For the past few months my ideas and inspiration for making new meals gravitated towards baking. Either sweet or savory, it did not matter as long as my hands are touching dough or mixing batter. My excuse is the winter weather and the need to feel warmth even if it comes from a 350 degree oven. But the truth is I love to bake. I can’t lay it all on the winter chill. Whether it is savory, like my beef empanadas, or something sweet like lemon syrup saffron cake, I get immense satisfaction stirring, whipping, kneading and baking. Now, all I want to do is bake bread and make this irresistible onion tart.
For the past month or so, I put this savory tart on the back burner. Actually, I waffled between making French onion soup, a classic French flat bread Pissialadière, and a creamy onion tart. Every time I saw a photo of caramelized onions topping a savory crust or custard on social media my hunger resurfaced. Clearly, I craved the taste of slowly browned and fragrant onions. It was time to give in.
I have Mom’s recipe for Quiche Loraine that I have made for years, but I wanted to try something a little different. With the premise of testing a new recipe from Deborah Madison’s cookbook, Vegetable Literacy, I forged ahead. It is a big tease looking through a vegetable cookbook in the middle of February. All these tantalizing photos of bright spring and summer vegetables dancing off the pages as I look out my window and feel the chill of the snow-covered landscape. Yet, in between my day dreams of freshly harvested greens and succulent sweet tomatoes, I kept returning to the chapter on onions and this fragrant onion tart made quite an impression.
Pastry Crust for an Onion Tart
There were two things that caught my attention, the first one being she makes a 100% whole wheat pastry crust. Often, I add some whole wheat pastry flour to my flour mix when I make pie dough. It adds a nutty flavor and more texture. It is my experience, a pie crust made with nothing but whole wheat flour is often dry and heavy. In all my years of testing Deborah Madison’s recipes I never experienced a heavy or dry recipe. Her cooking is not the vegetarian cooking of the 70’s, it is much more refined. Though I am sure her whole wheat pie crust is a good one, I did change the recipe slightly by substituting some whole wheat pastry flour with the whole wheat flour. There is less gluten in pastry flour, so I knew it would help create a lighter crust.
Fillings in Onion Tart
Additionally, I was surprised that she uses white onions in the tart not sweet onions like Vidalia onions. The only times I see white onions in a recipe is for Mexican food. White onions are less sharp than yellow onions, therefore your eyes will not sting as much when you mince them. That makes a big difference when you must dice 3 large onions. A good sharp knife helps as well because it makes a cleaner cut.
The onions are diced and cooked in butter until light brown. This process takes some time but be patient. It won’t take as long as caramelizing onions. The subtle difference between browned and caramelized onions is noticeable here with a light onion flavor that is delightfully sweet. I love caramelized onions, but I have never tasted onions so sweet before. Also, the sweet browned onions are very fragrant which compliments the onion tart nicely.
Instead of bacon, I quickly fried sliced prosciutto and added it to the filling. The smokiness of bacon tastes great with cheese and eggs, but I wanted to keep the flavor on the delicate side to compliment the sweet onion flavor of the tart. If you ever have more prosciutto than you need, this is the perfect recipe to help use up a couple of slices.
Onion Tart for Days
After making this onion tart I still crave that luscious sweetness and fragrance of slowly cooked browned onions. It is just too good to eat once in a while. Fragrant, sweet, and irresistible onion tart is perfect for a light supper, luncheon, brunch or appetizer. They are perfect cut into small bites for a cocktail party or as part of a brunch with friends. This is a meal for any season or any time of day and a real crowd pleaser.
Irresistible Onion Tart
- ¾ cup plus 2 Tb (123 g) Whole wheat flour
- ¼ cup (38 g) whole wheat pastry flour
- 6 TB (106 g) cold butter, cut into small pieces
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 3 TB ice water
Onion Tart filling
- 1 TB olive oil for frying the prosciutto
- 2 thin slices of prosciutto or 2 pieces of bacon (optional)
- 2 TB (7 g) butter
- 1½ lbs (725 g) white onions, diced
- 2 tsp fresh thyme or rosemary minced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup (125 ml) milk
- ½ cup (125 ml) crème fraîche or heavy cream
- 1 cup (70 g) aged or smoked Gouda cheese, grated using the large holes on a box grater
Make the pie dough
Make the dough by hand or use a stand mixer.
By hand: Add the two types of flour and Kosher salt to a large bowl. Add the butter and mix the butter and flour with your hands. Press down on the butter between your thumbs and fingers to break up the pieces and press into the flour. Continue to do this until the butter and flour are mixed together and looks like pebbles.
Add the water and mix together with your hands. Add more water if it looks and feels dry, about a teaspoon at a time.
Gather the dough and turn it out onto the counter. Press together and form a flat disc in the shape of your tart pan, about an inch (2.5 cm) thick. A circle, square or rectangle shape.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour or more. The tart dough can be made 3 days in advance and kept wrapped in the refrigerator.
By stand mixer: Add the flour to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the pieces of butter and mix the butter and flour on low until the flour looks like pebbles. Add the water and stir on low speed until just mixed together. Add more water if the pastry dough looks dry. Be careful not to over-mix the dough. Turn the dough onto a counter and shape into a flat disc into the shape of your tart pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour or more.
Make the tart filling
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C. If you have a baking stone place it in your oven on the middle rack. For a crispy bottom crust, you want to heat the stone in the oven for an hour before baking.
If using the prosciutto, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to a skillet and turn the heat to medium high. Slice the prosciutto into strips, about a 1/2-inch (1 cm) wide and not longer than 2-inches (5 cm) long. When the skillet is hot, add the sliced prosciutto and cook until the strips are brown and crispy. Stir occasionally to prevent the strips from sticking and burning. About 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and spoon the prosciutto slices on a plate. Set aside.
If you are using bacon add the two pieces of bacon to a hot and dry skillet and cook the bacon until they are brown and crisp. Turn the pieces over every now and then for even browning. Remove the bacon from the pan onto a plate lined with paper towels and pat dry. When the bacon is cool, crumble them into bite size pieces. Set aside.
Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Turn the heat to medium and add the butter. When the butter is melted and stops sizzling, add the diced onions. Stir to coat the onions with butter. Add the thyme, a pinch of Kosher salt and a couple of grounds of fresh black pepper. Stir to mix.
Cook the onions on medium to medium-low until they are very soft and lightly browned, not caramelized, but starting to go in that direction. This is a slow process, about 25 minutes. The onions will be very soft and translucent with an even light brown color. While cooking, occasionally stir the onions for even browning and prevent them from sticking and burning. Taste for seasoning and add more thyme, Kosher salt or black pepper if needed. Turn off the heat and cool.
Remove the tart dough from the refrigerator and let it rest on a lightly floured work surface for 10 minutes. Pound the dough with your rolling pin a few times to relax and shape the dough. Roll the dough in the shape of your tart pan to about a ¼-inch (.5 cm) thickness, and large enough to fit the shape of your tart pan with a slight over hang. For a 9-inch (23 cm) round tart pan the diameter should be around 12-inches (30 cm).
Drape the dough into your tart pan and trim the edges to an inch (2.5 cm) overhang. Fold the edge of the dough inward and press along the sides and bottom of the pastry to fit the dough into the pan. The height of the tart is equal to the height of the pan. Place the tart pan on a rimmed sheet pan and loosely cover the tart with plastic wrap. Chill the tart in the refrigerator for 15 - 20 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and crème fraîche.
When the onions are cool and just before you want to assemble the tart, add the grated cheese, onions and prosciutto if using, to the egg mixture. Stir to mix.
Remove the tart from the refrigerator and add the egg mixture. Even out the filling and place in the oven. Bake until the tart is golden brown and set in the middle, about 45-50 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Remove the side of the tart pan by resting the tart on top of a large can, (like canned tomatoes), and slide the side rim down. Make sure the crust is not sticking anywhere along the rim before you slide it off.
Serve warm or room temperature.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I find it amazing that I can talk about my history and memories not just in a couple of decades, but in several decades. Over a half century to be exact. That sounds old to me, but I don’t feel that old. It is a momentous feeling to think about a friendship that is over 50 years old or remember an experience that happened 30 years ago. Even my food memories hold a place in my archives situated between remembrances of day-to-day life and momentous occasions. One such food memory that stands out is the first time I ate beef empanadas over 30 years ago.
It couldn’t be any clearer than if it happened yesterday. The sweet and savory flavors of the beef filling warmed my heart and surprised me. At the time I was pregnant with my first child, so this might anchor my taste memory. The sweet raisins made the savory meat filling come alive with each bite. I’ve had braised beef filled with raisins before, like in braciole, but raisins in beef empanadas are an addictive combination. I love it and often crave this Mediterranean flavor. Unfortunately, finding beef empanadas with the sweet and savory meat filling is more difficult than you’d think.
Finally, to satisfy my craving for sweet and savory beef empanadas, I decided to undertake the task of making them at home. What I learned during this process is, just like pot sticker dough, corn tortillas, or pie dough, the process of making the dough is easy in theory and practice. Yet, getting the dough’s texture just right takes some additional practice and helpful suggestions from experienced hands. Fortunately, there are two options: you can make empanada dough or buy it ready-made and shaped.
I tested both options and feel confident recommending buying the empanada dough if you don’t want to make it. I also believe buying pastry might be the difference between making empanadas this weekend or placing it on your bucket list. Believe me I get it, after-all it has taken me 30 years to finally make empanadas for myself. According to my recipe from Bon Appetit, Goya is the recommended brand. Find frozen empanada dough in the frozen food section with other frozen Goya products. They come in packages of 10 pre-cut pastry discs. Another bonus is they are vegetarian/vegan friendly.
Don’t let me stop you from making empanada dough if that is your desire. Click, this link for a recipe at laylita.com. Included with the recipe is a helpful video showing how to assemble the empanadas. I made this recipe by hand, with butter and with a flour mixture of 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour. Empanada pastry is different from pie dough in that it is not flaky, and is supposed to absorb the juices from the filling keeping a crumbly texture.
As for empanada filling, anything goes. There are many traditional fillings from South American and Central American countries, and within these countries each region has another variation. I am not sure of the origin of my favorite beef, raisin and Spanish olive filling so I feel at liberty to play around with the seasoning. The warm spices like cumin and cinnamon give the beef a lot of depth of flavor. Feel free to substitute it with ground pork, ground lamb, ground turkey, or shredded chicken. If you want a vegetarian empanada, substitute the beef with the filling from Swiss Chard and Feta Stuffed Pastry, or make this stuffed pastry as an option. I wonder how my Ratatouille made with Fennel and Chickpeas recipe would taste encased in empanada pastry?
My empanada recipe is slightly adapted from Argentinian Beef Empanadas from Bon Appetit, February 2017. I added additional spices and slightly adjusted their technique.
Where did the time go, and why did I wait so long to make beef empanadas? Beef empanadas are delicious either using homemade or purchased pastry dough. I know Joe is excited about having a freezer full of beef empanadas at his disposal. They make great snacks, appetizers, picnic food, or to eat for any meal of the day. Serve them plain or with chimichurri sauce.
3 Tips for Making the Perfect Beef Empanadas
- To ensure your empanadas have a tight seal and don’t explode in the oven, assemble the empanadas when the filling is at a cool room temperature or chilled. When the filling is cool there is less liquid oozing over the pastry.
- Second, when assembling the empanadas, make sure the filling stays compact in the center and does not roll out to the edge. Making a tight seal along the edge is important to ensure the empanadas do not leak.
- Third, once the empanadas are all assembled, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to an hour. This chilling time allows the dough to relax and secure the seal. Of all the tips to remember, chilling the empanadas before you bake them is the most important.
Sweet and Savory Beef Empanadas
- 3 TB olive oil divided
- 1.5 lbs (750 g) ground beef
- 2 onions chopped
- 2 red bell peppers chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 3 TB ground cumin
- 2 TB sweet paprika
- 1 TB dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground clove
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) chicken stock
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt plus more for seasoning
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) raisins
- 1/2 cup Spanish green olives pitted and rough chopped
- 3 packages Puff pastry dough for Turnovers/Empanadas* preferably Goya or homemade empanada dough
- You will need 2-3 large rimmed sheet pans. If you only have 2 sheet pans bake the empanadas over two batches.
If you are making homemade empanada dough , make it first then refrigerate it while you make the meat filling.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a12-inch (29 cm) skillet (or Dutch Oven), at medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the meat and cook until browned with no visible pink spots. While the meat cooks, break it up using the side of a wooden spoon. Season with a pinch, about ¼ tsp, of Kosher salt and stir to mix.
Remove the ground beef using a slotted spoon and place on a plate and loosely cover aluminum foil. Reserve for later.
Lower the heat to medium then add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the chopped onions and bell peppers. Stir to evenly coat and cook until the onions and peppers have softened, but not browned, about 15 minutes. Stir frequently so the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add the minced garlic, stir and cook for about one minute.
Add the browned meat and any juices, bay leaf, cumin, paprika, oregano, ground cinnamon, ground clove and cayenne pepper to the meat mixture and stir to evenly mix. Cook for about one minute.
Add the chicken stock, sugar and a 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt, and several rounds of freshly ground black pepper. Stir the mix, scraping along the bottom of the pan with your spoon to loosen up any browned bits. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the liquid is evaporated.
Stir in the raisins and olives then transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper or sugar if needed. Remove the bay leaf. Allow the filling to cool down to a cool room temperature or cover and refrigerate for about an hour or more. The beef filling can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept in an air tight container in the refrigerator.
Assemble the Empanadas
Remove the defrosted purchased dough, or homemade dough, from the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
For the homemade dough, follow the instructions given with your recipe.
Pre-heat the oven for 375°F / 190°C and place the racks in the upper and lower third position in the oven. Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.
Fill a glass or small bowl with water and keep at your work area.
Place 6 pastry discs on a work surface. To prevent the pastry from sticking to your work surface keep the paper divider under the empanada pastry.
Add 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each disc. Dab your finger in the water and paint the edge of one pastry with water. Bring the two sides together by picking up the center points of the top and bottom of the pastry circle making a half moon shape. Starting at the center, pinch the edges together and move your fingers down both sides, pinching along the way to seal the edges.
Lay the empanada flat on the work surface and run your fingers over the mounded part of the pastry to work out any air around the filling. Press down to secure the edges. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.
Place the empanada on a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet and continue until all the filling is used up. Loosely drape the assembled empanadas with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, so they do not dry out.
Each sheet pan holds about 12 empanadas. When one sheet pan reaches capacity, loosely cover the empanadas with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour. Continue assembling the remaining empanadas and refrigerate for 30 minutes – 1 hour.
Remove the empanadas from the refrigerator and baste each empanada with an egg yolk and water wash. Bake for 25-35 minutes, rotating the sheet pans front to back and top to bottom, half way through. The empanadas are done when they have a nice golden brown color and slightly darker around the edges.
Do ahead note: Unbaked empanadas will keep for 3 months in the freezer. Freeze them on a sheet pan until they are frozen solid, then transfer them into freezer bags and keep in the freezer.
Goya makes puff pastry dough for turnovers/empanadas. They are found in the freezer section of your grocery store with other Goya products. This product should not be confused with puff pastry dough found in the dessert freezer section of the store.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Sometimes when I begin a new cooking project, I need to forage ahead with blind faith and fingers crossed. Lingering in the back of my conscious is a belief that everything will work. The last thing I want to worry about is my latest “masterpiece” ending up in the trash can. This tomato tart recipe is a perfect example of my latest cooking adventure starting with confidence from blind faith.
I have always wanted to make a tomato tart. Every time I see a photograph of one, I drool over the pictures and imagine tomatoes roasting in the oven, cradled in a buttery pastry crust. Unfortunately, I don’t always believe photographs of tomato tarts show any real likeness to a real-life fully cooked one. Tomatoes consist mostly water and a tart baked with a lot of tomatoes could easily become a soggy mess. So, I often wondered what I was seeing in the tempting photographs was accurate. None the less, I never made a savory tomato pastry, so I can’t say for certain how they look in real-life.
Taking inspiration from a cookbook I am reading, Six Seasons, A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden, I finally managed to motivate myself and make a tomato tart. I also needed to use up some leftover ingredients as well. Often some of my best meals are the result of needing to use up the leftover ingredients from a former meal. If you haven’t noticed already, a regular statement of mine is, “I created … because, I had leftover …. Now … is a family favorite”.
There are two recipes in “Six Seasons” cookbook that create the foundation for my tomato tart recipe: Israeli-Spiced Tomatoes, Yogurt Sauce and Chickpeas, and a recipe for Pecan Pie Dough. The Israeli-spiced tomatoes have a bright flavor that compliments the natural sweetness in fresh summer tomatoes. It is a delicious salad with the yogurt sauce and chickpeas. This recipe gave me the idea of making a tomato tart using the same seasoning and preparation technique for marinating the tomatoes. I also had two ripe heirloom tomatoes on my window sill giving me the use or lose stare-down.
I also wanted to make the nut pie pastry crust, and Joshua McFadden has an alluring recipe using pecans. A tomato tart seemed like the perfect recipe to use a nut pie crust. Plus, and I am always open for any excuse to bake. For my recipe, I substituted the pecans with walnuts, and reduced the amount of sugar to one tablespoon.
More recipes inspired by Joshua McFadden, Summer Vegetable and Steak Salad.
The biggest challenge when baking tomatoes and pastry dough, is keeping the crust from getting a soggy bottom. If you know the challenges ahead, taking the necessary steps to prevent them, will guarantee a beautiful flaky pie crust. With the two foundation recipes set, I went about making the tart and using a few necessary steps to create a tomato tart with a nutty and flaky crust that was anything but soggy.
For my first step, I par-baked the pie crust. Par-baking a pie crust is a technique used for many types of pies and tarts, like lemon meringue pie. Partially baking a pie crust before adding the filling helps produce a dry and flaky pie crust. It might take longer to finish the pie, but this technique really works.
Even a par-baked crust needs a layer of protection between the crust and the filling. For this recipe, I decided to baste a thin layer of Dijon mustard across the bottom of the pre-baked crust. The mustard adds some tang and will mix well with the ricotta cheese. If you do not like Dijon mustard, baste a layer of egg wash over the bottom of the par-baked crust. It does the same job as the mustard without adding any additional flavor.
Try this recipe for potato salad with tomatoes and summer vegetables.
Firing up the grill this weekend? Grilled Chicken with Poblano Chili Cream Sauce
Spread over the mustard, I added a layer of ricotta cheese. Good quality fresh ricotta is so creamy it is worth the higher price. If you can find some at your grocery store, I recommend it. In this tart, the ricotta cheese layer absorbs any of the juices from the tomatoes which helps keep the ricotta from drying out and the crust dry. A lot of tomato tart recipes do not call for ricotta cheese. I added it because it was another leftover ingredient I needed to use up before it expired. The ricotta’s creamy flavor is a nice contrast to the roasted tomatoes. Also, adding the ricotta makes the tart more substantial as a main course for lunch or a light super.
For the final step, I seasoned the tomatoes and let them marinate for an hour. The salt with the spices cause the tomatoes to release some of their liquid. Later, before I arranged the tomatoes around the tart, I used a paper towel to blot the tomato slices and dry them up a bit. The tomatoes marinate while the crust par-bakes, so no additional time is added to the whole process.
It might seem like a lot of steps, but they all add up and work. The result is a tomato tart with a nutty and flaky crust, with a creamy ricotta and roasted tomato filling. I started making this tomato tart with blind faith and fingers crossed. Fortunately, after thinking ahead I came up with solutions to solve any challenges along the way. With inspiration from creative chefs as guidance, I made a tomato tart that I am proud of. There is no false advertising with these photos. What you see is what you get.
Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Mediterranean Seasoning
- Walnut Pastry Dough recipe follows
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp sumac*
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
- 2 to matoes medium to large size
- 1 cup 8 oz / 241 g fresh ricotta
- Zest of one lemon finely grated
- 2 tsp lemon thyme roughly minced
- 4 medium size leaves of fresh basil chiffonade
- Kosher salt if needed
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 TB 3/4 oz / 11 g Dijon mustard
- Finely grated Pecorino Romano Cheese optional
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Garnish with fresh lemon thyme and torn basil leaves
Walnut Pie Dough
- 1/2 cup 2 oz / 58 g walnuts
- 1 2/3 cups 7.25 oz / 208 g All-purpose Flour, plus more for rolling
- 1 TB granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 4 oz 113 g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (1 stick)
- 2 TB ice cold water more if needed
Walnut Pie Dough - Makes enough for one 9-inch (cm ) single crust pie or galette
Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until a fine and even crumble. Be careful to not over-process the nuts into walnut butter. Pour the walnuts into a mixing bowl and add the flour, sugar and Kosher salt. Mix the ingredients together with a wire whisk until evenly combined. Add the cold butter pieces to the flour mixture and toss to coat the butter with flour. Smush the butter with your fingers into the flour until you get a pebbly mixture of all different sizes. Add 2 TB of ice water and using your hands briefly toss to mix and form a ball. If the dough seems dry add more ice water, one tablespoon at a time.
Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and place the dough ball on the surface. Starting at the upper edge of your dough, use the heel of your hand to press down and smear a portion of the dough away from you. Use only one motion per part. Continue to smear a portion of the dough away from you until you have worked your way through the ball of dough, about 4-5 smears. Gather the dough and form a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days. The dough will keep in the freezer for 3 months.
When you are ready to bake, take the tart dough out of the refrigerator and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. This is also a good time to pre-heat your oven to 400°F (204°C). If you have a baking stone place it on a rack in the middle of the oven. Once rested, sprinkle your counter surface with flour and place the dough in the center. Whack the dough with a lightly floured rolling pin. Whack the dough moving from left to right to flatten it out. Turn the dough a quarter turn and whack 4 more times, moving across the disk from left to right. Turn the dough over and repeat 2 more times. Turn the dough over again and repeat. This process helps the dough to form a circle shape.
Roll out the dough with your rolling pin. Always starting at the center of the dough, place your rolling pin in the center and roll away from you. Turn the dough a quarter turn and roll across the dough beginning in the center and roll out. Repeat. Turn the dough over and roll our the dough until you have a 12-inch (30 cm) circle and the dough is about 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. Dust the countertop with flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.
Once you have completed rolling out your dough, place your rolling pin across the middle and lift and drape the dough in half over the rolling pin and towards you. Lift your pastry draped rolling pin across the center of a 9-inch (23 cm) tart pan with removable bottom, and unfold the dough over the pan. Lift the dough edges and ease the dough into place, carefully pressing the dough into the corners without stretching it. Trim the edge of the dough and fold over, into the tart pan to form a thicker tart side. Press the sides of the dough up against the side of the tart pan and even out the edge. Fix any cracks. You want the sides of the tart pastry to be even all around and not too thick. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Par-bake the walnut pie dough. Once the dough in the tart pan has chilled for 30 minutes cover the dough with aluminium foil and make a well. The foil should be wider than the tart pan to lift the sides and remove it filled with the pie weights. Fill the interior of the foil well with pie weights or dried beans. Spread them out so they evenly cover the surface of the tart bottom. Place the tart pan on a sheet pan the place the whole thing on the middle rack or baking stone. Bake for 15 minutes then remove the aluminium foil with the pie weights off the tart shell and remove. Turn the heat down to 325°F (162°C) and continue baking for 20 minutes. You want to dry out the crust, but not let it get too brown. Reduce the heat to 300°F (149°C) if the crust edges starts to get too dark. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes. Turn the oven temperature up to 375°F (190°C)
Meanwhile, while the dough is chilling for the first time (before you roll it out), mix together the minced garlic, sumac, ground colander, ground cumin, Kosher salt, and red pepper flakes into a small bowl.
Slice the tomatoes into thick slices across the middle about 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. Set the tomato slices on a sheet pan in one layer. Sprinkle the seasoning evenly over the tomatoes and let it marinate for one hour.
In a small mixing bowl, stir until smooth and creamy the ricotta cheese, lemon zest, minced lemon thyme and basil. Taste the ricotta. If your fresh ricotta is salty leave it alone. If you think it needs salt, add about 1/4 tsp Kosher salt and stir to combine. Set aside or refrigerate until needed.
While the par-baked tart shell is cooling, line a couple of plates with paper towels. Place the seasoned tomato slices on the paper towel lined plates, seasoned side facing up. Pour any tomato juices and seasoning into the bowl with the ricotta cheese and stir.
Once cooled baste a thin layer of Dijon mustard across the bottom of the tart pastry. If you are not a fan of mustard, baste a lightly beaten egg across the bottom of the tart.
Spread the ricotta cheese evenly over the mustard in the tart.
If using , sprinkle a light layer, about 1-2 TB, of Pecorino Romano cheese over the ricotta cheese.
Layer the tomato slices, seasoned side up, evenly around the tart in a decorative fashion. You will need to overlap each slice because they will shrink while baking. If you have large heirloom tomatoes, you might need to cut them in half to fit as many tomatoes as you can in the tart pan. Any leftover tomato slices you can eat for lunch or a delicious snack.
If using, lightly sprinkle Pecornio Romano cheese over the tomatoes, then drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the tomatoes.
Place the assembled tart on a sheet pan, then place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then check to see if the crust is browning to dark. If the crust edge is browning too quickly, cover the rim with a aluminum foil, but careful not to cover the tart filling. Continue baking, checking the tart every 10 minutes or less, when you get closer to the end. It could take around 50 minutes total time. The tart is done when the juices all around the tart are bubbly, the tomatoes are shriveled and the Romano cheese is browning on top. Also, the crust is a nice golden-brown color.
Remove the tart from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 20 minutes.
Remove the tart pan rim. Carefully place the tart on top of a large can of tomatoes or other can or bowl with stable flat top. Carefully hold the pan rim and slide it down off the tart. Place the tart on a cooling rack and continue to cool. When cool use a wide spatula to help slide the tart off the bottom portion of the tart pan. (Or you can leave it alone if you don't want to take any chances). Garnish right before serving with fresh lemon thyme and born fresh basil leaves.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Best eaten the day it is made.
Sumac is the ground berries from a Sumac bush. It has a slightly bitter taste and a popular seasoning in Mediterranean cuisine. There is no great substitute to resemble it. If you do not have it, or cannot get it. Sprinkle finely grated lemon zest over the tomatoes when it is done baking.
If you do not own a tart pan, you can make this tart a galette. However, there are some changes in the preparation and baking. There is no need to par-bake the dough. After rolling out the dough, Move the dough to a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Arrange the tart ingredients over the pastry dough in the same order as in the instructions, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the rim of the dough over the ingredients and pleat to seal. Refrigerate the galette for 30 minutes. Brush the dough with melted butter, olive oil, or egg wash and bake, following the instructions above.
Some Mediterranean spices are easily available at your grocery store. Kalustayan’s in New York City is a very reliable store for all kinds of spices and food items. You and buy online or in person. Click here for Aleppo Pepper, and Sumac.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
It appears that many cultures have a traditional stuffed pastry snack, at least in the Mediterranean. In Greece, Spanakopita is a popular appetizer made with phyllo dough, spinach and feta cheese. I also just learned about an Israeli stuffed pastry, Bureka, pronounced börek. Like spanakopita, it originated from Greece and Turkey but landed in Israel. Essentially, Burekas are individual stuffed pastry made with puff pastry or phyllo dough and filled with a savory filling of meats, cheese or vegetables.
Earlier this week I really wanted to bake, but I was in the mood for something savory. Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of savory baking recipes in my memory box, so I looked to a new cookbook I borrowed from the library, Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft. Uri Scheft is a baker from Israel and owns bakeries in Tel Aviv and New York City. His cookbook focuses on Israeli bread baking. This is a wonderful cookbook with clearly written instructions along with photographs featuring each step. Reading this cookbook is like having Uri Scheft standing at your side and calmly teaching you how to bake bread.
Savory Stuffed Pastry
I did not have the time to bake bread and go through the different proofing stages so I decided to bake one of the burekas recipes featured in his cookbook. The photograph of the Swiss Chard bureka was so appealing and I could clearly visualize a group of friends sitting around a table, having drinks, eating burekas with tahini, olives and pickles. It was an all are welcome greeting with a large platter of delicious bites.
At the time, there were three things that attracted me to the recipe: the photograph as mentioned earlier, Swiss chard, and store-bought pastry dough. As Uri points out, puff pastry is very difficult for the average home baker to make, so buying puff pastry is a great time-saving alternative. I like to make a lot of food from scratch, but now puff pastry dough is out of my league. Buying it saves me a lot of time and worry.
I love braised Swiss chard. This leafy green is not as soft and mild as spinach, or bitter and tough like kale. It stands between the two in flavors and texture. I also love the vivid yellow and purple stems in rainbow chard. Swiss chard has a great balance of body and flavor that is not too bitter. With a sprinkle of lemon zest over Swiss chard and this bitter green vegetable really brightens up.
More recipes with Mediterranean Feel
Uri Scheft’s recipe had all my favorite ingredients with the convenience of store-bought puff pastry dough and I was eager to try it. This is not a difficult recipe to make, but working with puff pastry has its challenges. Each time I bake with it I get a different outcome. So clearly, there is more I should learn. However, listed here are a few key considerations when baking with puff pastry.
Good to know tips working with stuffed pastry
Look for good quality puff pastry made with all butter. The butter helps the laminating process of the pastry and creates the flakes.
My purchased puff pastry came in a one pound box with 2 sheets. The recipe calls for 5 strips of pastry cut at least 4 inches wide and about 12 inches long. How you figure the placement and division of the strips is up to you. I pinched the two pieces together and rolled out the pastry to the dimensions I needed. Unfortunately, I did not achieve a lot of puff. This could be for many reasons, one being the pastry dough is made with vegetable oil and not butter. Or, the dough was too warm. I often find the layers stick together. Here is a great article from Bon Appetit about working with puff pastry dough.
Remove as much of the liquid from the cooked vegetables drained out. Excess liquid will make the pastry soggy and weigh it down. Gently press on the vegetables in a fine mesh strainer with the back of a wooden spoon. Be careful not to mush the vegetables.
Make sure the prepared filled pastries are cold before you put them in a preheated oven. Either place in the freezer for twenty minutes or refrigerate for one hour. Don’t skip this step. The butter in the pastry dough must be cold to create a nice flaky pastry.
Advance preparation: Make the bureka and place them on a rimmed baking sheet in the freezer. Once they are frozen, put the burekas in a freezer bag and keep in the freezer for up to a month. When you are ready to bake, paint the egg wash over the frozen burekas and place them directly on a hot baking stone or an upside rimmed baking sheet in the preheated oven. Bake until golden brown.
For the Love of New Discoveries
I am sure by now you know how much I love learning about new foods and techniques. Cooking and baking is always a process of discovery, whether I made the dish for many years or just for the first time. New discoveries energize me and make me more curious. I was thrilled to learn about this savory stuffed pastry and hope to perfect my technique as I continue to make them. Happy cooking.
As always, I would love to hear from you and about your culinary adventures. You and follow me on Instagram @lemonthymeandginger, Facebook or leave a comment under this recipe on my blog.
Stuffed Pastry with Swiss Chard and Feta
Stuffed pastry with Swiss chard and feta cheese makes a great appetizer or serve for any meal of the day. This recipe is an adaption of a traditional Israeli snack called Bureka. Serve with yogurt tahini spread, olives, and hard-boiled eggs, to create the perfect al fresco meal. Please don't be discouraged by the long prep time. Most of the prep time is waiting for the dough to chill, or the vegetables to cool. With the cooling and chilling time in mind, just make sure you have plenty of time to make these savory stuffed pastries. This stuffed pastry recipe can be made in advance and frozen for up to one month for your convenience. This recipe is slightly adapted from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft.
Swiss Chard Filling
- 12 oz 342 g Swiss chard
- 5 oz 142 g spinach, tough stems removed
- 1 TB 100 g olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion finely minced
- 2 celery stalks and leaves thinly sliced
- 1/2 tomato seeds removed and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- Juice and zest from 1/2 a lemon
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 lb 455 g store-bought puff pastry - thawed if frozen
- All-purpose flour for rolling the pastry dough
- 1 1/4 cups 150 g feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 large egg
- 1 TB water
- For Garnishing
- Garnish with sesame seeds poppy seeds, everything bagel mixture, or dried herbs and spices
Swiss Chard Filling
Clean the Swiss Chard and remove the stems from the leaves. Cut the stems into 1/4 inch (.5 cm) chunks and set aside. Stack the chard leaves on top of each other and slice across the width into 1 inch (3 cm) ribbons. Then cut the ribbons in half across the width. Set aside.
Prepare the spinach the same as the Swiss Chard, but discard the stems. If you are using baby spinach there is no need to chop the leaves. However, remove any long stems from the baby spinach.
Turn the heat to medium and heat the olive oil in a large 10-inch skillet. Add the minced onion, celery and Swiss chard stems and 1/4 tsp of Kosher salt to the skillet and cook until softened, about 5-8 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent browning.
Add the chopped tomato, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and a couple of grinds of fresh black pepper. Cook the vegetables until the tomatoes break down about 2 - 3 minutes. Stir the vegetables frequently while they are cooking.
Add half of the Swiss chard greens and 1/4 tsp Kosher salt, and stir and cook until the leaves have wilted. Once the first batch cooks down, add the remaining Swiss Chard and cook until it is all wilted.
Scrape in the spinach leaves in the skillet with the vegetables in two batches. Once the spinach is heated and wilted, add the lemon juice. Stir and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and other seasonings if needed. Remember, the cheese in the filling will add a lot of salt to the bureka, so keep that in mind when you are tasting the vegetables.
Transfer the filling to a bowl and cool completely. The cooked vegetables can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for several hours.
Once cooled, place the vegetables in a fine mesh strainer and drain out any excess water. Gently press down on the vegetables without squishing them.
Prepare the Puff Pastry
Make the egg wash. In a small bowl beat the egg, water and a pinch of salt until completely combined. Set aside.
Prepare two large rimmed baking sheets and line with parchment paper.
Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin. Set the puff pastry on the floured surface, long side facing you, and lightly flour the top of the pastry. Gently roll the pastry into a rectangle about 20 inches (51 cm) by 12 inches (30.5 cm) and 1/16 inch thick. When you roll out the pastry dough, roll the pin in one direction beginning from about 1/3 of the way up from the side closest to you. Switch directions and roll the pin across the width in one direction. And switch again. Turn the pastry over and roll in one direction from each side. Repeat this until you have an even shaped rectangle about 1/16 inch thick. Rolling the pin back and forth confuses the dough and you do not get an even stretch. Be careful not to overwork the dough because it could get too warm. If the dough gets sticky and hard to work with, place on a rimmed baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Assembly, Chill and Bake
Divide the dough into 5 strips across the width of the pastry dough, about 4 inches (10 cm) wide and 12 inches (30.5 cm) long. Brush each strip with the egg wash. Reserve the egg wash for later.
Divide the sautéed vegetables into 5 equal portions about 1/2 cup (120 ml). Spread the Swiss chard mixture evenly down the middle of each strip. Add about a shy 1/4 cup (60 ml) of feta cheese crumbles on top of the vegetables. (If the dough is difficult to work with, chill it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.)
Fold the right side of the pastry strip over the filling and even with the left side of the pastry, like closing a book from the back to the front. Press on the edges and seal. Turn the filled pastry seam side down.
Twist each pastry into a spiral and make them into a U shape. Place each pastry on the prepared baking sheets. Place in the refrigerator and chill for one hour. Or place in the freezer and chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven for at least 30 minutes to 400°F (200°C / Gas Mark 6). If you have baking stones add them on the oven racks when you turn the oven on. Or turn a rimmed baking sheet large enough for two or three bureka to fit, upside down on an oven rack. The stones or the baking sheet will get good and hot and help create a crisp crust. If you only have one stone bake the burekas in batches.
Brush the burekas with the egg wash and garnish with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sea salt, or herbs and spices of your liking. Bake until the burekas are golden brown 30 - 35 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.
Burekas are best eaten the same day they are made. Store any leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.