File this under "unexpectedly delicious." When I developed the recipe for this tart, I purposefully avoided making the center quiche-like. I wanted a cheesy filling laced with caramelized leeks and onions; a quiche, eggy and milky, is a whole different thing. That said, eggs make things hold together and puff a bit in the oven, so I was concerned that my eggless tart filling would be dense and soggy, and might even disintegrate once sliced. Not so, my friends, not so. This was truly an unanticipated success, and perhaps the best thing on my dinner table last Friday night.
The key was caramelizing the hell out of onions and leeks; I'm talking half an hour over low heat, first covered, then uncovered, so that the onions shrunk into a big ole' pile of sweet brown goo (gosh, that sounds appetizing) and the leeks also emitted their natural sugar. This step was the longest and most annoying, as it essentially consisted of watching a pot, but I got to stir every once in a while to keep from falling asleep.
After the onions and leeks were fully caramelized and cooled, I added them and a bunch of chopped herbs to 2 cups of soft, curded cheese. My preference is a mix of farmer cheese and ricotta (mostly farmer cheese). If you use ricotta, you may want to set it in a strainer lined with paper towels for 1/2 and hour or so, to let some of the moisture drain out. Since farmer cheese is essentially drained cottage cheese, it's relatively dry.
As for the crust, I used a recipe for basic pie dough, and altered it so that 1/2 the flour was whole wheat. Overall, the crust tasted good and had the right flaky-crunchy consistency; however, even though I blind-baked it before adding the filling, the bottom of the crust got a bit, uh, less-than-crunchy by the time I served it. You'll be happiest with your results if you fill the crust just before baking and serving it. But do make this one, because it won a fan base quickly and I imagine I'll be making it again soon. Friday night guests, stay tuned.
Whole Wheat Leek and Onion Tart serves 8
For the crust(adapted from a recipe on chow.com):
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces
- 4 to 5 tablespoons ice water
Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender, stand mixer, or your hands, cut butter into flour until the butter is dispersed throughout and the mixture is in pea-sized bits.
- Add 4 Tbsp. ice water and mix just until dough comes together; only add the 5th Tbsp. if you need to, and do not overwork the dough or it will become tough.
- Shape the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
For the Filling:
- 2 medium white onions, chopped
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced lengthwise and chopped into half-moons
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme (or half tsp. dried)
- 2 tsp. fresh marjoram (1 tsp. dried)
- 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley (1/2 Tbsp. dried)
- 2 cups soft curded cheese, drained if necessary
- salt and pepper
- Caramelize onions and leeks in a fair amount of olive oil (enough to generously coat a heavy-bottomed skillet) and a bit of salt, over low heat for at least 1/2 an hour. Start with them covered, which allows them to soften from the steam; after 20 minutes or so, uncover them and stir regularly, until they have shrunk considerably and have turned caramel-brown.
- After cooling the onions and leeks, add them and all the herbs to the 2 cups of cheese. Salt and season to taste.
- Meanwhile, prepare the crust: remove from the refrigerator, and roll on a floured surface until the dough is about 1 1/2 inches wider than your tart pan.
- Wrap the dough over the rolling pin, transfer to the tart pan, and carefully lay it inside.
- Delicately press the dough into the crevices of the pan, and use a knife to trim the edges of the crust.
- Fill the crust with uncooked rice or beans, pie weights, or another pie dish, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes.
- Set out on a counter, uncovered, to cool completely.
- Before serving, fill the crust with your cheese mixture, bake at 350 for 15 minutes, and serve immediately.