Clotilde Dusoulier's Tomato Mustard Tart - and a Giveaway!

Tomato mustard tart

The ivy on the back wall of the building I can spy from my office has turned a deep, vibrant crimson. We've put away our summer clothes and pulled out our woolen hats, our thick socks, our flannel pyjamas. The toasty smell of the heating rises up against the windows in the morning. But my favorite stand at the green market is still selling plum tomatoes, the last ones of the season, and I am physically incapable of passing them by, no matter how heavily autumn presses upon us. Every week, I buy a sackful of those tomatoes and simmer them into sauces, chop them into Hugo's pastina, turn them into a quick lunch with a piece of cheese and bread. They're still irresistible, despite the winter squash and cabbage that look at me fetchingly from the side.

Tart mise en place

My most recent way to make my way through a pile of tomatoes was to bake a French tomato mustard tart from Clotilde's lovely new cookbook, The French Market Cookbook. A savory olive oil tart dough speckled with poppy and sesame seeds is parbaked, then filled with a savory blend of sautéed onions, mustard and egg. On top go a whole mess of halved, seeded and salted plum tomatoes before the tart goes back in the oven. There, the tomatoes shrink and shrivel, the crust goes crisp, the mustard and onions mellow. We ate slices of the tart hot from the oven and they were very good, but an overnight rest made them truly sing. The next day, Max and I eyed each other ferociously over the last few slices.

(A note: I mistakenly used a tart pan that was too small by a few inches, only realizing my mistake when the tart was already in the oven. Don't follow in my footsteps - make sure you use an 11- or 12-inch tart pan. You want the tart dough to be very, very thin.)

Tart dough

Clotilde is celebrating her blog's tenth anniversary today. Oh, 2003! I still remember first discovering Chocolate & Zucchini just a few months after Clotilde got started and feeling like I'd happened upon something seriously momentous. Her newest book, The French Market Cookbook, is a celebration of the very things that Clotilde has always done so well: simple yet creative vegetarian dishes that are seasonal and delicious, but also very, very beautiful.

One of Clotilde's gifts lies in the ability to take rather prosaic ingredients and transform them into something delectable. This book is full of these ideas. To wit: a stir-fry with barley flakes, carrots and curry; a mashed broccoli casserole on a bed of green lentils and rice; or, the one I'm now most excited to try, poor man's bouillabaisse, with nary a piece of fish in sight (poached eggs and peas take center stage). She updates an old French classic, fontainebleau, with yogurt, but also goes way back with an old-fashioned take on macarons made with walnuts and almonds and sandwiched together with a simple filling of melted chocolate.

Tomato tart

Happily, I have an extra copy of The French Market Cookbook to give away today, in celebration of Clotilde and her lovely site and all the things she made me feel capable of doing all those years ago. So for a chance to win a copy, please leave a comment below and I'll pick a winner at random on Wednesday. Good luck!

Update: Jennifer is the winner and has been emailed. Thank you all for participating - comments are now closed.

Clotilde Dusoulier's Tomato Mustard Tart
Makes 1 11-12 inch tart

tart dough:

1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon toasted poppy seeds (optional)
1 large egg

1. Combine the flour, salt and seeds, if using, in a bowl. Add the oil, egg and 1/4 cup/60 ml of water and mix them in with a fork until absorbed. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together in a smooth ball.

2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, turning it every so often, so that it doesn't stick to the surface or pin. Avoid overworking the dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled 11- or 12-inch tart pan and line it neatly. Chill for 30 minutes.

filling:

1 large egg, separated
1 3/4 pounds (800 grams) plum tomatoes
Fine sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling (optional)
2 small red onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Handful of basil leaves, if available
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 ).

2. Brush the tart dough with some of the egg white. Bake for 30 minutes.

3. Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and squeeze out the juice and seeds and core. (Save them for drinking with a sprinkle of salt - so good!) Sprinkle the cut sides with salt and place the tomatoes face down in a colander to drain.

4. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the onions are very soft, but haven't taken on any color. Let cool slightly.

5. Stir the egg yolk and any remaining white and the mustard into the onions and spread over the crust. Arrange the halved tomatoes, cut side down, over the onion layer. Drizzle the tart with more olive oil to taste (optional). Bake the tart until the tomatoes are wrinkled and fragrant, 45 minutes.

6. Top with shredded basil and black pepper and serve warm or let cool and store at room temperature overnight before serving.


Pichet Ong's Squash Pie

 

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I'll just start this post by saying that, after taking a few bites of this squash pie last night, my friend Andy put down his fork and said, "This is the best dessert I ever ate." He then picked up his fork again, and through bites said I could quote him, in fact that I must. So there you have it, readers. This pie blew Andy's mind.

It's pretty darn good, I'll say. I was going to make it for Thanksgiving, but my father took one look at the cream cheese in the ingredient list and put the kibosh on it right quick. (Who knows - he's a bit of a mystery.) So instead I saved it for the dinner party we had last night and it was a resounding - nay, stunning - success.

The recipe comes from the now-defunct The Chef column that used to run in the The New York Times. I miss that column. You too? I got so many good recipes from it, like a chicken liver sauce from Judy Rodgers and a Breton butter cake from Gabrielle Hamilton. (I'm still waiting for Gabrielle's memoir with recipes to be published, by the way. This year, I think!)

Pichet Ong, he of P*ONG and The Sweet Spot, delivered the recipe for the squash pie. It's thick with cream cheese, flavored strongly with cinnamon and nutmeg, and nestled in a completely addictive crust that you should commit to memory for any number of other things, like cheesecake or banana cream pie or key lime pie (though I still think this Grape-Nuts crust version via Gemma takes the cake (groan) for that).

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The pie is silky and creamy and really, really easy to make. A crumb crust is a joy to make, an uncomplicated antidote to all those hand-rolled pie crusts of the holiday season. Plus, it means you'll end up with a few extra graham crackers knocking around in your cupboards, which is a very good thing indeed.

Also, though the recipe calls for a Kabocha squash to be steamed and peeled and pureed, canned pumpkin works beautifully here. Yes, Kabocha would have been lovely, all sweet and dry and tasty, but Pichet himself says that butternut squash and cheese or sugar pumpkins (which is what are usually found in those cans - remember to only buy the "pure pumpkin" ones, not the cans that are labeled "filling"!) are a good substitute, so cut those corners, come on.

Lastly, with no brandy in the house (I know! A crying shame. But you might not have any either, so let's be brandy-less together.), I substituted a splash of pure vanilla extract. It perfumed the pie ever so subtly.

Whatever you do! Make sure you serve this with creme fraiche. (You like how I did that, told you how to make your own, and then told you how to use it all up? You're welcome! A pleasure, really.) The cold, slightly sour cream cuts the sweet richness of the squash pie just perfectly and rounds out the flavors a bit. I'd say, honestly, that the pie just isn't right without it.

So serve up the pie, let your guests do the dolloping, then sit back, put your feet up, and let the compliments just wash over you. After all, wouldn't you, too, like to be responsible for the best dessert someone ever ate?

Squash Pie
Serves 8

For the filling:
1 medium kabocha squash, about 3 pounds, or 2 1/2 cups of canned pumpkin (skipping the steps below for roasting and pureeing the squash)
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (about 1/4 of a nutmeg)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy or 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
2 eggs at room temperature

For the crust:
3/8 cup (2 ounces) walnuts
1/2 cup packed, light brown sugar
3/8 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 7 crackers)
Grated zest of 1 lime
3/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
3/8 teaspoon salt (I'd use less salt next time, just 1/8 of a teaspoon)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
Crème fraîche, for serving (optional)

1. For pie filling, bring an inch of water to a boil in a large covered pot fitted with a steamer basket or rack. Put in squash, cover and steam, replenishing water as needed, until fork tender, about 1 hour. Turn squash over halfway through steaming. Set squash aside until cool enough to handle.

 

2. Heat oven to 325 degrees. For crust, place walnuts on a baking tray, and toast in oven, stirring once or twice, until fragrant, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

3. In a food processor, combine walnuts with a few tablespoons brown sugar and pulse a few times, until nuts are coarsely ground. In a large bowl, whisk nuts with graham cracker crumbs, remaining brown sugar, lime zest, spices and salt. Pour melted butter over this mixture, and mix with your fingers until butter is distributed. Press evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate. Bake crust until lightly browned, about 12 minutes, then set aside. Keep oven at 300 degrees.

4. When squash is cool, cut it in half and scoop out seeds and pulp. Scoop squash flesh into a measuring cup until you have 2 1/2 cups.

5. In a food processor, process cream cheese with sugar, spices and salt until light and smooth. Scrape down bowl, add squash and process until smooth. Mix in brandy and then eggs, one at a time. Finish mixing with a rubber spatula.

6. Place pie plate on a baking sheet and scrape filling into crust. Bake until just set in center, about 1 hour. Let cool, then serve topped with crème fraîche.


Amy Scattergood's Bruleed Pumpkin Pie

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Oooh, the frustration! It burns, it burns. Man! Here I was, absolutely inundated with beets, I mean, beets coming out of my ears, beets in the crisper, beets on the stove, beets in a Tupperware hidden in the office fridge, beets, beets, beets. My CSA had a glut of beets, you see. They actually called it the Year of the Beet. And so we ate a lot of beets. For most of September and October, we ate beets every time we had dinner at home. In November, I staged a little protest. I let those funky, rooty things hang out in the fridge for a while - our farmer told us the beets would store just fine in the crisper drawer and so I took her at her word. Bah. Tonight, I come home, armed with a new recipe for beets that was sure not only to taste delicious, but also be interesting enough to tell you all about (none of that toasted walnut/feta-or-is-it-blue-cheese/mint/been-there-done-that stuff), and furthermore, finally rid me of the last pound or two of beets ghosting about my fridge - and what happens? The beets went soft. Soft and wrinkly and totally grody-to-the-max, as my seven-year-old self would have told you. I stood in front of the fridge, stamped my foot, and threw the beets in the trash. So long, beets. 2007 is coming to a close anyway. May 2008 be the Year of the Something Else Entirely, please.

So, anyway, while I try to figure what else I can have for dinner tonight, I'll tell you about the pie I made for Thanksgiving. Yeah, yeah, I know - snooze. Who cares about Thanksgiving when there's Christmas to look forward to? (No roast goose for me this year as we're celebrating in Brussels - with oysters!) Well, some people, like the person I happen to share an apartment with, think that it's an abomination and a personal affront that pumpkin pie is associated with only one holiday a year. And you know, I actually tend to agree. Okay, so eating pumpkin pie would probably be strange in late June, when all you should be doing is eating soft, swollen, juicy fruit out of hand - but I don't really see why the third Thursday in November is the only Thursday in the year that really gets to own pumpkin pie.

And if you're making this pumpkin pie, the one that Amy Scattergood contributed to the LA Times's absolutely gorgeous Thanksgiving spread this year (color-coded - totally genius!), then I think you'll agree it could stand to be eaten on quite a few more Thursdays per year. And Fridays. And Saturdays, too.

First of all, the crust? A marvel. Amy credits it to Deborah Madison and I have to say it's absolutely wonderful. Faintly lemony and speckled with nutmeg, it's flaky as all get-out and a delight to eat.

Then the filling. First of all, you know that anything with Armagnac in it will turn out deliciously, don't you? You should. So that's a relief. Then, you can totally make this with canned pumpkin because that's, more relief, what the recipe calls for. (Though you should know, too, that it works out very well with freshly roasted and pureed pumpkin as well - which is what we, because we are apparently total over-achievers, did on Thanksgiving. Like there wasn't already enough stuff to do.) Thirdly, it has cardamom in it! Any pie (or bread or cookie or pudding, let's be frank) that has cardamom in it is destined to be a hit; it's simply written in the stars.

The only small (ish) problem is that you kind of have to plan ahead, like, make the pie the day before you're going to eat it, because it has to chill sufficiently before you can sprinkle sugar on top and brule it into glamly burnished perfection. We may roast our own squash for pie, but we do not plan ahead - at least not when we are at my father's house. But that's okay (yes! this pie rules), because if you are like us and can't make that happen, just add the final 1/4 cup of sugar, meant for the bruleed crust, to the filling and no one will ever know the difference. Your pie will be balanced and flavorful and delicious, with that softly yielding inside and that delicately crisp outside.

Oh, and one more thing: Do yourselves a favor when you make this, and be sure to have seconds. Because otherwise the pie will be gone in one fell swoop around the dinner table and there will be nothing - no cold slice in the morning for breakfast, or the next evening as a soothing dessert - left. But of course, that ends up making the very point I started with, that this pie shouldn't just be for that one night a year. So, buy two cans and plan ahead. Who cares that Thanksgiving's over? What are you doing this Thursday night?

Bruleed Pumpkin Pie
Serves 8

Pie crust
2 1/„4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3/4 cup (1 1/„2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 egg, separated
Scant 1/„2 cup ice water

1. Place the flour, salt, nutmeg and lemon zest in a food processor and pulse to combine. Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes and add the cubes to the flour, pulsing 4 to 6 times to break up the butter.

2. Combine the vinegar and egg yolk in a measuring cup and add enough ice water to bring the volume up to one-half cup. Add the liquid in a steady stream to the food processor, while pulsing, until the flour looks crumbly and damp, 25 to 30 pulses. The crumbs should adhere when you gather them together with your fingers.

3. Turn the dough out and divide into two equal pieces. Wrap each in plastic wrap and press into a disk; refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

4. Roll out one piece into a 12-inch circle, one-eighth-inch thick. Trim the edges flush with the rim of a 9-inch pie pan, place the dough circle into the pan and gently press the bottom and sides to fit. Roll out the other piece to a one-eighth-inch thickness and cut leaf shapes out of it. The leaves can be cut using a leaf-shaped cutter, or by hand using a stencil (ours was 1 inch by 3 inches) and paring knife. Using the back of a dinner knife, press a pattern into each leaf: Press one crease down the center, and 5 or so on each side of the crease. Mix a little water into the reserved egg white and, using a pastry brush, brush a little of the mixture around the edge of the pie crust. Press the leaves around the edge of the crust, overlapping them slightly and using the wash to adhere them, then brush the assembled crust with the wash. Freeze the pie crust for at least several hours and up to overnight.

Pumpkin pie filling and assembly
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons Armagnac
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup superfine sugar for bruleeing

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, cream, milk, eggs, egg yolk, Armagnac, light brown sugar, white pepper, cloves, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom until blended. Pour the mixture into the frozen pie shell and bake for 15 minutes, turning once for even browning. After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake 25 to 30 minutes more, rotating again. Remove and let cool until room temperature. Chill overnight.

2. Just before serving, carefully fold strips of aluminum foil over the leaf-covered edges of the pie, being sure not to cover the custard. Scatter the superfine sugar evenly over the top of the pie and brulee under a hot broiler until the sugar caramelizes. (Or use a brulee torch if you have one.) Serve immediately.


Maggie Barrett's Crostata

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Now that our move is imminent, that little monster inside me has reared its head, a little monster that spends its days reminding me to get rid of that old trash can Before We Move and to sell the dingy bike on the back patio Before We Move and to use up the almost-full bag of flax seeds Before We Move and to call every utility company I've ever known Before We Move and to start collecting boxes off the streets Before We Move. This little monster keeps me up at night and has Ben shooting me sideways looks ("what was I thinking? Don't we still have two whole weeks?").

It's just, I suppose, that I find moving to be such a disconcerting event, full of potholes where depression lurks, and never, ever predictable.

So I do my best to manage things, to keep myself afloat with tasks and errands and to-do lists. That way I can't, even for a moment, stop and contemplate that sickening feeling when you turn around in your living room just before the movers come and realize that your entire life can be summed up by a stack of boxes, a quilt-wrapped sofa (that you don't even like, for crying out loud, but after the move bleeds you dry, who's going to have money to buy a new one?), and a few dust bunnies. Even worse than that is the sensation you have after the movers have gone and you're alone in the new place and you don't yet know that the doors swing out, not in, so you stub your toe and it hurts, and the light falls on the parquet differently than it did in the old place and it's so quiet that you can hear people on the street seven floors below as they walk their dog and suddenly you're wracked with sobs because that place that you just left, that place that was mouse-ridden and dark and leaky and loud (so, so loud)? That place was home. And this place most definitely isn't.

Hoo hoo hee hee. Just typing all that made me a little dizzy.

So, as I was saying, I try to manage things, prepare myself, feel as much the captain of my own ship as is humanly possible and that includes an attempt to use up all the things in my kitchen cupboards. Because is there anything more annoying than being confronted with a half-bag of all-purpose flour when you're packing up and there are boxes filled with pots and dishes and forks, and then one box half-filled with a jar of honey, some cans of tuna and that packet of Italian cake leavening that you can't seem to throw away and that has now lived in exactly four different apartments in this city? Your frugality keeps you from throwing the flour out, but the practical you refuses to pay people to schlep half-empty bags of baking goods to an outer borough. No sir.

You therefore spend the weeks before you move strategizing on how to use up all the pantry goods before that fateful date. That this might add to your hysteria seems an afterthought. After all, you are being efficient and clever. And those are the hallmarks of a successful mover, are they not?

Last night, I used up my all-purpose flour, the remaining half-jar of homemade ginger-orange marmalade given to me as a gift, and the rest of my homemade butter to make crostata, using Maggie Barrett's recipe printed in The New York Times last fall. (The marmalade only covered a quarter of the tart, so I used some cherry jam for the rest.) Maggie learned her crostata in Tuscany, while I've been making a different, Marchigianian version since the beginning of time, taught to me at age six or seven by Carla, the daughter of a neighbor in my grandfather's village and the resident crostata expert, and recreated approximately 900 times since then.

Maggie's version is too salty and a little too refined for my tastes. Crostata is, after all, the humblest and most rustic of desserts. Simply a soft dough covered in homemade jam and a lattice top (or, in this case, an approximation of streusel, since the dough was too soft to roll out last night) and baked until golden and fragrant, it should be light enough to be eaten for breakfast and humble enough to nibble with a cup of tea in the afternoon.

This version was a little too heavy for my taste, but I'll be totally honest now: that doesn't matter a whit. Not today. Not when I'm feeling triumphant about my ever-emptying pantry and Ben has crostata to keep him quiet when I come home with yet another thing we absolutely have to do Before We Move. Which reminds me, does anyone have a recipe that will use up half a bag of flax seeds, some rye flour, five tablespoons of cornmeal and a half a bottle of cane syrup?

Crostata
Serves 8

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
1 teaspoon salt (this is too much, I'd use half a teaspoon at most)
2 teaspoons baking powder
14 ounces apricot, raspberry or other jam

1. Beat together butter and sugar until well-combined. Mix in the egg, egg yolk, vanilla and lemon zest, then add the flour, salt and the baking powder. Mix at medium speed just until the mixture begins to clump. Press the dough into a ball by hand, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to warm slightly. Press teh dough into the botto and sides of a removable bottom tart pan, patting it until smooth and firm. Fill the crust with jam, spreading it evenly.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll or pat out the remaining dough. Cut the dough into narrow strips and place them in a lattice pattern on the crostata, or break off pieces of the flattened dough to scatter haphazardly on the crostata.

4. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature.


Rose Carrarini's Tomato-Ricotta Tart

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I thought you might like to know that traps have been set and I am spending the day avoiding my apartment. Hoping that by the time I go home (after seeing yet more apartments, heavens above) and meet Ben (back, finally, from his trip so he can attend to his mouse-corpse-removal duties), there will be something for him to pick up gingerly and discard while I prance blithely about in the background, making pretend that life is nothing but a string of bowl-full-of-cherry days and that our greatest worry is whether we'll be eating lobster rolls at Pearl's or Ed's tonight. (For my birthday. Yes, the one that happened 6 months ago.)

Though, admittedly, the exterminator removed all sense of guilt that I had over the offing of this little creature by turning to me at some point this morning while he was shoving poison packs under my cabinets, and I was wringing my hands, and barking out of the corner of his scornfully pursed lips:

"Ya'd rather get the hantavirus? That stuff's incurable, ya know."

Um, well, nothankyouverymuch. And with that I am ending all discussion of mouse talk and the vile diseases they spread, because, ugh, I can barely even see straight anymore for all the grossness and I can't handle another dead faint, not when I've left my smelling salts at home.

Besides, in far more interesting news, I've got to tell you that homemade butter, the kind that isn't cultured and therefore still mostly tastes like Land O'Lakes sans the nasty supermarket flavor bloom, makes for excellent tart crusts.

Really, they're total perfection. At first, after the butter, flour and salt had whirred about in the food processor, I thought the dough looked too smooth and uniform, not pebbly enough. But chilled and rolled and pricked and parbaked and filled and baked again, the dough turned into this meltingly tender, delicious crust that held together well and melted in our mouths.

Though I suppose I should also tell you that that tasty crust would have been nothing without a lining of grated farmhouse cheddar and a filling of roasted tomatoes suspended in a savory ricotta custard, infused with oregano leaves. The tart was airy and creamy and the silky tomatoes packed a wallop of concentrated flavor.

I served this along with grill-blistered hot dogs and nicely charred hamburgers on Independence Day, before the rain came out and crowded us indoors, where we lined the walls of my narrow apartment, drinking beer, soothing babies, and discussing real estate (is there anything else we can talk about?). The tart disappeared long before the hot dogs did, which is saying something, since it seems that the Fourth of July is hardly even a holiday if there aren't hot dogs to be had. Wouldn't you say?

So, yeah. Are you busy right now? Don't you think you should get yourself home to make this? I think you should, I really do.

Tomato-Ricotta Tart
Servings: 9 to 12

Tart shell
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus extra for greasing
1 beaten egg yolk, divided (use half for the tart shell and reserve half for the filling)

1. In a food processor, process the flour, salt and butter for about 5 to 8 seconds, so that some pieces of butter are left. Combine half of the egg yolk (saving the other half for the filling; set aside in the refrigerator) with one-fourth cup cold water and drizzle through the tube of the food processor while pulsing. Pulse until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides.

2. Alternatively, the dough can be mixed by hand. Put the flour and salt in a bowl, cut the butter into pieces and work it into the flour with your fingertips. Make a well in the middle of the flour and butter mixture and add the half egg yolk and one-quarter cup ice water. Stir quickly with a fork to start bringing the dry and wet ingredients together. When the fork can't do any more, use your hands just to bring the dough together. Don't knead or press — all you have to do is gather up the dry parts as quickly as possible. If your hands get too warm, put them under cold water for a few minutes.

3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours.

4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough, lifting and turning it all the time so that it does not stick to the surface. Roll the dough out into a square about one-eighth-inch thick. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and gently lift it into the tart pan, gently pressing the dough into the bottom of the pan and up against the sides. Trim the edges. Chill again for about 30 minutes.

5. Line the tart shell with parchment or foil and fill it with pie weights or beans and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and the parchment or foil and prick the crust with a fork. Continue baking an additional 20 to 25 minutes until golden. Cool the tart shell on a rack.

Cream mixture, filling and assembly
6 plum tomatoes (such as Roma), halved
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 cup half and half
2 eggs
1/2 egg yolk (reserved from making the tart shell)
Pinch grated nutmeg
1 tart shell
1 cup packed grated farmhouse cheddar cheese
3/4 cup ricotta cheese (I only used 1/2 cup, and I blended it in with the cream mixture)
1/2 cup tender sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, place a rack in the baking sheet and roast the tomatoes skin-side up for about 2 hours, until the liquid has gone and the skins can be removed easily. Season the skinned tomatoes generously with salt and pepper and drizzle a little oil over them. Allow to cool to room temperature.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat the half and half, eggs, egg yolk, one-fourth teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper and nutmeg until they are well mixed.

3. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and scatter the cheddar cheese over the base of the tart. Place the tomatoes on top of this and spoonfuls of ricotta in between the tomatoes.

4. Pour in as much of the cream mixture as you can without it spilling over the top; you may have some cream mixture left over. Sprinkle with the thyme.

5. Transfer carefully to the oven and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until the filling has set and is lightly golden. Allow to cool slightly before serving.


Regina Schrambling's Pumpkin Tarte Tatin

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I suppose I should explain. After all, I wouldn't entirely blame you if you took one look at that photograph and asked yourself just what exactly I was thinking when I took it. Well, that tarte you see up there may not be as beautiful as you'd expect, but you can blame that on my obstinate refusal to buy a nonstick pan. If you can get over the half-moons of caramelized kabocha squash flung willy-nilly over the peppered short crust, there's actually a pretty delicious recipe to be found.

I clipped the recipe for this savory version of the archetypically French tarte Tatin from the Los Angeles Times more than three years ago. I urge you not to wait that long before trying it yourselves. But before we continue, let me just make sure you aren't confusing it with this recipe. They're really quite similar, but different in some fundamental ways and while I haven't made the citrouillat myself, it doesn't entice me at all. Who knows why? (I think I need to stop writing posts on Saturday nights.)

Numbingly boring questions aside, this tart is lovely. The kabocha squash (it's the only squash I enjoy biting into) becomes creamy and incredibly sweet through both the pan-caramelization and the oven-roasting. The fudgy white goat cheese melts funkily in the background along with the herbed tangle of onions that have been cooked to a glossy brown tangle of flavor. The peppery short crust is tender and literally melts in your mouth (though if I make this again, it's going to be with a puff pastry crust to lighten things a bit).

So the squash layer stuck to my cast-iron skillet instead of unmolding in perfect half-moons. Who cares? All you have to do is barely blink an eye, gently scrape the caramelized topping out of the pan and rearrange it as best you can on the crust. Sometimes, I think, being a good cook is all about keeping your cool.

Pumpkin Tarte Tatin
Serves 6

1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
About 1/4 small (3 to 3 1/2 pounds) pumpkin
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
1 tablespoon pumpkin seed oil (or olive oil)
Pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 ounce soft goat cheese

1. For the crust, combine the flour, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and toss with a fork to mix well. Cut the chilled unsalted butter into one-quarter-inch pieces and rub into the dry ingredients with fingertips until the mixture resembles very coarse meal. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water and toss until the ingredients cling together, adding 1 tablespoon more water if necessary. Pull together into a ball and knead very lightly, then pat out into a thick round on wax paper. Wrap the dough in the wax paper and chill it while cooking the pumpkin.

2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel and seed the pumpkin and cut it into one-quarter-inch-thick slices.

3. Combine the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch (measured across the top) nonstick, ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, salt to taste and half the thyme and sauté, stirring often, until very soft and caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

4. Wipe the skillet clean and add the remaining butter and the pumpkin seed oil; melt over medium heat. Arrange the pumpkin slices in the skillet in slightly overlapping layers, but with most of the pumpkin flat on the skillet so the surfaces will caramelize. The pumpkin should cover the bottom completely. Sprinkle with the remaining thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until the bottom slices start to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover the skillet and cook until the pumpkin is soft but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. Drizzle with the cream and remove from the heat. Crumble the goat cheese and scatter the onions evenly over the pumpkin.

5. Cut a sheet of wax paper into a 10-inch round. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough under the sheet to make a crust, using the sheet as a guide. Remove the wax paper and carefully fit the crust over the pumpkin, tucking and crimping the perimeter to seal it completely.

6. Bake in the top third of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is browned. Using a small spatula around the edges of the skillet to release the crust, immediately unmold the tarte onto a serving platter (place a platter over the skillet and invert it). Cut it into wedges and serve warm or hot.


Deborah Madison's Chard and Saffron Tart

P1070844

Solitary weekends can be so lovely. You can sleep as late as you want, you can spend the entire day indoors with no reproach, you can have cold pancakes for breakfast, take long walks in the mist, and scheme about making totally-from-scratch Icebox Cake with a similarly food-obsessed blogger. You can wear the same ratty sweatshirt three days in a row, you can go from watching five episodes of Grey's Anatomy on one day to seeing La Grande Illusion the next, you can have a four-way Internet conversation for hours on end with your friends from Frankfurt, Boston and Los Angeles, and eat all the leftover vegetable tart you want.

Oh yes, lovely indeed.

For a girl's dinner last week, I made the Swiss chard-filled tart that Russ Parsons included in his article about Phil McGrath's sustainable farming operation near Los Angeles in early December. No other recipe has seemed as mouth-watering to me as that one in recent times. The sound of the words "yeasted", "tart", and "dough" together was enough to have me yearning for the kitchen on a daily basis. Doesn't it do the same for you?

The tart was a joy to put together - the dough was soft and pliable, the filling a snap. It took my oven 20 minutes longer than the recipe indicates to bake until it was properly cooked, so keep that in mind for your own ovens. The creme fraiche-enriched dough baked up into a marvelous crust that was crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. The filling was truly crammed with greens, and got its complexity from saffron, lemon peel (go easy on the lemon, I warn you), nutmeg and Parmigiano. The tart was gorgeous to look at, with its golden-brown filling studded with browned pine nuts, and even better to eat.

But even even better than that? Eating it the next day - when the cold of the refrigerator had miraculously transformed the trembling custard into something silky and smooth, when the greens relaxed into undulating waves through each slice of tart, when I could pick up a sturdy slice and eat it at the computer, chatting with my dear friend as she showed me her pregnant belly from more than 3,000 miles away.

As for the final wedge, at lunch on Sunday I drew from the fridge a Frigoverre of leftover tomato sauce (chopped onion, a few diced carrots, one can of tomatoes, fresh oregano - my grandmother's method), warmed it up and turned the sauce into a deep soup plate. I plopped the final piece of tart onto the sauce and and as the sweet flavors of the tomato sauce warmed the earthy tart, I realized that with all the blissful cheer inside, I'd barely noticed the dark gloom outside. Which really made my day. What more could I ask for?

Chard and Saffron Tart
Serves 6 to 8

Yeasted tart dough
1 teaspoon active dry yeast ( 1/2 package)
Pinch sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
About 1 1/4 cups unbleached white flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons crème fraîche

1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in one-fourth cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees) and set it in a warm place.

2. If the egg is cold from the refrigerator, cover it with hot water and let it sit a few minutes to bring it up to room temperature. Combine 1 cup of the flour and the salt in a bowl and make a well. Break the egg into the middle of it; add the crème fraîche and pour in the yeast mixture, which should be foamy with bubbles. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon to form a smooth, soft dough, adding more flour as necessary. Dust it with flour, gather it into a ball, set it in a clean bowl and cover. Let the dough rise in a warm place, 45 minutes to an hour. If you are not ready to shape the dough at this time, punch it down and let it rise again.

3. Flatten the dough, place it in the center of the tart pan, and press it out to the edge using either your knuckles or the heel of your hand. Add only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. If the dough shrinks back while you are shaping it, cover it with a towel, let it relax for 20 minutes, then finish pressing it out. It should be about one-fourth inch higher than the rim of the pan. It can be filled immediately or refrigerated until needed.

Tart
1 large bunch chard, enough to make 7 cups leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4 -inch dice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
Large pinch saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 recipe yeasted tart dough

1. Cut the chard leaves away from the stems and save the stems for another purpose. Chop the leaves into pieces roughly an inch square, wash them in a large bowl of water and set them aside in a colander.

2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a wide skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium heat; add the onion and cook it until it is translucent and soft, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, the chard leaves (by handfuls, if necessary, until they all fit) and the salt. Turn the leaves over repeatedly with a pair of tongs so that they are all exposed to the heat of the pan and cook until they are tender, 5 minutes or more. When the chard mixture is cooled, squeeze out any excess moisture with paper towels.

3. To make the custard, beat the eggs, then stir in the half and half, infused saffron, lemon peel, grated Parmesan, a few scrapings of nutmeg and the parsley. Stir in the chard and onion mixture. Season with more salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper.

4. Toast the pine nuts in a small pan over medium heat until they are lightly colored, 2 minutes. Pour the filling into the tart shell and scatter the pine nuts over the surface. Bake until the top is golden and firm, about 40 minutes.