Monday, September 21, 2009
Tarting It Up
As I've mentioned before, pastry is not my forte. I generally avoid baking, anything involving the words dough or batter, and I can, on very rare occasions, be seen getting enthusiastic about sweets--usually donuts and the occasional pie. So it may seem odd that I was so strongly drawn to a recipe that involved a pie crust and baking. And while I won't say it wasn't without it's petty annoyances (did I mention I don't even own a rolling pin?), the true minimal effort of this recipe was well worth it for the results. After all, who doesn't want to walk through the door after a long day to the smell of a tart in the oven? I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed flipping channels and scanning a few magazines while the smell of a lightly browning pie crust and slowly melting cheese wafted through the air. It was such a pleasant and unfamiliar smell in my home--which is generally peppered with the aromas of paprika, bacon and garlic--that I almost forgot they were my doing.
While basking in the scents of traditional home cookery was great, there was a supermarket shortcut involved that explains the recipe's appeal. It made use of frozen pie crust, which much like frozen puff pastry, can be an excellent shortcut for an impressive meal. While homemade pie crust isn't nearly as difficult or as involved as making puff pastry from scratch, I do think it's worth using as a time saver for both quick dinners and entertaining. There's nothing worse than entertaining and spending all your time in the kitchen. By making a tart with store bought pie crust you're saving wildly on time so you'll be composed and sweat-free by the time your guests arrive to a calm house filled to the brim with the scent of baking. Some people think of it as cheating, and that's fine, because it's what you put into the tart that counts, and I think seasonal veggies and delicious cheeses more than make up for one supermarket purchase. After all, as much as I preach about organic vegetables and using great ingredients, I do believe the secret to pretty much everything is moderation. Despite what we know about how bad canned foods can be for you, I also think if you're using one or two cans of rinsed beans every few weeks you're probably okay--however, if you're popping open a Chef Boyardee or Hormel chili every night, you might want to check out this article and rethink it.
But on to the good stuff. Other than some issues with rolling out the dough (what with using a wine bottle and all), the prep was a breeze. The zucchini chops up quickly, and the potatoes slice pretty fast as well (if you're not so good with a knife you can use a mandolin or the slicing attachment on your food processor). After quickly sauteing everything in a large pan you just toss in the cheese and herbs and fill the crust with the mixture. I added in a few dollops of ricotta (not in the original recipe) for color and flavor, since I'm a sucker for any kind of white pizza or gooey tart. All that was left was to bake, which took about and hour. Other than periodically checking in to make sure the crust wasn't burning, I pretty much sat back and relaxed. It even made my day when a friend stopped by and commented on how great dinner smelled. So if you want a quick meal that will impress anyone, give this one a go. It makes use of smart shortcuts and fresh ingredients for a dish that I can say with certainty won't disappoint. And you could easily make multiples (I made 2) if you happen to be entertaining.
Potato, Leak and Feta Tart
adapted from Real Simple
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into half-moons
2 small zucchini, cut into half-moons
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta (about 2 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 Red Bliss potatoes (8 ounces), thinly sliced
1 store-bought 9-inch pie crust
4-5 tablespoons ricotta
1. Heat oven to 375º F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, zucchini,1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the feta and dill. Add the potatoes and toss to combine.
2. On a piece of parchment paper, roll the pie crust to a 12-inch diameter. Slide the paper onto a baking sheet. Spoon the potato mixture onto the pie crust, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the edge of the pie crust over the edge of the potato mixture. Dollop the top with a few tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Bake (covering with foil if the crust gets too dark) until the pie crust is golden brown and the potatoes are tender, 50 to 60 minutes.