This summer, I had the pleasure of cooking for my mother- and father-in-law at least a couple of times every week. The challenge was to make beautiful, appetizing meals that would entice my father-in-law, who is in hospice care, to eat. This particular dish was beautiful to look at and delicious as well. We were so excited because, for the first time in ages, he cleaned his plate! If you don’t believe me, check this out.
|Yes, we were so excited, we actually took a picture!|
Give this lovely tart a try and see if your family doesn’t clear their plates as well.
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached but normal flour will do.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening (Crisco is my preferred but I have had to use butter in some countries where Crisco is not available. It works but the crust is not as flakey.)
2-3 tablespoons of cold water
For the filling:
3 medium onions
1 1/2 oz or 40g pine nuts
8 oz or 225g mozzarella balls or bocconcini
10.5 oz or 300g red cherry tomatoes
10.5 oz or 300g red cherry tomatoes
10.5 oz or 300g yellow cherry tomatoes
4 orange mini sweet peppers
Small bunch fresh thyme
Put the flour, shortening and salt together in one bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the flour into the shortening until you have small crumbs.
Add the cold water a tablespoon at a time, blending with the tines of a fork, until the mixture forms a soft dough which can be rolled into a ball.
Wrap the ball in cling film and chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
When you are ready to bake, either roll out the dough and fit your pan or, if you are at your mother-in-law’s and you don’t have a rolling pin, slice the dough into thin pieces.
Lay them in the pan and quickly press them into a crust.
Trim the edges with a sharp knife and turn the trimmed pieces over. Press them in to make a nice even edge. Cover with cling film and put it in the fridge until you are ready to bake. (If baking immediately, you can skip this step.) If you are using a ceramic pie plate or casserole, take it out when you start preheating your oven so the ceramic dish can warm up a little. Some dishes cannot safely go directly from the refrigerator to the oven.
Okay, ready to bake? Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.
Slice your onions thinly and put them into a small pot with a good drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cook the onions down slowly over a medium heat until they caramelize and are nicely browned. Stir frequently and make sure not to let them burn. Set aside to cool.
Cut your sweet peppers into pieces about the same size as the cherry tomatoes.
Toast your pine nuts in a small skillet over a medium flame.
Shake the skillet often to keep them toasting evenly. This should take just a few minutes. Be careful not to let them burn. Set aside to cool.
Pull the leaves off of all but a few of the thyme stems, reserving some of the thinner stems for adding in whole, with leaves, before baking.
In a big bowl, start to assemble your tart filling. Add in the cherry tomatoes, cut peppers and mozzarella balls.
Sprinkle liberally with the thyme leaves and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add the cooled caramelized onions and stir thoroughly.
Pour the filling into the pie shell.
Top with the reserved thyme and the pine nuts.
Bake the tart for 45-50 minutes or until the crust is crispy and browned and the mozzarella balls are melted completely.
This is a great vegetarian main course but would also be delicious served in smaller slices with grilled chicken or salmon. I served it with poached salmon with creamy caper onion sauce on a bed of mixed greens.