Friday, August 31, 2012



My friends continue to ask me what the first thing will be that I will make or bake in my brand spanking new kitchen. I shrug. I cannot for the life of me think that far ahead in time. We are still at the interminable stage of scraping old carpet glue and cement off of ancient, faded and stained tiles and wood parquet and arguing over the individual elements of the design to be able to project ourselves barely two months into the future and think of food. Input from all sides, new ideas, changing opinions, and more trouble with that damn floor than we could ever have imagined, and exhaustion! block out any thought of sliding cake pans into some non-existent oven or homey smells emanating from a Dutch oven on a stovetop. Covered with dust and bruises, we drag our sagging bodies home at mealtime; picking up sandwiches at the boulangerie at noon and flopping onto the sofa late afternoon to “Are you hungry?” and “Who’ll fix dinner tonight?” singing through the house. How can I even begin to think of christening (or is it baptizing?) our new kitchen when I even have trouble considering throwing together a meal for my family now?

Talented son has finalized the design plans, yet to build it ourselves or not to build it ourselves, that is the question. Cabinets and worktop have been selected from that great Swedish warehouse in the sky while our neighborhood cuisinista, kitchen design studio, is luring us with a second design and the heavenly promise of shouldering the hard labor and assuming all responsibility. Each appliance has been mulled over, advantages weighed out and finally selected. Yet each day as we step over the threshold, as our bodies are enveloped and consumed by a fine white dust, as we breath in the heady scent of stripping solution and plaster, all thoughts of a shiny new kitchen, a cozy home flooded with sunlight fall away.

What to cook in my future kitchen, you ask? Shall I have images of bottles of Champagne nestled and chilling inside a shiny refrigerator in my head? Can I see myself sliding gooey layers of chocolate cake out of an oven as thick, creamy ganache cools on my beautiful new countertop? As I stand in the middle of an empty room, surrounded by broken chunks of woodwork, the hideous floor strewn with hammers, scrapers, crowbars and bulging plastic bags overflowing with bits and pieces of electric wiring, plaster and gravel, do shiny, cream-colored cabinets filled with china and glassware, pots and pans take shape in my mind? Does my excitement at standing behind stovetop, window thrown open, the breeze tickling the back of my neck as I chop and stir block out the mess at my feet or soothe the sores on my hands? Can I feel the weight and heft of a tray laden with choice delicacies, oysters on ice chips, glistening olives, crystal goblets of wine each time I slip on a grimy yellow work glove and curve my aching fingers around the handle of the scraper? At the pain of disappointing, I must admit that the answer would be no.

Therefore, I answer my friends who press me for my dream menu that I just cannot think about it at this time and place. In normal times, I am much more invigorated to cook and bake in the winter when the weather is cool than in the slow, stagnant, lazy days of summer when my mind is a blank stretch of road winding into the flat, hazy distance. I lie on the sofa, drowsily mumbling lists of items I should be picking up at the market and murmuring lists of dishes I could be cooking for this meal or that. Yet the energy eludes me and I remain sprawled in the same position, leaving my family to fend for themselves. And this summer more than ever, what with Clem out of town, only drifting in on the odd weekend, Simon slipping out with his friends or simply not hungry at the same time that we are and JP and I just flat out lethargic, drained from the renovations. We prefer the simple, the cool and fresh, stopping by the market on the way back from a morning’s renovation to pick up fruit and a head of lettuce, cold cuts and cheese, a baguette or two. We may, in our attempt to put together a complete and balanced meal, boil pasta and eggs, slice tomatoes and toss it all together with a can of corn and another of white beans for a * ta da * pasta salad! But the cooking and baking bug has surely left on a long vacation.

(Here I must do justice, give credit where credit is due at the expense of my story and say that JP does indeed make much more of an effort to cook real meals during the summer than I do and we often eat scrumptious dishes much to my delight and our satiation.)

But once in a while, the urge and excitement to cook or bake wash over me, invigorating and refreshing like dashing into the sea. Maybe it’s the weather, cooler now, like the early days of autumn, my favorite season. Maybe it is something along the lines of the old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder”; when days and weeks flow by and I’ve had neither the time nor the energy nor the desire to bake, it all catches up to me like a cavalcade in pursuit of the bad guys. And then I will spend a full day or two kneading dough, rolling out puff pastry, slicing and chopping seasonal vegetables and tossing fresh fruit into whipped cream. This past weekend, as the men made runs to the dump and to the hardware store, I made both a sweet and a savory tart with my homemade puff pastry. Fresh peaches, the sweetest we have found them in years, were sliced and layered onto a French Peach Tart. And summer’s local tomates nantaises were sliced and layered atop a tangle of caramelized onions and fresh goat cheese, dotted with salty olives and baked, served warm for a dinner for four that was consumed in joy and in record time. Both tarts, the sweet and the savory, were gobbled down by three hungry men, the persnickety, the finicky and the hungry husband and proud, little old me, both tarts loved by one and all.

At the end of a trying, physically exhausting, yet satisfying day, nothing beats a wonderful, homemade meal.

The idea for this came from the July-August 2012 issue of French Saveurs, the twists and turns are my own.

For the tart you need:

Dough (I used puff pastry about 14 oz/400 g), the original recipe called for bread dough (about 14 oz/400 g) or you could simply use a quiche dough for a 10-inch tart. The puff pastry dough needs to be rolled out, line a lightly oiled 10-inch (25 cm) tart dish, pricked and refrigerated for about 30 minutes while you make the filling. The bread dough, if using, needs to stay out at room temp for 30 minutes once you have rolled it out and lined the oiled tart dish.

For my homemade Puff Pastry, follow the recipe here and the step by step directions here (adding the butter to the détrempe).

Roll out the dough (even the puff pastry) so when you line the tart/pie dish the dough comes up the sides to make an edge just to the top of the dish.

For the filling you need:

3 yellow onions - peeled, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic chopped or minced (not too too finely)
Fresh or dried thyme and basil (I used dried), salt and pepper
About 6 medium (maybe 2 - 3 inches across) ripe tomatoes **
A small handful tiny olives, such as Niçoise olives or Greek olives
A bit of fresh goat cheese or feta, optional
Olive oil

** you can use about 400 g (14 oz) cherry tomatoes, sliced in half. Instead of brushing the cherry tomato halves with olive oil before baking, toss in 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil before placing the halves in concentric circles, close together, on top of the caramelized onions.

While the dough is resting, caramelize the thinly sliced onions in about 2 tablespoons olive oil. After about 5 minutes, when the onions become translucent and just start to color, add the garlic, salt and pepper and the herbs and continue to cook over medium or medium-low heat until the onions caramelized a golden brown. This usually takes about 10 minutes total. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Spread the onions in the tart shell. If using goat cheese or feta crumble or lay slices over the onions, as much or as little as you like but only one thin layer. Cut off and discard the ends of the tomatoes and slice tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick and lay on top of onions/cheese in concentric circles, pressing the slices closely together in one tight, single layer. Lightly brush the top of each tomato with olive oil, salt and pepper again, a bit of basil and the olives, as many or as few as you like. Bake until the edges of the crust are golden brown about 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool just a bit before serving in slices. This tart makes a wonderful meal with only a green salad, bread and a cheese platter and a bottle of wine.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

This savory tart is magnificent and so droolworthy! I am extremely fond of caramelized onions and tomatoes.

During the hot season, I tend to bake and cook less than during the cold season. Heat makes me lazy. I can't wait to see how your new kitchen will look!



Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez said...

How exciting to be heading into a new kitchen where the possibilities are endless. This tart sounds magnificent...definitely like a summer's-end bounty.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Another beautiful tart! It is prime tomato season here, and these are just the type of dishes that show off in-season, perfectly ripe tomatoes without overwhelming them.

Ken┃hungry rabbit said...

I guess you'll cook up a storm, so it probably won't be just one dish. This tart is fantastic and certainly a welcome recipe in any kitchen.

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Oh Jamie - a new kitchen? HOW exciting. Been following hte progress on Twitter and Instagram - I can't wait to see the finished product! PS: nice tart!

Diva Crudites said...

Must serve this tart over the Labor Day weekend...absolutely love caramelized onions and tomatoes. Need to run out to find the perfect wine to pair up with this soon to be amazing meal.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

I know you must be excited about your new kitchen. You've sure worked hard on it.

Lovely tart. I could eat this every day and be a very happy girl. I'm pinning it for inspiration.
If I can read that darn word verify. Third try.

Dewi said...

Delicious savory tart, and I really like the goat cheese in it.

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

All of the hard work and exasperation will one day be a thing of memory and the pain will fade...much like childbirth I presume. Until then I could exist on this tart alone if I were you (and you may have to!).

Hang in there; separated from the actual exhaustion of the effort I can still see the reality of your dream; hoping soon you will too.

WiseMóna said...

It matters not what you make in your new kitchen Jamie. It will be fabulous. The tart is gorgeous, we will try it out here ...perhaps this afternoon. Can't wait to see the new kitchen..a true labour of love it will be.

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

That tart looks delicious and fresh; I love seeing the generous slices of vegetables or tomatoes in this case!

Maureen said...

My darling woman, how do you have the energy to not only bake a tart but photograph it so beautifully when you have to be so tired you could drop? I couldn't think about what I'd make first when we built our house. We ended up getting Chinese delivered and eating it on the front steps with a plastic spork. :) I LOVE this tart and I could eat caramelized onions by the ton!

Aidan said...

One of my favorite summer recipes, made perfect by your touch, I'm sure. I cannot believe you make your own puff pastry. I am beyond impressed, but really not surprised. Of course you can do that!
I've been exactly the same this summer, so lazy and so dreamy. It's been far too hot to contemplate cooking, esp baking, and sometimes even eating. Now, with the shift in the weather I look forward to my favorite fall combination of sausage (any kind) and beans (again, any kind). I'm a peasant at heart, I guess.
I can't wait to see how the new kitchen turns out. How exciting!
aidan x

Jamie said...

@Maureen: Oh darn you, now I want take out Chinese and it doesn't exist here like in the US. And I am embarrassed to say how many nights we've eaten either pizza (homemade or at our neighborhood joint) and take-out kabobs with fries. Too many. So I sware we'll start cooking again once we have a nice kitchen. I sware. I do.

katiez said...

That tart is going into my oven soon!
And I love your choice of pink for the kitchen.... And I know just the shop for more of those frilly aprons you'll be needing. (All said tongue-in-cheek - well, not the bit about the tart.... New kitchens are soooo exciting!)

Jamie said...

@katiez: Oh Katie, that had me laughing! Yes, I need pink! A pink kitchen would be just the thing but sadly I did propose a pink touch or two and I've been overruled by the testosterone in the house.

David @ Frenchie and the Yankee said...

It looks spectacular. I might make this during the long weekend.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

How very exciting!! You know, I don't remember what my first dish was when we had our new kitchen. This is a beautiful tart! And I loved how you said that the twists and turns were your own on the recipe :D

brighteyedbaker said...

Wow! Such a beautiful tart, and the flavor combination sounds amazing as well! That must be so exciting that you're getting a new kitchen. Congrats!

Rambling Tart said...

I can only imagine how exhausted you are, Jamie! Thinking of the ideal thing to cook would be beyond the pale. :-) I love this tart. Tarts are pure comfort food to me, especially with tomatoes and a beautiful crust. :-)

Baker Street said...

I love savory tarts and this one looks amazing! I did bake a caramelized onion and bacon tart last week for brunch and this one is next on my list.

Junglefrog said...

Before you know it you'll be cooking up a storm in your new kitchen Jamie, all dust and mess totally forgotten. I can vaguely remember ours although your renovation is a much bigger project. I'm still in love with our new kitchen as I know you will be with yours! Love the tart!

Lora said...

I love this tart. Some of my favorite ingredients all rolled in one. Although we did not do a gut renovation, our new house is living up to my mother's expression - "A House is a Beggar". Always a new project, something to do, fix and acres of garden full of weeds. Baking can be hard at the end of a long day of toiling. Fall is also my favorite season and I completely understand about the summer baking mojo suspension.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Ooh so many tarts - I think maybe it should be a grand tart that you make in your new kitchen. Whatever you make I am sure it will be lovely - most important though you will begin to fill the new kitchen with great memories!

Kiran @ said...

Love your take on this delicious savory tart!

And I can't wait for the unveil of your new kitchen, and the recipes that you'd make from it :)

Jeanne said...

Lol - I hope your kitchen is less... erm... colourful that those pics! ;o) love the tart though - I'd go for feta I think - teamed with a big rocket salad. Yum yum yum!

Ivy said...

Your tomato tart looks so appetizing. Look forward to seeing your new kitchen but out of recent experience I must tell you that you will have so many other things to do until you settle down that you will be wanting to cook something fast and easy.

Karen Eiland said...

I got so hungry looking at your images, I love caramelized onions and your tart looks divine. I love experimenting in the kitchen and I think I'll have a go at creating something similar. I never used to spend much time in the kitchen but ever since we had a redesign carried out by In-toto, I find I can't drag myself away from it. I've discovered a new found love for baking and the home smells wonderful some days. Thanks for sharing your ideas and inspiring, I might have a go at it this weekend!


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