I must have suffered some sort of carbohydrate-related trauma as a child. Did an evil babysitter wrap me up in a puff pastry and stick me in the oven? Was I left in the woods with only bread crumbs to guide me home? Or perhaps I was frightened by the premature exploding of a can of Pillsbury breakfast rolls. I can't really say for sure.
But I do know that after years of shying away from working with dough - "I'll mess it up! I'll ruin it!" was my panicked refrain - I have suddenly - and incurably - become absolutely tart-y for making savory tarts.
My epiphany? The beautiful dishes at Citron & Vanille, the blog of a personal chef who makes flavorful, healthy, aspirational food with really huge eye-appeal. Her salmon tart recipe whetted my appetite to such a degree that I finally decided I had to just get over myself and deal with some dough. So I went out and bought a tart pan and flour. I am so glad I did!
The funny thing is, even though I was incredibly nervous that I was going to screw up the tart crust and make a big mess, it was really fun to make and not nearly as intimidating or difficult as I had imagined it would be. Citron & Vanille's recipe combines wheat, unbleached white, and spelt flours, which gives it a lovely nutty flavor, and also calls for the incorporation of red pepper flakes, black sesame seeds, (which I didn't have in my pantry, unfortunately) and dried herbs into the tart crust. This has the effect of creating surprising, subtle bursts of flavor that you don't expect from a crust - one minute there's a little zing-y spice, and the next you've got a slight hit of thyme.
In any case, check out her recipe and follow it to the letter, as I did , and your tart crust will come out perfectly. For the filling of my first tart, I layered sauteed onions, followed by Swiss chard that had been sauteed in garlic and olive oil (and had all the extra liquid subsequently squeezed out) then dill and chives. As called for in the original recipe, I whisked together 1/3 cup heavy cream, 1/3 cup milk and two eggs, and poured it over the lot. I popped it in the oven for 30 minutes at 375 degrees, and out came a succulent disc of herby green goodness. I served mine with a tomato, red onion, and Manchego cheese salad with olive oil and just a hint of balsamic vinegar.
This was so much fun to make and turned out so well that I decided to try my hand at a dish mentioned, but not described in detail, in the salmon tart post - a classic French tuna and tomato tart (pictured at top). I put down a layer of sauteed onions to start; I don't know if this is done in the classic version, but I thought it worked. Next, I drained two cans of oil-packed tuna and lightly tossed that with a bit of strong Dijon mustard. This went on top of the onions, followed by sliced tomatoes, which I had salted and placed in paper towels for about an hour to remove the excess moisture. I topped the whole thing off with some chopped chives and the egg/cream/milk mixture.
This was my favorite dish I've made (or eaten!) for a long time. When Poppa Trix took the first bite, he said, "Mmmm, it tastes so ... French." That sounds odd, but it's true - there was really something magical about the coming together of these few simple ingredients. I wish I could take all the credit. But really, having such a wonderful new dish in my repertoire - not to mention the eradication of my dough-phobia - is all thanks to Citron & Vanille!