my cute binders!  So many things waiting to be cooked!  And then the end of the day comes and I am spent and the last thing I feel like doing is dealing with my magazines.  So I put them off again.  Periodically, I think about just recycling all of those old magazines and starting fresh with the December issues.  But there are treasures in there.  Like this recipe.

I cut this out years ago, the actual recipe is from Gourmet (sob!) back in 2001.  I cut out the photo as well and every time I page through the appetizer section of that binder, I look at it longingly.  You see, up until recently, I did not have a rectangular tart pan.  Of course, I could have made it in a round pan but that didn’t seem right to me.  I wanted to serve it in little bites, just like the photo in the magazine.

Last week was the last of my catered openings at the art gallery (although I hope to do more next year).  I’ve paid off my spoons.  This opening was for Erik Hall, the gallery owner (along with his amazing wife) and an incredibly talented artist.  I have been waiting for the right excuse to make this tart ever since I bought that pan and November and an art opening seemed just right.

After gazing at the photo for so many years and cursing the fact that I did not have a rectangular pan, it might have turned out that the tart was a disappointment.  Nope.  Very easy to make, very pretty, holds well, and a terrific contrast of flavor and texture.  The crunch of the crust, the creaminess of the filling, the sharpness of the cheese, and then the sour bite of the chutney combines for a delicious bite.  I can only say this with authority because I made the tart twice.  The first time, at the gallery, it got devoured before I had a chance to try a piece.  So because I wanted to taste it, and because I wanted to share the recipe with you, and because I was smart enough to double the crust recipe, and because the chutney makes a lot, I can now say, without hesitation, Make This Tart!  It would be a beautiful way to welcome your Thanksgiving guests.  Or, if you travel by car for the holiday, you can still make it.  Just bring the tart in its pan and cut and top it at your destination.

One Year Ago:  Romaine Leaves with Caesar Dressing and a Big Crouton
Two Years Ago:  Holly B’s Gingersnap Cookies
Three Years Ago:  Bulgur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas

Stilton Tart with Cranberry Chutney
Makes 32 appetizer portions (more if you cut the pieces larger)

For the pastry dough:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
¼teaspoon salt
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Blend together flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with small (roughly pea-size) butter and shortening lumps. Drizzle evenly with 3 tablespoons ice water and gently stir with a fork (or pulse in processor) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until just incorporated, then test again. (If you overwork mixture, pastry will be tough.)

Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion. Gather dough together with scraper and press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. Chill dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

For the tart:
1 recipe Pastry Dough (see above)
1 cup heavy cream
1 whole large egg
2 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
5 oz chilled Stilton, rind removed and cheese crumbled (1½ cups)

Make tart shell:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 17- by 8-inch rectangle and fit into tart pan. Trim excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then fold overhang inward and press against side of pan to reinforce edge. Lightly prick bottom and sides all over with a fork. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Line pastry shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake in middle of oven 20 minutes, then carefully remove foil and weights and bake until golden, 10 to 15 minutes more. Cool shell in pan 20 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Make filling:
Whisk together cream, whole egg, yolks, salt, and pepper until combined.

Put tart shell (still in pan) on a baking sheet and scatter cheese evenly in shell. Slowly pour custard into shell and bake in middle of oven until golden around edge and custard is just set, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool tart completely in pan on a rack.

Cut tart into 32 rectangles and serve at room temperature, topped with chutney.

(Dana’s Make Ahead Tips:  You can make the pastry dough up to one month in advance, wrap it well, and freeze it.  Allow it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.  You can blind bake the shell earlier in the day and let it cool completely before filling and continuing to bake.  Finally, you can wrap the whole tart well, still in its pan, and refrigerate it overnight.  Allow it to come to room temperature for several hours before serving or heat it for about 10 minutes in a low oven.)

Cranberry Chutney
Makes about 2 cups

You will have more chutney than you need for this recipe but it’s delicious and it keeps well.

2 large shallots (3 oz), coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (12-oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries (not thawed)
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

Cook shallots in oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, just until berries pop, 10 to 12 minutes, then cool.  (The chutney will keep for a week, covered, in the refrigerator.)


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