Sunday, March 14, 2010

Caramelized Onion and Dried Tomato Tart

Or, in praise of slow cooking. There are some foods that just take to long hours, low heat, and loads of patience. Tomatoes stirred in a pot with olive oil, basil, and a little salt are one. And don't even get me started about the amazing transformation of pork shoulder after sitting in a smoker all day, rendering up the tastiest barbecue sandwiches imaginable. Onions are another. Cook 'em long and slow enough and their pungent greetings become sweet, melty goodbyes. Caramelized onions are my favorite bases for quiche, and this tart is a one-off motif from that, with no eggs and an open, rustic shape.

The markets open up in about a month, so I'm conscientiously trying to use up the food left in my freezer before then. This recipe uses some of the tomatoes I oven-dried in mass quantities last summer. Still to go: lots of zucchini, some squash, a ton of nectarines, cream peas, purple-hull peas, green beans, sweet potatoes, roasted red peppers, and roasted chiles. I'm kind of amazed.

Caramelized Onion and Dried Tomato Tart
Adapted from the Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

5 or 6 medium onions, peeled and sliced thin
a handful of dried tomatoes, slivered
2 big pinches of dried thyme
4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
Tart dough

Heat the butter or olive oil in a low-sided heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onions and thyme and cook over medium low heat until they are soft, juicy, and deeply browned (30-40 minutes). These pictures were taken at night and the quality is not great, but they'll give some idea of the progression:

Season the onions with salt to taste. Cook a few minutes more. Put in a bowl to cool. If the onions are very juicy, pour them into a strainer over a bowl to drain. Remove the liquid.

Roll out the tart dough into a 14-inch circle (or, for me, a rectangular shape that better fit the cookie sheet I was using). If it sticks to the counter, use liberal amounts of flour to keep it in line.

Brush off the excess flour, transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment (or a Silpat, or, just buttered, like I did) and let it firm up in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.

Spread the cooled onions over the dough and sprinkle the slivered tomatoes on top of them, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border around the edges.

Fold the border up over the edges. You can also do an egg-white wash for a shiny look, but I wasn't out to impress anyone.

Bake on the bottom rack of a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown on the bottom. Slide the tart off the pan onto a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Bonus Road Trip Feature!

Some law school friends and I got out of town for an awesome Spring Break down in Gulf Shores, Alabama this week.

Sourdough bread from Au Fond made good toast in the mornings. We ate it with coffee and tea on the wrap-around balcony of a friend's beach house. Many thanks again to Roger for having us!

Pls to be ignoring that box of bad, bad Cheez-Its. Ahem. While there was a little bit of homework (I've been reading articles for the law review until my eyes cross; luckily, it's a fun job. I learn random little nuggets of information that I may or may not ever use unless I one day realize my lifelong dream to nerd out on Jeopardy! In the meantime, I'm kept interested as I'm looking for something good to publish), there was mostly beach and Mecca. I mean, Publix.

Lord knows I love this city. But, people, we don't have Publices in Memphis. Leave me my quiet pining for the supermarket of my childhood.

Look what I found, so far from home!

Organic, pastured pork is great, but sometimes nothing will do but a Publix Cuban. I say, get 'em while the gettin's good.

Because coming straight back to Memphis was unthinkable after a couple of lazy, sand-and-sunscreen days, there was a side trip to New Orleans:

Cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde, natch.

You cannot see this at all, but it's spinach with garlic, ginger, and beef, with fried plaintains and coconut rice at a tiny African restaurant on Royal Street in the French Quarter. Bennichen's was the name, I think. Not very traditional New Orleansy, but tasty nonetheless. Besides, there was also gumbo, pralines, and Abita Amber earlier in the day to make the trip authentic.

Finally, for my friend Jessica, long-suffering, much-vindicated Saints fan that she is. The city is still celebrating!

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