Monday, March 5, 2012

Ricotta Tart with Peppers and Onions

A couple weeks ago, I fell under the spell of brightly-colored vegetables trucked in from Florida. Those cute, little, super-sweet miniature bell peppers came a long way to my table, but they went even further in brightening my day as icons of pure sunshine and a promise of something other than this odd, dull season between winter and spring.

 While I think I would have been happy just eating these peppers by the handful, I did try them in a real recipe as well. I slowly cooked them along with some onion and stuffed them into a ricotta tart based on this one. The first attempt was delicious, but the filling was too shallow in the crust, so I decided to try again (there were really a lot of these peppers in town).

I could have made a smaller tart (I have a smaller rectangular tart pan), which would have required an adjustment in the crust recipe. Unfortunately, though I had never had a problem before with this style of crust (made with olive oil), my first crust for the pepper tart was a disaster and had to be tossed out and the second one was only mediocre. I really didn’t feel like it was a good time to try scaling down the crust recipe to make a smaller tart.

I made a greater volume of filling instead. It was the simplest solution and made a great tart. The peppers and onions were delicious and the proportion of eggs and ricotta cheese make for a firm but reasonably fluffy filling. I made my ricotta using the recipe here at The Splendid Table, although I used a mixture of 2% and whole milk, which is what I had in the refrigerator. I think you could swap out some of the ricotta for other cheeses if you like, or add some sausage, olives or feta cheese. I was very happy with the addition of dried herbs and fennel seed to both the crust and the filling, but, of course, you could adjust that to taste as well.

When I made the second version of this tart, represented by the recipe below, I had much more success with the crust, so I’m still willing to endorse it as a good choice for savory tarts. It might need a bit of coaxing to cover the pan properly, but its taste and texture are great. And it’s a great new place to nestle those cute little peppers that are so far from home.

Ricotta Tart with Peppers and Onions
Partially based on a recipe in Eating Well magazine

For the crust:
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
¼ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground or crushed fennel seeds
¾ teaspoon fine salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons cold water, divided

For the filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces sweet bell peppers, preferably red, yellow or orange, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
4 ounces onion, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 large eggs
½ cup ricotta cheese
¼ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground or crushed fennel seeds
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1. To prepare the crust, combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, ¼ teaspoon dried basil, ¼ teaspoon dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon ground fennel seeds and fine salt in a medium-size bowl. Whisk together to combine well.

2. Add the 1/3 cup olive oil and 4 tablespoons water. Stir together until all of the dry ingredients are well moistened, gradually adding the remaining water as needed. Gently knead and press the dough together into a ball. Form the ball into a firm disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom by spraying it with cooking spray or brushing it with oil. (A nonstick pan may not require this step.) On a floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to the tart pan and press it into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim away any extra dough and use it to patch any holes or press it into the bottom of the pan.

4. Gently prick the surface of the dough on the bottom and sides with a fork. Place the tart pan on a large baking sheet for ease of handling. Bake at 400 F until just beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack at least 15 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, heat the 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the peppers, onions and ¼ teaspoon coarse salt. Cover and cook about 5 minutes. The peppers and onions should have released some of their juices.

6. Uncover, reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are very soft and the onions are golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook and stir about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

7. Place the eggs in a large bowl. Beat with a whisk. Add the ricotta, ¼ teaspoon dried basil, ¼ teaspoon dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon ground fennel seeds, and Parmesan. Stir well. Stir in the cooked peppers and onions and parsley.

8. Transfer the egg mixture to the prepared tart crust. Bake (on the baking sheet) at 400 F for about 30 minutes or until the filling is set and beginning to brown on top. Cool slightly. Remove the outer rim of the pan and slice to serve.

Makes 6-8 main-dish servings.

Other recipes like this one: Chard Tart with Feta Cheese and Olives, Summer Squash Galette with Summer Squash and Feta, Corn and Green Onion Tart with Bacon

One year ago: Three Grain Salad with White Beans and Artichokes

Two years ago: Almond Butter Granola Bars

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