It never ceases to amaze me how two children raised together have turned into such different adults. In all ways, including career choices, partying styles, exercise and eating habits, and kitchen preferences. My son, the meat-eater, enjoys working with pastry dough; my daughter prefers to cook vegetables and fruit.
Win, win for this mother. I request they collaborate this Mother’s Day. On the menu? Savory, flaky-crusted tarts filled with vegetables.
Due to their busy schedules, separate homes and the parental compulsion to teach, I offer tips. Make the whole wheat tart dough up to 5 days in advance. Then shape and pre-bake it the night before. Some of the vegetables can be prepped ahead, too. Ditto for the vinaigrette for a salad and the crisping of the greens.
The homemade tart dough can be refrigerated for several days or frozen for weeks. I prefer to combine trans-fat-free vegetable shortening (for easy dough handling and maximum flakiness) with unsalted butter (for flavor). For savory uses, I weave in a bit of nutty-tasting whole wheat flour and sesame seeds, along with the all-purpose flour.
The tart recipe that follows could be called a quiche, except it’s lighter on the egg custard and heavier on the vegetables. Nearly any kind of vegetable mixture will work in the tart. I like roasted peppers, sauteed onions and mushrooms, grilled zucchini and eggplant. You’ll need two loosely packed cups for a 9-inch tart. That leaves just enough room for a bit of cheese and an egg custard to hold everything together.
To save time, there’s no shame in using store-bought pie crusts. Look for ones without preservatives. I like the frozen version sold at Trader Joe’s, but it nearly always has cracks after thawing. A quick roll between the sheets of plastic smooths it out nicely.
Sesame Whole-Wheat Tart Dough
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup trans-fat-free (nonhydrogenated) vegetable shortening, frozen
2 to 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, optional
Put flours and salt into a food processor. Pulse to mix well. Cut butter and shortening into small pieces; sprinkle them over the flour mixture. Use on/off pulses with the food processor to blend the fats into the flour. The mixture will look like coarse crumbs. (Alternatively, use your hands or a pastry blender to work the butter and shortening into the flours and salt in a large bowl.)
Put ice cubes into about 1/2 cup water and let the water chill. Remove the ice cubes, and drizzle about 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the flour mixture. Add the sesame seeds if using. Briefly pulse the machine (or knead with your hands) just until the mixture gathers into a dough.
Dump the mixture out onto a sheet of wax paper. Divide the dough in half; gather each into a ball. Flatten the balls into thick disks. Wrap each in plastic; refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. (Dough will keep in the refrigerator for several days.) Makes two 9-inch shells; 12 servings.
Per serving: 243 calories; 17 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 62 percent calories from fat); 20 g carbohydrates; 0 g sugar; 20 mg cholesterol; 198 mg sodium; 3 g protein; 1 g fiber.
Spring Vegetable Tart
1/2 recipe sesame whole wheat tart dough, (see recipe)
1/2 medium leek, tough green ends removed, white section split lengthwise, rinsed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh shelled or thawed frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 bunch skinny asparagus
2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro, basil, chives or parsley (or a combination)
1/8 teaspoon dried or fresh minced thyme
1/2 cup shredded fontina or brick cheese, shredded
3 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream or half-and-half
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Have a 9- or 9 1/2-inch tart pan with removable bottom ready. Alternatively, use a shallow 9-inch pie plate.
Lightly flour 1 sheet of wax paper. Put the dough disk onto the paper and cover with another sheet of floured wax paper. Roll gently with a rolling pin, lifting the paper occasionally to loosen the dough and turning the dough over several times, until it is a uniform circle about 12 inches in diameter and 1/4-inch thick. Remove the top sheet of wax paper. Loosen the dough from the bottom sheet of wax paper, then fold the dough in half and gently put into tart pan. Unfold and gently fit dough over bottom of pan and up the sides. Trim edge. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight (cover it well).
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Press a piece of foil over bottom of crust. Fill crust with pie weights or dried beans (this prevents puffing). Bake until crust is nearly opaque, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights. Bake until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool. The crust can be parbaked several hours in advance (or even overnight).
Meanwhile, for filling, thinly slice the white portion of the leek and some of the tender green. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add leek; cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Add peas and garlic, cook and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Trim off the asparagus tips and reserve them. Cut the stems into 1/8-inch thick pieces. Stir tips and stems into the cooled leeks along with the herbs. (Filling can be refrigerated overnight.)
To cook the tart, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Set the tart shell, in its pan, on a baking sheet. Spread the vegetable mixture over the bottom of the tart crust. Sprinkle cheese over vegetables. Beat eggs, cream, milk, salt and pepper in a small bowl until smooth. Slowly pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, being careful not to get any between the crust and the pan, or you will have sticking later.
Carefully put the tart into the oven. Bake until filling is set and golden brown, 35-38 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Unmold from pan (or slice directly in the pan if using a pie plate). Serve warm.
Per serving: 444 calories; 34 g fat (15 g saturated fat; 69 percent calories from fat); 25 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 151 mg cholesterol; 515 mg sodium; 10 g protein; 2 g fiber.