One of the things I love about tarts is their versatility. I've made fruit tarts and savory tarts, and I love them all. The savory ones make great lunches, especially if you've got some fruit or salad on the side. The sweet ones are the most perfect way to bake fruit for me, as I am not a true baker. The only successful baking I've ever perfected was 100% whole wheat sour dough bread. But that was when I lived in New Mexico, where I shopped at a health food store that both sold organic wheat berries AND would grind them into flour for me. Now I live several blocks from a fabulous bakery that specializes in bread - good, crusty bread. So I no longer bake.
Except for tarts. On a hot summer day.
For those of you who are lucky enough to be able to grow a real vegetable garden, tarts are a perfect solution to all that produce. The ones I'm making right now use tomatoes, chard and herbs, as well as other ingredients. But substituting zucchini is a godsend for that part of the season when the zucchini plants take off and you find yourself overwhelmed by zucchini.
I got both the recipes from Epicurious, although I used to subscribe to Bon Appetite, and I made one with chard years ago from the recipe in that magazine. It was an issue on the foods of Tuscany, with fabulous photos of the hillside towns and people enjoying mouth-watering food al fresco. Balboa Park isn't exactly Tuscany, but we can all travel easily these days through the foods we eat.Tomato, Goat Cheese and Onion Tart
1 (9-inch) prepared pie dough, thawed if frozen (not pie shells)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, very thinly sliced
6 oz crumbled goat cheese (1 1/3 cups)
1 lb plum tomatoes, thinly sliced crosswise
Garnish: fresh basil leaves
Special equipment: a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom; pie weights or raw rice
Preheat oven to 375°F.
If necessary, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into an 11-inch round 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 with a fork.
Line tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake in middle of oven until pastry is pale golden around rim, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove weights and foil and bake until golden all over, 8 to 10 minutes more. Cool in pan on a rack.
While tart shell is baking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, then cook onion with salt and black pepper to taste, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
Spread onion over bottom of tart shell and top with 1 rounded cup goat cheese. Arrange tomatoes, slightly overlapping, in concentric circles over cheese. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with remaining tablespoon oil. Put foil over edge of crust (to prevent overbrowning).
Put tart pan on a baking sheet and broil tart about 7 inches from heat until cheese starts to brown slightly, 3 to 4 minutes.
Makes 4 servings.
1 pound Swiss chard, stems and ribs removed
Swiss Chard and Herb Tart
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
Cook chard in large pot of boiling salted water until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain. Squeeze out liquid. Chop chard.
Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; saut 1 minute. Add chard; sauté until excess liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Transfer chard mixture to large bowl. Cool slightly. Mix in ricotta and next 7 ingredients.
Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 375°F. Roll out 1 pastry sheet on lightly floured surface to 14-inch square. Transfer pastry to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Trim edges, leaving 1-inch overhang. Fill pastry with chard mixture. Lightly brush pastry overhang with pastry brush dipped into water. Roll out second pastry sheet to 13-inch square. Using tart pan as guide, trim pastry square to 10-inch round. Drape over filling. Seal edges and fold in.
Bake until pastry is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.
Remove pan sides from tart. Transfer to platter. Cut into wedges and serve.
Makes 8 appetizer or 4 first course servings.Notes: I used the pre-made pie shells for both tarts. I've used the phyllo dough before, and while it's tasty, it seemed a bit too rich for a hot summer day. Besides, the pre-made pie dough comes 2 to a box, so I just went with the flow, as it were.
Also, I used carmelized onions on the bottom of the chard "tart", because when I looked at the recipe it seemed like it would have been too bland without them. Besides, I was in the business of carmelizing onions today, so whaddaheck.......might as well make a few more!
And lastly, as I only have one tart pan, and as there seemed to be waaaaay too much filling for one measly little tart, I decided to make the second one in a pie pan instead of a tart pan. I'm on my way to the park now.......we'll see how they go over.
Well, the picnic's over and the votes are cast. Both tarts were supreme hits, but the tomato one ruled. People were drawn to it visually more than the other one, which is understandable. How can one resist such a red? Especially when put next to Kathye's fabulous marinated tri-tip!
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