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Don’t Cry, It’s Just Onions

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This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is for an easy appetizer called Pissaladiére, or Onion Tart.  Talk about something that’s bigger than the sum of its parts.

This recipe starts by making an easy yeasted dough, similar to a pizza dough.  While the dough rises, a huge pile of onions gets caramelized.  In theory, the timing works out nicely.  The dough should be ready to stretch out around the time the onions have the proper golden hue.

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Unfortunately, I had a scheduling hiccup.  I got a late start, and when the onions were done, I didn’t have enough time to stretch and rest the dough, arrange the toppings, and bake, before I had to leave the house.  Disappointed, I put the onions and rising dough in the refrigerator, hoping for better luck the next day.  I knew the onions would be fine but not as confident about the dough.

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Next day, I approached the refrigerator with trepidation.  I was surprised and delighted to find that the dough had continued to rise overnight.  I feared the dough would be a lost cause, instead, I discovered that this recipe was more flexible than I expected.  I let the dough warm up for about an hour, then continued with the recipe.

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The dough patted out easily to fill the pan.  I spread the caramelized onions on top, then had fun arranging anchovies into a crosshatch design and strewing the top with olives.

The pissaladiére is in the Appetizer chapter, but I found it worked well for lunch with soup.  It was delicious!  And, I also really loved figuring out that I can make the pizza dough the day before.

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Definitely try this one.  You won’t be sorry.  It’s a winner.  You can find the recipe on page 69 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  To read my blogging friends’ links about their own experiences with this recipe, check them out here.

Happy Holidays to one and all!

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Cottage Cooking Club: June 2015

New Potato Salad Tartare

Finally after a long, long winter, fresh local vegetables are starting to be plentiful around these parts. Mostly what we’re seeing is Greens, Greens, and more Greens, though spring roots like radishes and salad turnips are being harvested too. I tried to align what’s available with the recipes I picked from Kitchen Lioness Andrea’s lineup for Cottage Cooking Club this month. The recipes we cook from British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook, River Cottage Veg celebrate vegetables, sometimes in familiar ways, and often with an unfamiliar twist, which has been fun.

I chose two recipes this month. The first was New Potato Salad “Tartare”. I love potato salad, especially ones made in the French style with a vinaigrette. My signature salad is a Dijon potato salad (which I’m shocked to find I’ve never blogged about), but I’m always up for trying a new version. The flavorings in the salad were inspired by tartar sauce, without the mayo. What a refreshing twist! Chopped cornichons, capers, and fresh herbs (dill, chives, and parsley) are added to potatoes along with a simple vinaigrette. Quartered “soft” hard-boiled eggs add the final touch. I was even able to use chives and parsley from my back door herb garden!

Potato Salad

The only thing I’d change about this is the cooking method for the potatoes. Whenever I boil potatoes for potato salad, I’m unhappy. The potatoes always seem water-logged. I have much better luck with steaming them. I followed the recipe and tried boiling them as directed, but I should learn by now to stick to my preferred method.

Other than this hiccup, I loved the end result. The contrast of the salty tangy pickles to the fresh verdant flavor of the herbs make a winning combination. I’ll definitely be making the River Cottage version of potato salad again this summer!

The second recipe was the Greens and Ricotta Tart. I couldn’t find beets with greens the day I went to the farmers market (just a tad too early in the season), but I found beautiful Swiss chard from Kimball’s Farm. I also couldn’t find ricotta salata where I looked, so I substituted another sheep’s milk cheese: Spanish Manchego. Savory tarts are another favorite of mine. In the summer, I make one almost every week. Again, I’m always happy to try a new combination and learn something new.

Chard Manchego Tart

I love when a recipe that uses both the stems and the leaves of greens. It always feels wasteful to discard the stems which they are perfectly edible, though not always in the recipe at hand, and try to do “nose-to-tail” cooking of vegetables when possible. For this tart, thinly sliced stems are sautéed with the onion and garlic before adding the leaves to wilt. The custard for this tart is made richer with egg yolks and cream.

The pastry crust was interesting in its use of cold milk instead of water. I found the dough to be easy to work with and the final pastry had a flaky texture. The crust didn’t brown as I would have expected, but I’ll admit I’ve been having some issues with my oven temperature and it was probably that, not the recipe.

My intuition told me to use a larger tart pan than called for, so I chose an 11-inch instead of a 9-inch. This was the right call. The crust fit into the larger pan with no trouble, and I had custard leftover. I ended up making a mini-crustless tart with some already cooked broccoli rabe and the extra custard.

I was very lucky in my choices this month: two winners that I will definitely make again this season.

One of my favorite parts of this group is seeing the other participants’ results with the recipes I didn’t choose to make. It helps me narrow down the other winners in the book that I must try. If you’d like to see their posts, you can see them here.