Sunday, March 9, 2014

Leek and Zucchini Tarte Tatin

Created in the late 19th century by the sisters Tatin as a special apple dessert in their hotel restaurant, Tarte Tatin gained first French then worldwide popularity when famous 20th-century epicure Curnonsky published the recipe in his 1926-volume “La France Gastronomique.” The original ingredients were simple: sugar, apples and butter for the inside, flour, butter and water for the dough. This savory version is not much more complicated and the fresh vegetables shine.

I’ve spoken here before about the two years we lived in Balikpapan, Indonesia and the limited access we had to a variety of fresh vegetables. Aside from the local greens, I really only remember potatoes and green beans and carrots on offer. I had so taken for granted the well-stocked grocery stores of my youth but those two years gave me an appreciation for what I was missing. And then, because there is a God, we moved to Paris for three years of abundance and gorgeous markets with fresh seasonal produce of every variety. I bought Roger VergĂ©’s Vegetables and devoured both the sweet stories of his childhood in his father’s garden and mother’s kitchen and the simple recipes that featured all the goodness and light of the vegetables available to me. In short, I fell in love. I look back upon those years as an awakening to the potential of fresh vegetables to nourish with big flavor and beauty. Even though we have lived in several different countries since then with varying degrees of produce available, I’ve always tried to follow Chef VergĂ©’s instructions to buy the shiny eggplant, the greens that are crisp and vibrant, the firm carrot, the unblemished tomato and, if at all possible, the newly podded pea.

The week’s Sunday Supper theme is Meatless Meals but privately, in my own head, I’ve been calling it Vegetables on Center Stage. I’ve adapted this recipe from one of my new favorite cookbooks, another French one that focuses on vegetables in all their glory, The French Market Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes from My Parisian Kitchen by Clotilde Dusoulier.  Many thanks to my friend Tammi of Momma’s Meals for hosting this great event, which could not have come at a better time for me. I’ll be visiting my two vegetarian daughters in the United States soon so I know I’ll be pinning a bunch of these recipes to try while I’m there.

10 oz or 285g leeks
If they are more or less the same circumference, that would be good.
10 oz or 285g small zucchini
3 small purple onions (not quite 4 1/2 oz or 125g total weight)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
9 small cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Sea salt flakes
Black pepper
1 circle of short crust pie pastry (I used this recipe here.)

To serve: 3/4-1 oz or 25-30g Parmesan, freshly grated

Trim the hard green ends and the roots off of the leeks and then cut them into lengths of about one inch or two centimeters long.

Rinse them thoroughly in running water to get rid of any dirt that might be inside, but make sure to keep the pieces whole. Drain the water and set them on a towel to dry.

Add a good drizzle of olive oil to a stovetop pan, preferably one that is also ovenproof,  and place the leeks in the oil, running them around a little to make sure the whole bottom of the pan is oiled.

Rinse and trim the ends off of your zucchini. Cut them into lengths the same as the leeks.

Place them in the pan in and amongst the leeks.

Peel your purple onions and cut them into quarters, making sure to leave a bit of the core at the bottom of each piece. Place them in your pan, core side down, amongst the leeks and zucchini.

Put the pan on a medium fire and cook until the bottoms of the vegetables are beginning to brown. Check a piece of zucchini. It's less likely to fall apart.

Add in a good splash of water and pop a lid on the pan.

Allow the vegetables to steam for a few minutes. When you can poke a fork in the zucchini but still feel some resistance, take the lid off and let the moisture evaporate. Cook for a few more minutes or until the bottoms of the vegetables are nicely caramelized.

Carefully turn them over, trying to keep them upright in their places. I used a combination of a small spoon and tongs to make the turn. If your pan or its handle is not ovenproof, you can transfer the vegetables to a baking pan now. Make sure to oil the new pan and keep the vegetables brown side up.

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.

Add your cherry tomatoes to the pan, placing them around the leeks and zucchini as evenly as you can manage. Sprinkle the vegetables with a little salt and pepper. Remember that you are going to finish this with some grated Parmesan so that will add saltiness as well.

Pull the leaves off of the thyme sprigs and scatter them on top the vegetables.

Top the whole thing with your circle of pastry dough, tucking the sides in down around the vegetables.

Using a sharp knife, cut slits in the dough to allow the steam to escape. This will ensure that your crust comes out of the oven crunchy instead of soggy.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the tart crust is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the crust to loosen it.

Place your serving plate on top of your pan and, using oven mitts, quickly turn the pan over. Replace any pieces of vegetable that stuck to the pan.

Sprinkle liberally with freshly grated Parmesan and serve. I must confess that I didn’t use all the cheese before I took photos because that would have covered up the lovely vegetables. You go ahead and put it all on, unless you are taking pictures.


If you are looking for some great vegetarian options, I’ve got the best list of links for you right here:

Salads, Soups, Stews and Starters
Pastas, Pizzas and Casseroles
Tacos & Everything Wrapped
Other Main and Side Dishes

***This post contains affiliate links.***


  1. Oh my goodness, Stacy! The tarte looks sooo gourmet. But, your instructions make me feel like this cheery wonder is do-able!

    How wonderful, indeed that you got to live in gaie Paris!

    God Bless You for all you caring words while I was sick for almost 2 weeks. XOS!

  2. What a fascinating technique! I really have to try it!

  3. WOW what a fabulous dish. How creative never mind how delicious it must be!

  4. Oh my gosh! Your dish is beautiful! I love it and I would love to teat it ALL!

  5. I love the technique! It turns out so beautiful!

  6. What a neat way to make a looks amazing. Plus I love the chef's tips on how to pick out the best veggies :)

  7. That looks absolutely amazing, and uses all of my favorite veggies! Must try!

  8. Beautiful tart and beautiful presentation! I love how caramelised your vegetables are! Yum!

  9. I love your step by step photos. I've never used that combo before - parsnips and shallots are a favourite here - but leek and zucchini looks great.

  10. Love this crust! I have always done yogurt OR oil, never the two together. Have to try making it

  11. I have never seen a tart made this way before, but it is brilliant! I love the veggie combo in here too!

  12. What an awesome idea! I've tried apple tart tartin but never anything savoury like this. Looks absolutely delicious! Great step by step tutorial Stacy. Love caramelized onions... can't wait to try this!

  13. "Vegetables on Center Stage" is the perfect description of this dish. Fabulous and beautiful too. Such a fine meal indeed.

  14. Stacy, I absolutely love this dish!!! love the method in which you made this! so cool. . and what beautiful presentation. . esp love all the gorgeous veggies!! I hope you have this on your list to make for your daughters! Hope you guys have a great time!

  15. It's completely do-able, Kim! Our three years in Paris were both wonderful and hard, but the good certainly outweighed the bad once winter was over and the beautiful spring and summer days came around.

    I am glad you are feeling better now, my friend!

  16. You really do, Dorothy! This is the first time I've tried it with a savory filling so I was pleased who well it turned out.

  17. Thank you, Tammi, and thanks for hosting this great theme!

  18. Wish I could send you a slice, Jennifer!

  19. Thanks, Brianne! I am delighted to have another crust recipe in my repertoire now too.

  20. He starts the instructions with, and I quote, "If a vegetable is supposed to be glossy - like eggplants, cucumbers, peppers and zucchini - keep away if it looks dull." Every since, I've picked out the shiniest! And his tips for choosing other vegetables go on for another seven or eight column inches!

  21. Thank you, Jennifer. We really enjoyed it too.

  22. That's the best part, Manu! Caramelizing makes everything better.

  23. I did briefly consider adding baby new potatoes but I never considered parsnips. Next time!

  24. Thank you, Sarah! I was pretty pleased with it myself.

  25. It was my first time for a savory one as well, Laura, but I'll definitely be making it again. I'm thinking some wilted greens with garlic in amongst the veggies next time, perhaps.

  26. It came together wonderfully, Paola! I was afraid it would be sticky or oily but it was just beautiful. You need to try it!

  27. I adore vegetable tarts so I could devour this all by myself. Three years in Paris is the stuff of dreams!!

  28. Oh come on Summer! I can't wait to try this


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