Tag Archives: Polenta

Tarted Up

17 Jul

I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but lately, there’s been a lot of talk around here about a lot of things that have had very little to do with food.

This is odd because this is, ostensibly, a cooking blog. I’ve talked about sounds and stillness and summer, about my neighbors and their bad eating habits, I’ve shared my secret place to hide-out from the heat, done some spring cleaning and vented, kvetched and complained. In fact, as far as I can tell, the last time I seriously talked about cooking was way back in the merry month of May.

And I’ve got a little secret about why it’s been this way. I’ve been in a cooking funk. An epic one by all accounts. Obviously I’ve been cooking; but to be perfectly honest, nothing I’ve made in a very long time, probably since that rhubarb bread, has really made me sit up and cheer. But! That has all changed.

South Street Seaport

On Saturday morning Isaac and I took a survey of the kitchen in an attempt to clear out some of the culinary driftwood we’ve accumulated. We settled on two areas in need of attention: beans and phyllo.

Since I learned to stop worrying and love the bean I’ve been hoarding them. I bought Yellow Indian Woman beans in Colorado, unknown yellow beans in California, dried lentils and ceci in Rome and Goat’s Eyes and “Little Horses” in Williamsburg (which sometimes feels like another country). I’ve also somehow accumulated three additional types of dried lentil.

And then there’s the phyllo. It’s been lurking in our freezer since January. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the box weren’t so big. It barely fits, and it’s hogging space that I’d like to have for preserving some of summer’s bounty; like tomatoes, beans, peas, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, peaches, strawberries, cherries and blueberries, to name a few.

So, it was settled. On Saturday we would cook the yellow mystery beans to ensure they’d be done and cool for a multi-bean salad on Sunday night, and then for Saturday dinner we would have a tomato and caramelized onion tart with phyllo crust and a fennel and olive salad. Or, at least that was the plan.

We went to the greenmarket in search of wax beans and snap peas for the salad to no avail. There was no fennel either. It was very mysterious, like everyone in the city had the same thoughts on the same day. So, we settled for some green beans and radicchio instead.

We got home and I put the mystery beans on the stove to cook, then I pulled the phyllo out of the freezer. It was around 5.30pm. I stood in the kitchen reading the directions: work quickly, keep the phyllo moist, brush the layers with butter, if frozen thaw for five hours before use… Sh*t.

No phyllo crust for us!

But I didn’t panic. Nope. I ran to the internet, to Martha. Martha and the internet always know what to do in situations like these! I looked up tomato tart, and to my great dismay they all called for butter crusts.

This was a problem for three reasons: 1. I had no non-special butter (I’m obsessed with this, but only for eating on bread), 2. I didn’t have time to let a butter crust sit in the fridge and 3. Isaac was on the phone with his mother while snapping beans in the kitchen so I didn’t want to run the food processor.

So I thought and thought and plotted and contemplated and cogitated and ruminated. And then I came up with an idea. Polenta. I ran back into the kitchen and whipped up a batch of instant polenta. When it was done I lined a pie plate with a medium-thick layer of it and popped it into the fridge to set up. Meanwhile I caramelized onions and bacon and glazed it all with balsamic vinegar.

I pulled the polenta out of the fridge, liberally dressed it with a flurry of grated Parmesan, poured on the onions and topped with slices of tomatoes. I looked down at the yellow and red tart and sighed with happiness. It was so pretty. So Martha, even!

As the tart baked it gave off the most delicate perfume of roasted corn, bacon and savory onions. It was torture waiting for it to come out of the oven and cool down enough to eat. But boy was it worth it! This tart might be the most delicious thing I’ve ever made.

The flavors are deep and sexy, yet light and fresh. And, except for the 25 minutes it takes to caramelize onions, it is fast and very, very easy. This tart would be delicious with that lemony fennel and olive salad for a dinner party, or with a radicchio salad, like we had, for a simple dinner or, if you really wanted to gild the lily, with a poached egg on top for a fancy brunch.

So I hope you enjoy this tart. I know I can’t wait to make it again in a few weeks when the summer’s tomatoes are at their peak of deliciousness.  Oh, and about those beans…

They, too, were delicious and maybe someday I’ll find the time to tell you about them, but until then, nothing can compete with this tart!

Head below the jump for the recipe for Ann’s Off-The-Cuff Tomato Tart

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