What’s a girl to cook when she has a vegetarian cookbook author over for dinner? Oh, the pressure…
A few months ago my husband met a woman through his work who not only cooks and writes about vegetarian food but is a trained dancer as well. Rightfully assuming that she and I would have much to discuss, he invited her for dinner last night so we could meet. Now I am sure this comes as a great shock to you all, but the dancer in me (and let’s be frank, the woman that I am) experienced some pangs of jealous competition in anticipation of this young woman’s arrival. I contemplated whipping up an over-the-top multi-course menu topped off with some ridiculously beautiful dessert, involving homemade sorbet in the shape of a duck, but it all seemed a bit elaborate and well…. a little embarrassing.
In the end I decided to just relax and do some improvising, along with an old standby or two. The result was a meal that, while probably would not win any awards, was homey, comforting, seasonal and a true reflection of what I like to do in the kitchen.
Summer Vegetable Tart with Pecorino
For the shell:
note: the filling recipe below, makes enough to fill two of these pie shell, recipes. Most standard-sized food processor bowls are not quite large enough to handle doubling this recipe, so you may have to make one after the other (no need to wash your food processor bowl in between batches)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
5 oz vegan buttery sticks, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
For the filling:
note: this recipe makes enough filling for two, 9-inch tarts
1 yellow or vidalia onion, chopped
3 medium zucchini, diced
2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1/3 cup fresh basil chiffonade
1/4 cup fresh mint
3-4 tomatoes, 2 of then chopped, the others thinly sliced cross-wise for topping
5-6 hard boiled eggs, halved cross-wise and the cut into wedges
Pecorino Romano (hard, aged sheep’s milk cheese), optional
Make the Crust:
In a food processor, fitted with a bade attachment, pulse the flours and salt to combine. Toss in the chilled (it must be very cold) butter/vegan margarine and pulse several times until the butter is pea-sized. Drizzle in a couple tablespoons of ice water and pulse until moistened. Continue to drizzle and pulse a teaspoon or two at a time until you can pick up a chunk of dough and squeeze it into a ball in your hand (you should NOT have a big glob of dough in the food processor, it should only come together when squeezed). Turn the dough out onto the counter (dusted with a little flour, if necessary) and form into a ball and the a small disk– handle as little as possible. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for ~30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F.
When dough is sufficiently chilled, but not too hard to roll out, put it on a lightly floured surface and roll out to a 12-14 inch round. Transfer to an un-greased pie or tart pan and trim edges, tucking them under to form a crust (if using a pie plate).
Chill pie shell for 10 to 15 minutes, then place fill the shell with a layer or foil and pie weights (dry beans or rice work just fine) and bake on a cookie sheet in oven for 25-35 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a rack.
note: I usually find that I have to remove the foil and pie weights for the last 10 minutes of baking so that the bottom and also get cooked.
Make the filling:
Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, wide pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the chopped zucchini, salt and pepper to taste, and saute uncovered until beginning to brown, then cover until fork-tender. Mix in the chopped tomatoes and corn and cook until they have just begun to break down. Stir in the mint and basil and remove the pot from the heat. Taste the filling and add salt and pepper if needed.
Fill your shell(s) with the vegetable mixture and arrange the hard-boiled egg wedges among the filling. Arrange the thin tomato slices over the top and grate the pecorino over them, if using. Bake at 375 F ~20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: After cooking the filling, there may be quite a bit of liquid left at the bottom of the pan. I avoided transferring all that watery stuff to my pie shells, by removing the veggies from the pan with a slotted spoon.