Goat Cheese Tart with Caramelized Onions

Back to this month's apparent tart theme...

Here is a recipe I learned about 4 years ago. It is from the Balthazar restaurant cookbook, written by Keith McNally et al.

It works well as an appetizer or as a main course to an informal and light meal.

The cookbook recommend serving it alongside a salad of simply dressed cherry tomatoes and a dollop of olive tapenade, to "add some kick."

The recipe can make six individual (4-inch) tarts, or one large 10-inch tart. I made the large tart, and served it along with a baby bok choy and tomato salad.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 extra-large egg yolks
3 tablespoons ice-cold water

In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt and chilled butter until it looks like coarse meal.
Then, with the machine running, add the egg yolks and ice water.
Continue to process for about 20 seconds to form a ball of dough.

Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

For the caramelized onions:

1/4 cup olive oil
3 large yellow onions, halved through the stem end and thinly sliced into 1/8-inch half-moons
1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Over a low flame, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir occasionally, cooking the onions until soft and golden, reducing their volume by nearly half. This can take up to 1 hour. Remove from the pan, drain any excess oil, and discard the herbs.

Meanwhile, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Place the dough into the tart pan(s), flute the edges, trimming any excess with a sharp knife, and prick the dough several times with the tines of a fork.

Line the dough with aluminum foil and weigh down with rice, beans, or pie weights.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake a few minutes more to brown the crust.
Allow to cool outside of the oven while preparing the filling.

For the filling:

8 ounces fresh goat cheese at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 extra-large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix the cheese, eggs and seasonings in a food processor until smooth.

To assemble the tart, first line the crust with the caramelized onions.

Next pour the cheese mixture into the pan.

Using a wide pastry brush, gently brush the yolk of one extra-large egg over the top of the tart.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, until set. Allow to cool for 15 minutes and serve warm.


Bucatini all'Amatriciana

9 years ago today, my husband and I were married. Two days later we were on a plane to Italy for a week-long honeymoon in Rome. It was a wonderful trip. Much of the food in Rome in general was actually not very impressive, though we found the best Chinese restaurant there we had ever tried!!! However, it was there that I discovered Bucatini all'Amatriciana, a dish that has its roots in a hilltop town named Amatrice, just outside of Rome. I must have had this dish at least three times that week in at least as many different restaurants and every time it was absolutely fantastic. I fell in love.

To prepare this dish at home, serving 4-6 people, you will need:

1 medium-sized red onion, peeled
8 ounces pancetta or prosciutto, in one piece (or if you can get it, guanciale, which is cured pork cheek)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds very ripe, fresh tomatoes; or 1 1/2 pound imported Italian canned tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dried bucatini, vermicelli, or spaghetti, preferably imported Italian

To cook the pasta:
Coarse-grained salt

To serve:
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano cheese

This recipe comes from Giulliano Bugialli's cookbook Bugialli On Pasta, an absolutely fantastic book that any pasta lover should buy.

As you see above, he gives you some options in case you cannot find certain ingredients. In my opinion, Pecorino Romano works so much better than Parmesan cheese in this dish. Also, I can't see making "bucatini" using spaghetti if you are able to get bucatini, but it can be hard to find. I used to be able to get it at Trader Joe's, but they called it bucati; now they seem to have discontinued it at my location, however I can now find it at my local Italian deli among their many varieties of packaged imported pasta. Also I think the pancetta works better than the prosciutto (I have never been able to get guanciale which is really the authentic choice).

First, coarsely chop the onion. Cut the pancetta into cubes less than 1/2 inch thick. If fresh tomatoes are used, cut them into pieces. Pass the canned or fresh tomatoes through a food mill, using the disc with the smallest holes, into a crockery or glass bowl.

Here is your mise en place:

Place the oil and pancetta in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat and saute for 15 minutes, or until all the fat has been rendered and the meat is very crisp.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a plate and set it aside until needed.

Add the onion to the saucepan and saute for 5 minutes.

Then add the tomatoes along with the hot red pepper flakes and salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon.

Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil, add coarse salt to taste, then add the pasta and cook until al dente - 9 to 12 minutes depending on the brand. Transfer the sauce to a large skillet set over low heat. Drain the pasta, and add it to the skillet. Raise the heat, and add the reserved meat; saute for 30 seconds.

Remove the skillet from the heat, add the cheese, mix very well, and transfer the pasta to a warmed serving platter.

Serve immediately.


Rustic Peach Tart

A couple of weeks ago I bought a basket of Georgia peaches at the store. I am not really familiar enough with the distinctions between peaches to know if Georgia peaches are typically sweeter or more tart than the average peach, and I also don't know the prime season for peaches coming from Georgia, but there they were, and they looked good, and so I bought them. Upon returning home and trying one, I was a bit disappointed. They were quite tart!!! Well, there was only one thing to do...

I found this recipe online, here. It calls for making one large tart that can serve 6 people, but instead I made 6 individual tarts using the same quantity of ingredients.


2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4-5 tablespoons ice water

1. Make a mound of flour on a work surface, then make a well in the center of the mound and put the butter, egg yolk, sugar and 3 tablespoons of the cold water into it.

2. Mix the ingredients in the well with your fingertips, then begin incorporating the flour in until the mixture has the consistency of course meal. Add 1 tablespoon water and continue to blend, adding water 1/2 tablespoon at a time as needed to form a workable dough, gathering it into a ball.

3. Add a little flour to the work surface and knead the dough two or three times with the heels of your hands. Take care not to over knead. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.


4 ripe peaches, pitted, halved, and cut into thick slices
3 tablespoons apricot preserves
2 tablespoons brown sugar

To top the crust:

2 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons coarse sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Roll out the chilled dough to make a circle about 12 inches in diameter (or, if you are making individual tarts as I did, I rolled my dough out and then divided it into 6 equal pieces, cutting them roughly into circular/ovular shapes... I figured that was easier than dividing and then rolling 6 separate crusts!)

Place the dough on a baking sheet and coat evenly with preserves to about 1 inch from the edge. Mound peach slices on dough (I formed mine into a concentric circle), leaving that 1-inch border of dough around the peaches, then sprinkle peaches with brown sugar.

2. Fold up the dough and crimp the edges together to cup the peaches in a nest. There will still be a lot of peach showing in the center.

3. Brush the exposed crust with cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, then allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6.


Tart of Young Lettuces and Tomato Confit

Here is a recipe that I made for my sister last week. It is a savory tart that really showcases the deep, pure flavors of the few main ingredients, in the signature style of Alain Ducasse. This recipe comes from his cookbook, Flavors of France. It is basically a composed salad served atop a rich, buttery crust.

To start you will need to slow-bake 4 1/2 pounds large plum tomatoes for the Tomato Confit. To do this, preheat the oven to the lowest setting, then peel and quarter the tomatoes, removing the seeds and membranes, then arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet greased with olive oil. Scatter 8 branches of fresh thyme and 6 medium unpeeled garlic cloves over the tomatoes, then drizzle them with 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 teaspoons course sea salt. Bake 2-3 hours, turning once halfway through the baking process. Prepare the tomatoes several hours or up to 3 days ahead of the following instructions. Preserve all of the cooked ingredients in a jar in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Next, make the pastry. You will need:

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash

Combine the flour, butter and salt in a food processor or medium bowl. Mix until the dough resembles coarse meal. Add the egg yolks and mix just until the dough comes together. Knead the dough for about 2 minutes between the palms of your hands and form it into a ball. Press into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

When ready, bring the crust to room temperature and roll out into a circle 11 inches across and 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, prick with a fork in several places, and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Then brush the egg wash over the surface of the crust and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Let the crust cool on a wire rack, then transfer very gently to a serving plate, sliding the crust off of the parchment.

For the topping you will need:

1/4 pound mixed arugula, mesclun, and frisee
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Tomato Confit (that you prepared earlier)
1/2 small zucchini, skin sliced off in wide 1/8-inch-thick strips and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
5 or 6 fresh basil leaves
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, sliced with a peeler into shavings
Small fresh thyme sprigs for garnish

Toss the lettuces together with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the sea salt. Top the cooled crust with this salad, then arrange the tomatoes, cut side down and slightly overlapping, in concentric circles from the outer edge in.

In a skillet, cook the zucchini strips in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about 1 minute. Arrange the zucchini on top of the tart with the basil and cheese, garnishing with thyme and a few pieces of garlic from the confit if desired. Serve immediately. The tart yields 6 servings as a first course, or as a featured component in a light lunch. We had ours for lunch along with a Spanish-style potato salad.