Our wine-making pal, Nan Bailey, is the local Tom Sawyer. At harvest time at her Alexis Bailey Vineyard we are all invited to lunch, but first we have to pick. Kids and bees are everywhere, and appetites build to farmhand stature by noon.
Being lazy by nature, we bribe our way into the party with this harvest tart rather than with sweat equity. The idea is borrowed from France, but it gets more applause here in the Midwest. Garlic, greens and onions are spread on puff pastry and gilded with cheese and cream, but the grapes make it harvest food for us.
Cook to Cook: Puff pastry is surprisingly sturdy--it bakes fast, doesn't sog out and handles reheating like an old pro. And no other pastry comes off with such élan.
- 1 light-packed cup mixed salad greens (spring mix or baby romaine)
- A generous 1/2 cup good tasting seedless grapes
- 1 medium red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slivers
- Shredded zest of 1/2 large lemon
- 1 large garlic clove, fine chopped
- Leaves from 5 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 tablespoon good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
- Generous 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted (one 17.3 ounce package)
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
(Photo: Mette Nielsen)
1. Set one oven rack as low as possible. Preheat the oven to 500 F. Tear the greens into bite-sized pieces as you add them to a large bowl. Toss them with the grapes, onion, lemon zest, garlic, thyme, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
2. On a large ungreased cookie sheet, lay out the pastry sheets side by side so they overlap by 1/4 inch. Press the overlapping edges together to seal. Create a rim by folding the pastry edges up and over on themselves and pinching them together. You'll end up with a rectangle that is about 7-1/2 x 17 inches.
3. Fill the center of the tart with the vegetable-grape mixture, spreading it out so there is space between the pieces. Slip it onto the bottom rack of the oven, and bake 15 minutes. As the tart bakes, blend the heavy whipping cream and the cheese.
4. Remove the pan from the oven. Spoon the cheese mixture over the tart, spreading it out. Slip it back into the oven to bake another 6 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and barely picking up color. Pull the tart from the oven. Let it stand a few minutes, then cut it into 8 squares. Serve it right away or at room temperature. Although best eaten the day it's made, this tart does reheat well in a pinch.
Summer Tomato Tart
Follow the recipe as described above, substituting for the greens and grapes 1 to 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick, the leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, and 8 fresh basil leaves torn into small pieces. Do not blend them in a bowl, just have them ready, with the sliced onion called for in the original recipe.
Lay out the puff pastry as described above. Spread the tomatoes and onions on the tart. Scatter them with the garlic, the herbs, salt, pepper, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Take 3 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and zigzag them in ribbons over the tart.
Bake the tart as directed above, finishing it with thin slices of soft-style mozzarella or fresh goat cheese (about 2 ounces) during the last few minutes of baking. If you'd like, snipped chives could garnish the tart.
Winter Tart of Roast Vegetables and Endive
Prepare the original recipe, substituting for the greens 1 to 2 Belgian endive, thin sliced, and 1-1/2 cups roasted winter vegetables (rutabaga, carrot, turnip, yams, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) cut into small bite-sized pieces. Substitute for the grapes one cut-up Granny Smith or other tart apple. Continue the recipe as written.