chiogga beet tart with ricotta, walnuts, and lemon thyme

autumn, breakfast, dinner, lunch, main dishes, spring, summer, vegetarianFieldandForestComment
chiogga beet tart with ricotta, caramelized onions, walnuts, and lemon thyme | field + forest

I've rewritten this post a number of times. Each time has been a bit too verbose, a bit too flowery in waxing about the farmers' market, a bit too enthusiastic without really giving you the meat of the recipe. I mean, really. This is a tart. It's nothing we haven't seen before.

That said, this particular tart is a combination of one of Richard's favorite things, which is pie, and one of my favorite things, which is salad. I'm thinking "salad pie" sounds quite oxymoronic, not to mention sort of gross, so we'll keep calling this a vegetable tart. But really, the only reason why this tart is cooked at all once it is assembled is so that you can eat it hot. By all means, if your ingredients are still warm from cooking (or if you've cooked everything far in advance and are cool with eating your tart cold, salad style), you can feel free to fill up the tart shell with all of your goodies and immediately go to town.

Voila, veggie tart!

Chiogga Beet Tart with Ricotta, Walnuts, Caramelized Onions, and Lemon Thyme Makes 1 9-inch tart - Serves 6

Notes: A minimum 1-inch tall tart, quiche, or springform cake pan is recommended for this recipe to make sure your tart shell can hold all of the ingredients. Blind baking the shell is necessary as the ricotta is rather wet and the shell will not properly crisp in the oven if filled while unbaked. Be sure to read the instructions in full, as I gave them to you all mashed up together in the order in which I cook the various elements for the tart (I've emboldened the points at which various things are cooked, Joy of Cooking style, to try and clarify my process)! You can also always roast your beets, sauté your greens, and caramelize your onions ahead of time and then blind-bake your tart shell on the day you plan to bake your fully assembled tart.

3 pounds baby chiogga or yellow baby beets, with greens attached
olive oil
1 package all-butter puff pastry, such as Dufour, defrosted according to the package instructions (I'll often leave mine in the fridge overnight)
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced from top to tail
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound whole-milk ricotta cheese (basket ricotta is a good option, as it will be partially drained and less wet than normal ricotta)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 sprigs lemon thyme or regular thyme, leaves removed from stems
kosher salt, to taste
flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste

Preheat your oven to 400˚F.

Cut the greens away from the beets. Thoroughly wash both the beets and the beet greens, and set the greens aside. To roast the beets, place the beets on a large square of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a large pinch of kosher salt. Tightly wrap the foil around the beets, and place on a baking sheet to catch any juices that may leak. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until tender (I test this by piercing a beet with a paring knife).

While the beets are roasting, roughly chop the beet greens, and sauté them in a drizzle of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan or skillet over medium heat until they are wilted, but still quite bright green. Season with a pinch of salt, and remove from the heat, and set aside.

Wipe out the beet green pan, and place over medium-low heat to caramelize your onions. Melt the butter in the pan, and add the onions, stirring to coat them all in the fat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and are translucent, about 15 minutes. Make a well in the center of your onions, add a drizzle of olive oil if the pan is dry, and add your minced garlic to the well. Let the garlic cook for 20-30 seconds, before mixing it into the onions. Add a large pinch of salt to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions' color has reached a deep amber. Deglaze the pan with a little water to stir up any lovely caramelized bits on the bottom of your pan, cook for another 30 seconds or so, and remove the onions from the heat.

While the onions are cooking, check your beets. Once they are tender, remove the whole packet from the oven, and let them cool while still wrapped in the foil. Decrease the oven temperature to 375˚F for blind-baking your tart shell.

Flour a baking surface and roll out the puff pastry so that it can easily line a 9-inch x 1-inch tart or quiche pan. Drape the pastry over the pan, and press it into the bottom and sides of the pan. Use scissors or a bench scraper to cut the puff pastry just above the edge of the pan, so the pastry is slightly taller than the pan (it will shrink a little during blind baking, and this will help ensure that it doesn't end up too low in the pan). Place the lined pan on top of a baking sheet for easy maneuvering in and out of the oven.

Prick the bottom of the pastry all over with the tines of a fork. Line the inside of the pastry shell with a piece of parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans (this, plus the pricking, helps keep the puff pastry from puffing up during blind baking). Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp (start checking it at 20 minutes). Set aside.

Peel your cooked beets, and cut them into wedges. Lightly toss them in a little (1-2 teaspoons) of olive oil along with the lemon thyme.

To assemble your tart, spread the caramelized onions evenly over the bottom of the pastry shell. Spread the ricotta evenly over the onions, and top with the beet greens. Place the beets on top of the greens. Bake at 375˚F for 15-20 minutes, until the tart is hot. Remove from the oven and drizzle with a little more olive oil before sprinkling with a few good pinches of flaky salt. Let the tart sit for a couple of minutes before removing it from the pan and cutting into wedges. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

parsnip, squash, and apple galette with sage-onion jam

autumn, breakfast, vegetarian, winterFieldandForestComment

I have a friend who doesn't eat leftovers.  Yeah, I don't get it either.  He has a (much appreciated) habit of inviting people over to his house, making a crazy amount of amazing food, and then sending us home with to-go containers at the end of the evening.  Once, as he was shooing us out of his house after handing each person a jar of arroz con pollo, I weakly asked him why he didn't want to keep any food for himself.  He shrugged and said, "I just don't eat leftovers."  This seemed like a non-answer, but I was feeling very possessive of my jar at that point so I didn't press him further.  While I, too, love to cook for others, I've recently come to rely on leftovers as crucial ingredients in weekly dinners.  Roasted vegetables, cooked lentils, and grains from previous meals are often added to our frittatas, pastas, and salads, and when we're feeling fancy, galettes.

"Galette" is a French term for a free-form pie, among other things; it can also refer to an open-faced tart or cake, or an open-faced crepe. The great thing about the pie version is that you don't need any random tools or equipment to make one, and they are just as delicious (in my mind) as standard pies and tarts. If you have a cookie sheet, a card table, and a barbecue, you can knock out an amazing galette.  And you probably have a cookie sheet, a kitchen counter, and an oven, so you are over-prepared!

If you have made pies, tarts, or galettes before and have a habit of making pie crust from scratch, here is where I wish you well and send you down the page to the recipe. However, if you generally purchase pre-made pie crusts, you may not want to hear me say this, buuuuut, I really think you should be making your own pie crust (and I'm so glad you're on the other side of your computer screen so you can't punch me). In the time that it takes you to go to the store and buy a pre-made crust, you could have made your own and have it chilling in the fridge for you. And when you make your own, you can add all kind of yummy things to make it special, as I like to do in this recipe.  But pie dough seems intimidating and time consuming, and I completely understand why.  You probably have specific textural end goals (as you should), and you've likely heard people tell you all kinds of things that you absolutely MUST do to make it perfectly flaky and tender!

And now someone else is going to be upset at this next thing I'm going to say, buuuuut, you don't have to follow all of the normal rules to make delicious and flaky pastry.  Full disclosure: I made this pastry dough by pinching. the. butter. into. the. dough. with. my. fingers.


With my fingers!  Not a food processor or a pastry blender or two knives but the THINGS that are attached to my HANDS!  Sacrilege.

Should you choose to go this heathenish route yourself, a few things will help you along the way.  One, make sure your butter is straight-out-of-the-fridge cold when you begin working it into the flour. Two, should you feel your butter heating up and getting a little melty (i.e. soft and oily), throw the whole bowl (butter, flour, and all) into the fridge for five minutes to cool down. If you're working in a moderately cool kitchen, you probably won't need to put the bowl in the fridge at all (and if you have poor circulation, as I do, this will be one of those rare moments when you will find your icy-cold hands useful). Three, take a deep breath, and know that everything is going to be okay.  You are making something with butter, flour, and seasoning from scratch, and at worst, it is going to taste pretty freaking delicious.

Parsnip, Squash, and Apple Galette with Sage-Onion Jam
There is a lot happening with this recipe, but it is easy to make the components in advance and assemble it just before you're ready to bake; you can easily omit a vegetable and increase another if you aren't a fan of parsnips or squash, though I really like the added sweetness of the apples so I encourage you to keep them in the mix.  If you prefer a juicier galette, use an apple variety that breaks down during cooking, such as Golden Delicious; for a richer tart, dot the filling with goat cheese before you fold up the sides of the pastry.

Pastry (base recipe adapted from Thomas Keller; additions inspired by traditional flavorings for gougeres) - makes enough for two galettes, two tarts, or one double-crust pie
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
a few good grinds of black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated hard cheese, such as Pecorino-Romano (which is what I used) or parmesan 2 1/2 sticks cold butter
5 tablespoons ice water (or possibly more)

Sage-Onion Jam
2 tablespoons butter + 1 teaspoon butter, divided
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced from top to tail
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
A splash of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly chopped sage

3-4 cups roasted vegetables (such as parsnips, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or a mixture; I used parsnips and squash, though I might omit the parsnips next time as their flavor is a bit strong)
1 apple (I used a Fuji, because it was what I had on hand, but use whatever you would like; baking apples, such as Granny Smith, will get softer than Fuji)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
juice of one lemon, divided
fried sage leaves for garnish (make by heating a little butter in a pan and frying the sage leaves until crisp but still green)

Make the pastry: combine the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, kosher salt, nutmeg, dry mustard, black pepper, and grated cheese in a bowl, and whisk to combine.  Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces and drop into the bowl with the flour (alternatively, you may combine the flour and butter in a food processor).  Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, or pinch the butter into the flour with your fingers, breaking up the butter into smaller pieces as you go (or pulse your food processor a few times to break up the butter into smaller pieces).  You should end up with pea-sized (or smaller) nuggets/little smears of butter throughout the flour.

Drizzle the ice water over the butter-flour mixture, and mix (or pulse) to combine.  The dough should be crumbly, but should stick together when pinched with your fingers (if it does not stick together, add a little more water, a tablespoon at a time).  Press the dough into itself a couple of times while still in the bowl, just until you're sure it is mostly coming together.  Turn the dough out onto a work surface, and divide it into two equal (albeit, crumbly) pieces.  Press each piece into a flat disk, and wrap both tightly in plastic wrap.  Set in the fridge to chill for at least one hour, or up to three days (the dough will be eatable after this point, but the flour may oxidize and become grayish).

Make the sage-onion jam: melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan set over medium-low heat.  Add the onions, and stir to coat evenly with the melted butter.  Add a pinch of salt to let the onions sweat; you want them soften at this point, but not brown.  Listen to the onions as they sweat, and if you notice that the sound seems loud, it is likely that your pan is too hot and the onions are beginning to crisp.  Stir occasionally so that the onions cook evenly.

Once the onions have softened, add the dark brown sugar and turn up the heat to medium.  Let the onions cook, stirring occasionally, so that the sugars caramelize and the onions begin to brown.  They will move from pale beige, to golden brown, to a light caramel.  Once they reach this light caramel stage, turn up the heat a notch, add the vinegar, and stir to scrape up any onion bits stuck to the pan.  Continue cooking the onions until they reach a deep caramel color.

Scoot the onions to one side of the pan, and melt the teaspoon of butter in the empty space in the pan.  Add the sage to the melted butter, keeping it separate from the onions while it cooks.  Once it has crisped and the color has changed to a dark, muted green (this will take about a minute), mix the sage into the onion mixture.  Cook for a minute or two more, stirring frequently, then remove from the pan and let cool.  Scrape the mixture out onto a cutting board, and run your knife through it a couple of times (this will make the mixture less stringy and more jammy).  Taste and add additional salt if needed.  Set aside, or refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week.

To fill and shape the tarts: preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the pastry disks from the fridge, and let sit, still wrapped, at room temperature for 10-20 minutes.  Unwrap one disk, and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the pastry into a 1/8" thick circle, and transfer to one side of the parchment lined baking sheet.

Slice the apple into pieces, and set aside.  Spread half of the sage-onion jam in the middle of the pastry round, leaving a 2-inch border of bare pastry.  Mound half of the roasted vegetables on the jam, and tuck half of the apple slices among the vegetables.  Fold the pastry up and over the vegetables, overlapping the folds so that there are no places where the filling can escape.  Once the pastry is all folded, press around the tart gently to seal the pastry folds.  Gently scoot the galette to one side of the pan to make sure there is enough room for the second galette.  Repeat with the second pastry disk and remaining vegetables and jam.

Once both galettes are filled, cut one tablespoon of butter into pieces and scatter over the top of both tarts.  Sprinkle the exposed vegetables and apples with the lemon juice.  Bake at 375-degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 and bake for another 10-20 minutes, or until the pastry is fully cooked and golden brown.  Top with the fried sage leaves, and serve warm or at room temperature with a green salad.  You may also refrigerate the tart for up to two days;let it come to room temperature, or rewarm it in a 300-degree oven for 10-15 minutes before serving.