This is just a brief post to let you all know I’m still alive and kicking. I had a jam-packed summer and I can’t believe it’s over already. I had the chance to work for a couple of months as a prep cook/pastry cook for one of my favorite restaurants (more on that later), and I visited the UK for two weeks in July (again, more on that later).
At the moment I am spending my days as a student teacher in an 8th grade English classroom. My mornings are early, my days are long, and blogging, unfortunately, has been put on the back burner, so-to-speak.
It’s all about quick and delicious (and customizable) weeknight dinners for busy people…more specifically, Huevos Rancheros! Who doesn’t love that? Yum!
I’m of the opinion, “Why buy something when you can make it?” There are so many items we eat on a semi-daily basis that can be made in our own kitchens – why are we throwing money away on stabilizers, preservatives, and any number of other icky chemicals that comprise our “food”? Think of that loaf of bread sitting on your counter; with a little time and practice, you could have a fresh loaf (or two) waiting to be toasted or used for your turkey sandwich! Your morning bowl of granola from the box? Yes, that too, can be quickly made, and you’ll recognize each and every ingredient in it! Jams, jellies, and preserves can be made and jarred, and you can even make your own peanut butter to go with them! Heck, I even made my own worcestershire sauce once! I’m not saying you need to go that far, but you could if you wanted.
There are a number of vegetables that can most usually be found hanging out in our refrigerator here at home. At any given time, you will probably find broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, celery, carrots, and brussels sprouts. With these vegetables, come the usual preparations: roasting, rolling in prosciutto, sauteing in bacon fat, etc. Yes, those are all great ways to prepare pretty much any vegetable, but last night I was hoping for something more. Something different.
I have quite a large stockpile of Bon Appetit magazines taking up valuable real estate in my kitchen, so I grabbed an issue and started flipping around. I’ll agree that it’s often easier to take inspiration from websites and the like (because it’s faster), but there is something leisurely about turning the pages of a magazine that I will always enjoy. As I flipped through, I came across an article about savory tarts. I love tarts of all kinds (sweet and savory) and I love making them, so this seemed like an obvious choice for dinner.
The thing about savory tarts is that they are so flexible and so forgiving. All you really need is a good tart shell (store-bought if you’re not inclined to make your own), some delicious ingredients for the filling, and a couple of eggs. For this one, I used cauliflower, asparagus, and caramelized onions.
I rushed home from class yesterday and began in on my tart shell. I’ve experimented with several different versions of savory tart shells; some that require par-baking and others that do not. It’s really up to you, honestly. If you can’t be bothered to make your own, just pick up a pie crust from the market. Keep a few in your own freezer at home for future use. However, I will say that this tart shell was relatively easy and didn’t require any par-baking.
Because my pile of homework never appears to get any smaller, I wanted to do as much ahead of time as I could. So, I popped the cauliflower and asparagus into the oven and let it do most of the work. After thinly slicing a red onion, I added it to a skillet and patiently waited as the house began to fill with the lovely sweet smell given off in the caramelizing process. Before I knew it, I had all of my components ready and “dinnertime” was still about 2 hours away! Everything kept well in the fridge while I returned to Great Expectations.
This is just what I love about savory tarts. In no time, the components are ready for assembly, and life as I know it doesn’t have to stop in order to prepare a delicious dish.
Cauliflower, Asparagus, and Caramelized Onion Tart
Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2007
For the tart dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes, chilled
1 egg, beaten
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, cornstarch and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture is broken down into small, floured bits. Add the beaten egg and pulse until a dough forms. It may be necessary to remove dough from bowl of food processor and knead on a lightly floured work surface. This dough is tough; don’t give up on it. Roll out dough into a 12-inch circle and place it in a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan and press to remove air bubbles. Crimp edges and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes. No par-baking necessary.
For tart filling:
1 small head of cauliflower (~ 1 pound), cut into 1-inch florets
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
pinch of truffle salt (or 1 tablespoon truffle oil) (optional)
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup whole milk (or cream)
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese (Swiss or Comté are fine, as well)
Pre-heat oven to 425ºF. Toss cauliflower with 2 tablespoons olive oil in large bowl. Spread on rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper and let roast for 15 minutes. Add asparagus pieces to cauliflower, give it all a good stir, and let roast for an additional 10- 15 minutes until brown and tender. Cool the mixture slightly and give the cauliflower pieces a rough chop. Sprinkle with truffle salt or drizzle with truffle oil, if using.
Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF.
Heat remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until onion is a deep golden brown, stirring occasionally – roughly 30 minutes. Cool slightly.
Set the tart on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread the bottom and sides of crust with mustard. Spread onion over mustard. Arrange cauliflower and asparagus mixture over the onion. Whisk eggs, sour cream, ricotta, milk, pepper, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Stir in cheese. Pour mixture over vegetables and bake until tart is golden and the center is set, about 40 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 15 minutes before serving.