Nosh: Savory Rhubarb-Onion Tart

Did you know you can eat rhubarb in something other than a pie or cobbler or dessert or sugary syrup?

…waiting…

Yes, way!

I was in the local farmers’ market this past Wednesday and saw some gorgeous rhubarb, and it was so pretty and pinkish that I just wanted to play with it (because you CAN play with your food), but I’m really not much of a dessert eater, despite my activities at Christmastime which may point to the contrary.

Do NOT get in the way of my holiday baking.  And I digress.

So there I was, facing down a gorgeous display of rhubarb.  Frankly…what’s a girl to do?

Is it me, or do the tops of the rhubarb look like duck feet?

Is it me, or do the tops of the rhubarb look like duck feet?

Here’s a few things about rhubarb:

It is naturally very tart, sort of like a SweeTart without the sweet, but it’s not so tart that it’s all bitter and no benefit.  I like to think of it as bracingly fruity.  Which, yeah OK, leads naturally to its pairing with strawberries and such, but you’re talking to the girl who cooks with fruit on a regular basis, so managing a fruity taste ain’t no thing.

Even though, to keep the record straight, rhubarb is not a fruit.  It is a vegetable, closely related to sorrel, which is a leaf we tend not to eat much in the US even though it’s good for you!  It helps treat scurvy.

Rhubarb is a great source of calcium, if you’re looking for calcium sources that aren’t dairy.

The leaves ARE poisonous. They contain high concentrations of oxalic acid crystals.  These can cause the tongue and throat to swell, preventing breathing.  So while the ends of the leaves may look like adorable duck’s feet, do us all a favor and throw them away before you kill yourself, mmmkay?  Thanks.

So anyway, here’s what you need.

  • 2 onions, one red, one yellow.  Or whatever.
  • 3 cloves of garlic, or to taste
  • 5 stalks of rhubarb without leaves, which worked out to about two cups when chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon summer savory OR thyme OR marjoram
  • 1/2 c raisins
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 c vegetable stock, plus more as needed
  • 8 (or so) Brussels sprouts, sliced thin
  • 2-3 oz goat cheese
  • 2 sheets of  puff pastry dough, defrosted (or enough to fill whatever receptacle you’d like to cook this in)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400°.

Pull out your dough and let it defrost or, if it’s defrosted, set it on a parchment-lined baking sheet or silicone baking mat.  Take a fork and dock the dough (translation: poke it repeatedly) everywhere except for the inch or so that makes the border of your dough.  Docking prevents the dough from puffing with steam, so the body of this tart will stay flat but the border will puff up and be all nice and pretty.

Docked. Ready. Easy? Yep.

Docked. Ready. Easy? Yep..

The dough is ready.  Put it aside.  Some instructions recommend chilling your dough.  I left mine on the counter until I was ready to use it, and it worked out fine.

Start prepping the vegetables.  I cut the onions in half-moons, the garlic in wide slices and the rhubarb in simple chunks, largely because I didn’t feel like doing much chopping.  What?  It was getting late, I didn’t want to fuss.

Just because I heart cooking doesn’ t mean I don’t have the same frustrations and limitations, folks.

Start the onions first to get them nice and soft and sweet and on the road to golden, then add the garlic, summer savory (which I just bought a big bag of before realizing I had it growing in abundance in my garden, so be prepared to hear a lot about summer savory in the upcoming months) (p.s. I hear it’s great in the garden for guarding against the Mexican bean beetle), mustard seeds, and some salt and pepper.

As far as I'm concerned, this is the foundation for just about any good meal.

As far as I’m concerned, this is the foundation for just about any good meal.

Give the onions and garlic and seasonings a few minutes to mingle, then add the rhubarb and maybe another shot of some fresh-ground pepper, because I can’t help myself.

This ain't yo mamma's rhubarb.

This ain’t yo mamma’s rhubarb.

Add in the broth, honey and raisins, and let this hang out for a few minutes.  Feel free to add in some more broth if needed; I certainly added more as the veggies cooked into each other, and you want the raisins to plump up while the rhubarb cooks down.  Complicated, I know, with that crazy chemistry.  And yet that is what happens.

So.

Let the raisins plump, the rhubarb break down, and the onions soften until you have one lovely, balanced, silky, almost creamy mass of sweet and tart and savory goodness.  It will be the consistency of a chunky jam. Let the onion/rhubarb mix cool for a few minutes; if you use a puff pastry base you want to avoid putting screaming hot food on a dough made largely of shortening.  While this is cooking and cooling you could brown your Brussels sprouts in a hot pan for a minute, like I did…

How now, brown sprout?

How now, brown sprout?

…but in the interests of full disclosure, I feel compelled to tell you I made more work for myself.  The sprouts were nice and crusty and delicious on the finished product, but by the end they sort of looked like brown confetti.  Baking the tart in the oven baked the sprouts too, which only makes sense.  So don’t brown the sprouts if you don’t feel like it, just sprinkle them on top of the onion/rhubarb mixture when the time comes, and let the oven do the work for you.

Anyway.

You’ve got your rolled out and docked dough. You’ve got your cooked and somewhat cooled onion and rhubarb mix.  You have thinly sliced Brussels sprouts that have either been pre-browned, or not.  So…now what?

Assemble!

That's what I'm talking about!

That’s what I’m talking about!

Put down a layer of onion/rhubarb mix and then top it with the sprouts.  Yum right from the start!  When you top it with crumbled goat cheese it becomes even more of a fabulous idea, inching closer to a fabulous reality with every crumbly bit of cheese.  Then put this li’l beauty right into your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.  At the end of 20 minutes, pull it out and give it a look.  Rotate it if necessary, drop the oven temperature to 350°, and put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so until it becomes golden brown and puffy in the right places.

Golden. Poofy. Savory. #win

Golden. Poofy. Savory. #win

We served this with some grilled turnips, roasted kale and a grilled romaine salad.  When you fill a puff pastry with things that aren’t cream and sugar based…well, thanks to its fat content I can’t ever say that puff pastry is good for you, but it’s not as bad for you as you might fear.  And it’s a delicious, rich treat, the richness of which keeps massive eating in check.  And?  It’s fun!

IMG_0037-001

Flaky on the top, rich and savory on the bottom. The pastry helps drive this dish that much further away from rhubarb’s usual use in desserts.

The rhubarb makes this dish tart and silky, while the onions and garlic deliver a savory balance that we don’t often look for with rhubarb.  It’s understandable why we tend to pair it with fruit–and that is, without a doubt, delicious–but there are other ways to mellow rhubarb’s bright tartness that don’t involve massive amounts of sugar.

I’ve also seen rhubarb cooked as a springtime pasta sauce (perhaps next on my playing-with-rhubarb list) and a chutney, but haven’t seen too many other examples of how to cook savory rhubarb.  I’d love to hear from other rhubarb fans out there: how do you like to cook this often underappreciated vegetable?

Nosh: Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese.

You read that right.

Whipped goat cheese.

WHIPPED GOAT CHEESE.

whipped goat cheese

Yes.

How, you wonder, does one go about preparing such a culinary delight?  Such a feast for the senses?  Such a groovy thing to do with cauliflower?

Easy!  It takes a little time, but that doesn’t change the “easy” factor.  Here’s what you need for the cauliflower.  I’ll talk about what to do with the goat cheese later, mostly because I’m evil and want to heighten your anticipation.  Can’t bring it home too early, see.  Anyway.  Cauliflower.

  • 2 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Juice from 1 lemon and juiced lemon remains
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar/honey/agave nectar
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 10 whole peppercorns
  • 1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

Cooking this cauliflower requires two steps; braising makes the cauliflower tender and infuses it with a variety of flavors, while roasting coaxes out the savory nuttiness and gives it a crusty texture.  Plus, it looks and sounds elegant as hell.  (Is that a legitimate term?  Who cares.  You all dig, I’m sure.)  I’m a hearty advocate of making things that sound impressive to boost my cooking cred.

Oh, yeah.  P.S., it tastes great.

Trim the cauliflower so it’s cleared of leaves and its stem is pared down so that the cauliflower can sit flat on a serving plate.  Assemble all the ingredients you need for the braise.

Pretty uncomplicated ingredients, I'd say.

Pretty uncomplicated ingredients, I’d say.

When choosing the braising wine, make it as dry as you can stand.  You don’t necessarily want the cauliflower to become oaky or sweet, you just want it to become fragrant and delicious.  So go dry, and make it a decent bottle.

Put the wine, salt, butter, oil, lemon (juiced, and then toss in the halves as well because why not?), sugar, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a large pot and get them cooking over a high heat.  I did add some red pepper flakes when I made my cauliflower but frankly, I didn’t think they brought much at all to the party, so meh, only add them if you’re really committed to their presence.  When everything’s going along at a pretty steady boil, add the cauliflower.  CAREFULLY, so you don’t cause a big splash and burn yourself with water and boiling oil.

Hooray for the incredibly practical mesh spider!

Hooray for the incredibly practical mesh spider!

If you think you still need a little extra cooking liquid in the pot, feel free to add some water or broth.  Lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 15-20 minutes or so, until the cauliflower is soft enough to sink a knife in but still offers some resistance.  You don’t want it to be mush, you just want it to be soft-ish.  When it’s ready, take it out and let it drain.

The nice thing about this dish is, you can park the cauliflower here for a while if you need to take care of other business in the kitchen; once the braise is done you’ll only have to worry about getting it in the oven when you’re in serious dinner-prep mode.

When you are ready for Phase Two: Roasting, make sure your oven is pre-heated to the not-messing-around temperature of 475° and that your oven rack is positioned roughly in the middle of the oven.  Put the cauliflower in a baking dish, give it a light drizzle of olive oil and toss on some salt and pepper.  Then?  In it goes, for 30-40 minutes.  Turn it once halfway through.  You’ll want to pull it out of the oven when it’s nice and browned and toasty on the outside.  It should look something like this:

Roasted cauliflower perfection.

Roasted cauliflower perfection.

While it’s roasting you can whip your goat cheese.

Because seriously, words fail.  Just saying it is sexy: Whipped goat cheese.  Yes!  It’s that good.  You need:

  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 ounces feta
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened Greek yogurt (or more, in the interests of a smooth and creamy texture)
  • drizzle of honey
  • Fresh-cracked pepper to taste

Measure out your ingredients.

That extra 1/8 oz is a nibble for the cook. :)

That extra 1/8 oz is a bonus nibble for the cook. 🙂


And then…ready for this?  Put all the ingredients in a food processor.  Process.

That’s it.

I mean, taste it and see what you need to add.  I don’t say you should add salt because feta and goat cheese are plenty salty on their own, but if you feel like the salt–or the pepper, or the honey–are lacking, then adjust accordingly.  If you think it needs to smooth out a little more you can add some more yogurt, or some milk or water, but only do so in small increments so as to not make it too soupy.  You want it to stick to the cauliflower, not run off.  As further evidence that this may seem complicated but isn’t really, your goat cheese can be whipped ahead of time.  I made mine the night before and it was perfect, I just had to let it warm up to room temperature and give it a couple of stirs to loosen it up.

Your guests, your family, your dining companions will be dazzled sho’ ’nuff when they walk in your kitchen and see this waiting for them.

I repeat: Elegant as hell.

I repeat: Elegant as hell.

It’s soft enough to cut with a serving spoon, so don’t be afraid to dive into the cauliflower, dress it with a happy dollop or seven of goat cheese and feast yourself silly.  A dish this gorgeous makes every dinner better.  Set aside a little time.  It’s worth it, if for no other reason that it’s ultimately really simple and if you do what the dish requires (braise, roast, food process), you’ll look like a kitchen rock star.

Roasted Beet Galette

On a recent trip to the Boston area, we stopped at Russo’s in Watertown, a farmstand-turned-HOLY MOTHER OF GOD WHAT DON’T THEY HAVE that I try to make a point of visiting whenever possible.  I like that they’ve got a lot of interesting things in non-perishable containers, like vinegars and jellies and groovy crackers.  But they also have a huge selection of vegetables, some of which aren’t immediately perishable, and it was there that I first feasted my eyes upon a box of beautiful golden beets.

Oh hell yes.

Oh hell yes.

It makes no sense to me why golden beets are significantly less common than your basic red beet; they pretty much taste the same (they’re actually a little milder) and have almost the same nutritional value, they cook exactly the same, and they don’t stain your hands…and your cutting board…and your countertops.  But!  Despite the fact that I live in the middle of farm country, belong to a CSA and have been a foodie for a long time, it’s been years for me between golden beet sightings.

I have a hard time believing it’s because they’re reclusive creatures adept at hiding in the wild.

Anyway.  So I got my reclusive beets from the One of Everything Store annnnnd…then what?  Because they’re kind of special, hard-to-get beets I wanted to make something beautiful, and because my spring CSA is going to start up again fairly soon, I have a gigantic pile of pickled beets looming in my very near future.  So.  I thought and I thought, and ended up borrowing heavily from one recipe and substituting what I wanted instead of what the recipe called for and in the process, I made an amazing beet galette.

A galette is, basically, a tart with a pastry crust that isn’t molded into a pan.  The term is broad and can be interpreted in many ways, from a particular kind of large buckwheat crepe to a fruit-and-pastry dessert to a savory dinner tart.  Most of the recipes I found online used a CA-RAZY amount of butter in the crust and frankly, I don’t really like to cook like that if I can avoid it.   Or, they would chop the beets into a dice and I wanted to make pretty flat rounds.  Then I remembered this recipe and thought…wait a second…why don’t I use this as my template?  I’ll make this crust, put in my own fillings?

This?  Is what we call a plan, and here’s a reconstruction of the cobbled-together recipe and how I put it all together.  So.  Onward!  But forewarned is forearmed: this is not a dinner that you can just toss together in 20 minutes.  Save this for a cold, snug Sunday when you want to be productive but don’t feel like leaving the house.

Bear in mind: you can certainly make this recipe using the readily available red beets, if you can’t find golden like I almost always can’t.

First, make the crust.

Pulse your walnuts in a food processor until they’re ground fine.  If you don’t have a food processor, then try a blender, maybe.  Or put them in a bag and crush the daylights out of them with the bottom of a heavy frying pan.  Or go out to the store and buy a food processor, I’ll wait.  Mix the ground walnuts with the flours, salt and pepper, and chopped fresh herbs.  Use whatever herbs you prefer; in this batch I used parsley and thyme because I had them handy.  If you don’t have fresh herbs you can use dried, but use about half the amount as the recipe calls for because their flavor is concentrated and therefore a little stronger.  When your dry ingredients are mixed make a well so you can add the wet ingredients.  What does that mean?

What's that, Lassie?  Billy fell in the well?

What’s that, Lassie? Billy fell in the well?

It means you dig a hole in your dry ingredients and put your wet ingredients in said hole.  It helps you incorporate the ingredients quickly and thoroughly.  That’s important for this crust because it’s really hearty and you don’t want to overwork it and develop the glutens; that will just make it tough.  Who needs a tough crust?  Not this girl.

So knead the dough just until it comes together, then wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes or until you’re ready to roll it out.  Preheat your oven to  425° and get going on your beets and onions.  Thinly slice them both, toss with some oil, salt and pepper and put them on baking sheets and into the oven.  You’ll get nicely wilted beets and onions that are ready for the next stage of usefulness.  Drop the oven temp to 375°.

All hail the discs f golden deliciousness!

All hail the discs of golden deliciousness!

While these are cooking, toss your goat cheese and feta (if you’re using it) in the freezer (I’ll get to this in a moment, hang on) and chop your garlic.  Since you’re not going to cook the garlic any other way than baking it in with the galette, make sure you chop it fairly small or slice it super-thin.  I went for super-thin.

See?  Thin.

See? Thin.

But really, it’s whatever you think is easiest, so long as you remember that your objective here is to not bite into a hunk of par-baked garlic, because no.

Now, this thing about the frozen cheese.  If you’ve ever tried to cut goat cheese you surely know that it crumbles and sticks to the knife and doesn’t cut evenly and is generally a pain in the ass to manhandle.  Much the same can be said for feta.  But if you put the cheeses in the freezer for a little while–it doesn’t have to be long, fifteen minutes or so should to the trick–they become easier to cut in even, non-sticky slices.  Or grate like Parmesan.  So. Before you start slicing and dicing your cheese, take your  dough out of the fridge, unwrap it and place it on baker’s parchment or a non-stick baking mat that has been lightly dusted with flour.  Roll out the dough into a rustic, 15-inch or so circle, then take the cheese out of the freezer and cut the goat cheese into even, easy-to-disperse slices.

Goat cheese is so much easier to manage this way.

Goat cheese is so much easier to manage this way.

Starting about two inches in from the outer edge, put half the goat cheese on your rolled out dough.  Sprinkle on the garlic and grate some feta over it on a nice, fine grater.  Like it was Parmesan.  (I know I’ve said this before but I do believe it’s the best analogy I can think of.)

See, it's all about building a solid base.

See, it’s all about building a solid base.

Then start layering in the veggies.  Put in a layer of beets, then onions, then beets again.

I don't know if I want to eat this or put it in a vase.Who am I kidding?  I want to eat this.

I don’t know if I want to eat this or put it in a vase.
Who am I kidding? I want to eat this.

Add the rest of the goat cheese, and another shredding or two of feta if you’d like.  Remember, feta is salty, so if you intend to use it in this dish watch your salt content elsewhere and plan accordingly!  Carefully fold the edges inward and remember–they won’t reach the middle of the galette.  If the crust breaks at all where you fold it, just crimp it back together and move on.  It’s supposed to be rustic.

It's not "perfect" by any stretch of the imagination.  And that's just fine.

It’s not “perfect” by any stretch of the imagination. And that’s just fine.

Take hold of the parchment or baking mat and slide it, galette and all, onto a baking sheet.  Put it in the oven and let it cook for 50 minutes, and then let it sit for ten.  I served it with a gorgeous salad with lemon vinaigrette and some roasted potatoes.  And it was as good as I’d hoped.

Voila!  Dinner, is served.

Voila! Dinner, it is served.

No more posts.