One of my favorite things about summer (now that my sweetheart readers have demonstrated their utter excellence I can go back to loving summer...from the popsicle perfection of my lovely air conditioned home) is all of the PARTIES. If your social calendar is anything like mine, every single weekend is jammed with barbecues, impromptu dinners, pool parties, backyard luaus and potlucks. The heat wilts my social anxiety just enough for functionality's sake and wherever I turn, there's an icy mint julep with my name on it. Ah, summer.
Today I'm going to tell you what you're going to bring the next time your favorite vegan friend has a potluck on her porch.
Here's a little secret about me and parties. I like to look like a lady. I like things that you can eat without looking ridiculous. I like food that doesn't require a plate. Consequently, I like tarts. They're self-contained, elegant, smart and a little uppity. People who don't make tarts will be impressed with you. People who do make tarts will want to hang out with you. It's really a win/win situation. But let's mix it up. Bring a vegetable tart to the party. Now you're popular and innovative! Marry me.
It's July and tomatoes are starting to taste how tomatoes are supposed to taste. A warm, ripe, perfect tomato is one of the simplest and deepest pleasures in the world. I do not understand people who don't like tomatoes. (Frankly, I don't really care to understand them.) In addition to perfect tomatoes, the farmer's market in my neighborhood has been offering up the tiniest zucchini and the sweetest onions. And you really can't take a step in any self-respecting garden (like mine) without tripping over a tangle of herbs.
All of those things in a flaky, rich, pastry shell? You'll be bringing the party. Be modest.
Summer Vegetable Tart [Vegan]
Preheat your oven to 400°
For the crust:
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
8 T vegan margarine cut into small pieces (I am crazy about Earth Balance brand Buttery Sticks)
ice water (approximately 4-5T)
Blend the flour and salt. With a pastry cutter or knives, cut the margarine in until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in enough water until the dough comes together in a nice clump. (You can totally use a food processor to do that. It takes about four seconds.) Gather it together, give it a knead or two and wrap it in plastic to chill for an hour.
For the vegetables:
3 large sweet onions
To caramelize the onions: Slice them. Stop crying. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a nice, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat with oil. Now cook them for-ever. I'm kind of not kidding. Here's the thing. Caramelized onions are amazing. They are sweet, complex and delicious. They are worth the time it takes to make them. (Want to hear my rant about the importance of slow food? No? Oh, okay.) AND if you keep the heat relatively low, you can absolutely do other things while they cook. Stir them when you think about it, and add a tiny bit of oil if they start to stick. It probably will take about an hour total. Do it because you love someone. Or because you have something to prove. Or because you love delicious things. Either way. Do it.
Slice your tomatoes and zucchini. I like them sliced thin to keep things from getting soggy and to ensure even cooking.
Now let's prepare a little sauce. We're making a pistou, which is basically a pesto without cheese or nuts. In a mortar and pestle (or food processor) throw a few cloves of garlic, a handful of your favorite herbs (I used thyme, oregano, basil, and chives) and a generous amount of olive oil. Smash it all together until you have a beautiful emerald green paste. (I thinned mine with additional olive oil so as to brush it over the tart.) Taste it, and season with salt and pepper.
Take the pastry out and unwrap it. On a floured board, roll it out to slightly larger than your tart pan. Mine was a rectangle, but this quantity would work for a nine inch diameter circle as well. Fit it into the pan, and prick the bottom with a fork. Because you're going to pre-bake the crust, you should weight it. You can either waste your money on official "pie weights" at a cooking store like a dope, or be like me, and buy about two pounds of cheap beans. (Mine are navy beans.) Designate them "Pie Weights" and don't ever eat them (because you're going to bake them over and over.) Put a piece of parchment down on your pastry, and pour your pie weights on top. These will keep your crust flat and perfect.
Bake for twenty minutes. Let cool. (Save those pie weights for next time!)
Reduce the oven temperature to 375°
In your cooled, baked tart shell spread the caramelized onions.
Layer with thinly sliced tomatoes
and brush with pistou.
I wove the zucchini slices like a lattice over the tomatoes. You don't have to, but it sure does impress a crowd. I think it would be pretty to alternate tomato slices with thinly sliced zucchini rounds.
Bake for twenty minutes, until the zucchini is golden and the tomatoes are bubbling.
It's perfect served at room temperature to a bunch of people you really like.
What do you bring to a potluck?