Saturday, June 9, 2012

Grilled Vegetable Tart

      For someone who loves to cook, I own very few cookbooks – three to be precise. 


       The most recent acquisition was one that caught my eye at the local bookstore, Powell's, on a rainy and otherwise boring Portland winter afternoon.  The moment I saw it sitting on a shelf, all new and glossy amongst its used book neighbors, I knew I was going to walk out of the shop with a new cookbook.  The book, that I’m waxing poetic about, is Plenty – celebrity UK chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s ode to fancified vegetarian cooking.  All the cookbooks that I have bought, I have bought for the pictures.  And this one is no exception.  Its pages are chock full of drool-worthy images of all manner of vegetarian foods, cooked up in innovative ways.  And luckily, I had the foresight to buy a version that lists ingredients in cups, rather than by weight.  My only complaint about the book is that the recipes don’t really lend themselves to cooking for a large crowd.  So recently, when I had over a small group of friends for a casual summer dinner in our garden, I decided to finally test-drive a couple of the recipes in the book.   
       I have to say, this cooking experience was a real joy, because for a change, I was following a recipe.  Since I had gone shopping earlier for some of the more exotic ingredients that I did not already have on hand, it was really fun throwing together familiar ingredients into a completely new dish.  For this summer meal, I cooked up Ottolenghi’s Very full tart as a substantial first course.  Ottolenghi qualifies this recipe as A fantastic Mediterranean feast, full to the brim with roasted vegetables.  This description is pretty spot on, except I would say that this tart is overflowing with roasted vegetables -- while assembling the pie, it was hard to believe that I could fit them all in.
The fancy recipe inspired this handblocked menu card -- you can see more of my designs at http://www.etsy.com/shop/5farthings
        This being the start of summer and all, I chose to grill my veggies outdoors, which gave them the added flavors that only grilling can impart.  However, if you follow the recipe from the book, you could simply roast all the veggies in the oven.  In fact, I think this recipe could easily be adapted for a hearty fall dish, bursting with various types of winter squash and dotted with a sharp cheese such as Roquefort.  Stay tuned for the fall version, I guess.
      But getting back to this tart, I think the dinner party was in agreement that the results were absolutely scrumptious.  If the rest of the recipes in this book are anywhere as good as this was, I highly recommend that you immediately trot over to your computer/book store, and order yourself a copy of this beautiful and delicious book, immediately.  And for those of you lucky enough to be in London, do check out one of Ottolenghi's many restaurants there, and leave a comment here for the rest of us to drool over.

Grilled vegetable tart – adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Very Full Tart, Plenty

Serves 8 as a first course and 4 as a main course

Ingredients

1 pie crust, either homemade or store-bought

1 red bell pepper and 1yellow bell pepper, diced into 2 inch chunks
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 small sweet potato, diced into ½ inch pieces
1 small zucchini, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 T olive oil

10 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped and coarsely chopped

1/3 C ricotta
4 oz. Feta
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 large eggs
1 C heavy cream

Toss together peppers, sweet potato and zucchini, half the thyme leaves, and 2 T of olive oil.  Salt to taste and grill on a hot grill until tender. 

Mix eggplant with 2 T olive oil, salt to taste, and grill until tender.

Mix sliced onions with 2 T oil, and grill until very lightly browned on both sides.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 450 deg F
Lightly grease a 9-inch loose-bottomed tart dish
Roll out pie crust dough to about 1/8 inch in thickness and of a diameter large enough to cover the inside of your tart tin, with a slight overhang over the rim
Lightly press in your dough into the tart tin, leaving a slight overhang on all sides
Cover with parchment, top with pie weights or dried bean, and blind bake pie crust for 30 minutes
Remove weights and paper and continue baking about 15 minutes more or until your crust is golden brown
Remove crust from oven and cool for about 10 minutes

While crust is cooling, beat together cream and eggs
Line bottom of crust with cooked onions
Scatter the rest of the grilled veggies evenly into the crust
Dot the pie with chunks of feta and ricotta
Gently pour the cream mixture into the remaining few crevices surrounding the veggies
Arrange the halved tomatoes on top, and press in very lightly
Sprinkle remaining thyme leaves on top
Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the pie filling has set and is golden brown
Cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting

I made this a few hours before serving and kept it warm in the oven until dinner.  Before serving, I warmed it up once more by heating under a foil for 10 minutes at 350 deg F.





Serve as a main course or a substantial first course, along with a tangy salad.



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