Saturday, June 27, 2009

Queen of Tarts

It's a good thing I've taken up running, because lately I’ve been obsessed with tarts! I'm not just talking about fruit tarts… nor am I talking just savory tarts… I’m talkin’ buttery, cheesy, melt-in-your-mouth savory fruit tarts! I can’t stop thinking about them, dreaming about them, and making them (and then, of course, eating them)! The obsession began when a friend was on her way over for coffee, and requested snacks. With less than an hour until our coffee date, I frantically ripped open the cupboards looking for ‘snacks.’ No snacks were to be found. I took inventory of what I had, and decided to get creative. Strawberries. Cheese. A basil plant. To the average Joe it looked like it was going to be a fruit and cheese platter type of night. To me, it was the makings of a new creation!

I quickly got to work slicing strawberries, dicing red onion, mincing garlic, grating cheese, and plucking basil leaves off my basil plant (which gets very little sunlight but still seems to be thriving, unlike the purple plant, Barney, that I had to send to live with "aunt" Amanda). I mixed together the strawberries, red onion, garlic, and chopped basil, and added a splash of balsamic and olive oil. With that left to macerate, I pulled out my trusty Fannie Farmer. I whipped up the basic tart crust, and pressed it into a tart pan with a generous helping of grated parmesan cheese. I poured in the strawberry mixture, covered with a hearty layer of shredded jack, another handful of parm, and threw it in the oven, hoping for the best. To my surprise, it wasn’t half bad! To my guest’s surprise, it wasn’t just a bowl of chips or a fruit and cheese platter! With the first bite both of us were a little wary (strawberries and melty cheese!?) but by the end of the evening the tart was almost gone and I was pleased (she still seemed a little wary …).

All week I thought about the strawberry basil tart, with its simple buttery crust and fruit and cheese filling, and started to toss some new ideas around in my head... what if added bleu cheese, or maybe camembert? What would happen if I made a reduction with the vinegar? After awhile, my tart-dreams started to take off in wild tangents, and I wasn't even thinking strawberries anymore. A few ingredients kept popping up in my savory-fruit-tart fantasies. Brie, caramelized onions, and apples. I forgot about perfecting the strawberry basil tart, and set out to make a new savory fruit tart. I started out with the same basic Fannie Farmer tart crust… it’s so easy to make! Wanting to spice this diddy up a bit, I decided to break out the sausage. Evan recently bought an 800 pack (ok, so there are only 24…) of roasted garlic-gruyere sausages from Costco… shortly before he discovered that he no longer likes sausage due to a brat and hot dog overkill a few summers ago (I guess that’s what you get for eating bratwurst 3 times a day for 3 solid months… but hey, we all made our mistakes in college, right?)…needless to say, I have a freezer full of sausage. I combined the brie, caramelized onions, sausage, apples, and a honey-black pepper glaze to make a savory fruit tart good enough to write home about… or at least post here for you to enjoy!

Fannie Farmer’s Tart Crust
whisk together 1 cup flour with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cut in 6 tablespoons of cold butter-cubed- with fingers or a pastry blender, until mixture resembles tiny peas. whisk 1 egg yolk with 2 tablespoons cold water, and mix in with flour mixture. blend until smooth dough forms. Pat into bottom and sides of un-greased pastry or pie pan.

Apple Onion Tart

Layer the following into the tart crust, and bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is golden.

1 sausage (any chicken sausage will work) - sliced paper thin
1 small wedge of brie- cut into small cubes or slices (enough to cover the sausage layer completely)
1 large yellow onion – sliced and caramelized (cook in skillet over medium heat with butter and olive oil until soft and brown- pour onions and drippings over brie layer)
1 medium sized granny smith apple – sliced thinly and neatly arranged on top

Let tart cool for 5 minutes. Mix 2 tablespoons of honey with a few drops of HOT water, until honey dissolves. Add a few twists of course ground black pepper, and brush over apples slices. Try to share with friends, or before you know it, the tart pan will be empty and you'll be squeezing into too-tight jeans come fall...
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