Paula Wolfert's Hummus
Claudia Roden's Bulgur Salad With Pomegranate Dressing and Toasted Nuts

Florence Fabricant's Leek, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart

Tart_1

I have to say that when I first saw this recipe in the paper, my eyes sort of glazed over and I just kept going. I don't really know why - after all, I like vegetables and tarts and goat cheese - but perhaps I judged too quickly that the combination of all three would be fussy and twee and not really my kind of thing. I figured it was one less thing I'd have to try, moved on and promptly forgot all about it.

And then, a few months later, Hannah announced she was closing up her food blog to continue elsewhere and told me that if I hadn't already made the tart, I should get to it. Right quick. Well, she didn't actually say Right Quick, but it was implied. So, I made my way through the Internets, googling left and right to find the archived recipe. And, like it was meant to be, I found it. Just waiting for me to come by and snatch it up.

Oh, I'm so glad I did. Thank you, Hannah, for pointing me in the right direction. And thank you, Florence, for coming up with this in the first place. Because, dear readers, I'm pleased to say that we've got another winner here, another one for the laminated files, the Hall of Fame. Yes, it's that good.

First of all, it's just so pretty. But then, it's also just so easy. Well, for a tart. And most importantly? It's fantastically delicious. Crisp, buttery pastry encasing a sweet and mellow filling of sauteed vegetables, topped with tangy, crumbled goat cheese - I mean, it really is as good as it sounds.

Better even.

The hardest thing about this was contemplating the frozen puff pastry. I'd never used any before (ridiculous, I know) and found myself a bit intimidated by the prospect of pate feuilletee in my very own house. But really, all there is to it is a bit of unfolding and rolling. That's it! Well, and some trimming. A monkey could do it. A monkey with knife skills.

You saute leeks and mushrooms and sliced fennel (for all you fennel haters, I swear to you that the anise flavor is imperceptible. Just a faint background note! Bringing all the livelier flavors to the fore! It's delicious. Trust me) before halving the defrosted puff pastry and rolling each piece out into a long rectangle (I halved in the wrong direction which proves that my recipe-reading skills are for naught, or that a monkey could do this better than me). You have to trim the edges and then form a little border and glaze it with an egg wash, which sounds irritating, but is finished quite quickly and the benefit is that your tart puffs up in all the right places and just looks so professionally appealing.

The pastry gets baked empty the first time, is filled with a goat-cheese-and-egg mixture for the second baking and then receives the topping of sauteed vegetables and goat cheese for the third pass in the oven under the broiler for a final, burnished touch. I set out still-warm squares of this for my guests and they were gone - gone! - in minutes.

I'm beginning to think that Florence Fabricant might just have the best recipes at the New York Times.

Leek, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart

Yields 10 to 12 servings

1 small bulb fennel
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and rinsed carefully
16 medium cremini or white mushrooms (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 4-ounce package puff pastry (like Dufour), defrosted according to package directions
3 eggs
8 ounces goat cheese

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Trim fennel of green top and root end, reserving fronds and quarter bulb from top to bottom. Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, cut fennel and leeks into paper-thin slices. Clean and slice mushrooms.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat; add fennel and leeks and saute until just tender but not brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Heat remaining teaspoon oil in skillet over medium-high heat; add mushrooms and saute until they release all their liquid and most of it boils away, about 5 minutes. Combine fennel mixture with mushrooms and saute together briefly; season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

3. Unfold puff pastry onto lightly floured surface or Silpat; cut in half lengthwise to form two long rectangles. Gently roll out each rectangle to approximately 5 by 14 inches and place on cookie sheet (or cut into two circles, if desired). Trim edges by 1/4 inch strips all around; set strips aside. Break one egg into a small bowl; beat slightly. Brush edges of pastry with some egg. Use trimmed strips to make a raised border on each. (Or, fold pastry edges over to form a rim.) Brush entire surface with remaining beaten egg. Prick interior of pastry all over with a fork. Bake unti pale gold, about 10 minutes. If pastry has puffed up inside edge, press it down gently. Set aside.

4. Meanwhile, combine remaining eggs with 6 ounces of goat cheese and blend until smooth. Spread onto pastry. Return to oven and bake just until set, about 4 minutes. Remove from oven and spread with mushroom-leek mixture. Crumble remaining cheese on top. Just before serving, broil tarts for a few minutes, until cheese softens and starts to brown. Garnish with fennel fronds.

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