Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Pie a Week - Savory tarts

Since starting my "Pie a Week" project this summer, I've eaten a lot of pie. I have to confess, though, it's not dessert pies I like best - it's savory tarts.

The recipe is pretty basic - You can make a savory tart with almost any combination of vegetables in your fridge. Bake the vegetable and cheese with a rich egg custard, and you have a delicious and elegant lunch or brunch. You can cook one in the morning, and then have a nice dinner in the evening without heating up the kitchen.

First, you have to make the tart shell.

I've become so comfortable with the all-butter pastry recipe from chef Gordon Hamersley that I can make it in a few minutes.
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) butter, cut into 1/4" slices
  • 6 Tablespoons of ice water.
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl, then cut the butter into it with a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingertips, until the butter is broken into pieces the size of a pea.

Pour the mixture onto a floured board and make a well in the center. A couple of Tablespoons at a time, mix in the ice water.

Gather the dough together, then roll into a log shape, about eight inches. With the heel of your hand, smear the dough on the board and gather it back together and repeat - this is called fraisage, and will form sheets of butter in the dough, creating the flake.

Shape the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic or foil and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

I use a Silpat sheet when I roll pastry dough. With a little bit of flour sprinkled on, I can roll this dough directly with my silicone rolling pin, but if your dough is sticking, you can roll it between two sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper. This dough stays together beautifully for me. If the edge gets misshapen, break off a piece and move it to where there's a gap - it should fill in nicely.

Line a tart pan with a removable bottom with the crust. For me, this dough is so easy to work with I can lift up the Silpat sheet and turn it upside down over the pan. Then I gently ease the sheet off the dough, and settle it into the pan. Trim the excess - you can roll it in a flat disc and freeze it for future use.

For a quiche or tart with custard, you have to pre-bake the shell. Line the shell with foil, and fill with dried beans or rice or pie-weights (you can buy these in cooking supply stores). Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, then remove the foil and the weights - use a fork to prick any places where there are air bubbles. Bake another 15 minutes, and cool.

What did I have in the fridge? I had some zucchini squash, some onions, and a half a large beefsteak tomato. I shredded the zucchini and chopped the onion, then sweated them in butter over the stove. I sprinkled in some fresh, chopped oregano for a little extra flavor.

I diced the tomato and let some of the liquid drain. I waited until the onion and zucchini were a little caramelized before adding the tomato. I spread the cooked vegetables in the bottom of the tart shell, and then grated some French Comte cheese I had in the fridge.

Then I whipped up a custard with eggs and half-and-half, poured it over the vegetables and cheese, and baked the tart in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

It was pretty when it came out.

And look at how flakey the crust is! Also - buttery and delicious!

The classic quiche Lorraine is a tart with chopped ham or bacon. If you had nothing but an onion in your refrigerator, and some cheese parings, you could make a carmelized onion tart. Fennel would make an interesting tart, maybe with some tomato. You could use mushrooms, or peppers. Mild chiles with cheddar cheese would give a tart a Southwestern twist.

The combination of flavors is endless. And like pizza, it's a great way to use what's left in the fridge to make a great meal without having to go shopping.


cactus petunia said...

Oooh. This one sounds good. I have tons of zucchini in the garden. They just keep coming! I think I'll make this as soon as the temperature cools down!

Mary Bergfeld said...

Your savory tarts look and sound wonderful. Pickling spice is something that can usually be found in the spice aisle of major grocery chains. I'm listing two recipes for you. I think you'll see that they would add so many ingredients to a recipe that no one would try it. Hence, preparing a commercial mix makes sense. Here are some recipes for pickling spice.

Basic Home Made Pickling Spice

2 tablespoons of mustard Seed
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 tablespoon of whole allspice
1 teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons of coriander seeds
1 crumbled bay leaf
2 whole cloves
1 2 inch cinnamon sticks

To begin these recipes combine all the above ingredients and mix well. Store them in an airtight jar or container. Use in creating your favorite pickle recipes wherever it called for pickling spices. This recipe will make 1/3 of a cup.

Spicier Homemade Pickling Spice

1/4 cup of mustard seeds
1/4 cup of dill seed
1/4 cup of coriander seeds
3 Tbsp. of crushed chili peppers
2 Tbsp. of crushed bay leaves
1 Tbsp. of celery seeds
1 Tbsp. of white peppercorns
1 tsp. of black peppercorns

This particular recipe is a bit spicier then the previous one. Merely combine all the listed ingredients together, mix well and store them in an airtight container that remains in a cool, dry location. When you want to use it just place the desired amount of the spices in cheesecloth and use it in your recipes.

Now you have your own dry mix recipes for pickling spices. There is no longer a chance of running out and you may perhaps save some money in the process. Good luck.

Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Anonymous said...

Oooh, thank you so much for this recipe! I've gotten to where I don't like to use shortening but I still can't bring myself to use lard. This all-butter crust sounds marvelous and we have tomatoes on the vine and a zucchini in the garden ready for picking!
I think I just found tomorrow night's dinner recipe. Thanks! :)

Sue said...

This is the week I'm going to make that crust. I know it has to be wonderful because you love it so much. I love a savory tart or a sweet tart...or a savory tart followed by a sliver of a sweet tart. Well, you get the idea!

Hope you had a good weekend.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I have to say, this series has been fantastic- you should consider putting all the posts together in one huge, unstoppable Pie Blog.

I also tend to prefer savory tarts, my sweet tooth is not that developed.

I have tons of zucchini in the garden. They just keep coming!

You should stuff the blossoms with cheese, batter-dip them, and give them a quick fry.