I have been a ‘pie girl’ for as long as I can remember; my choice of birthday treat was almost always a cherry pie – except those times when I requested Angel Food cake – primarily because I thought maybe eating Angel Food cake would make me more . . . shall we say, ‘angelic?’ No such luck. The words, ‘sweet’ or ‘angelic’ are never used to describe me and I’m okay with that. I’ve learned to embrace my other qualities . . . I won’t bore you with the details now, but suffice it to say that ‘loving pie’ is at the top of that list.
This fennel tart (aka pie) is one of my very favorites to make during the summer; when farmer’s markets and gardens are bursting with fresh produce – this is the tart you want to
bake. Caramelized onions, garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, fennel, tomatoes and zucchini are nestled into a flaky, buttery crust; eggs, feta cheese and a bit of the tomato juices are whipped together and pour over the tart, settling in between those gorgeous summer vegetables. And if that isn’t enough, sprinkle the top with Gruyere cheese . . .
This tart is vegetarian and made with a gluten-free crust (killer crust if I may be so humble – see those flaky bits over there . . . now that’s a crust worth talkin’ about!) but feel free to use your favorite – whatever tickles your fancy. Another plus is that the tart can be served room temperature – making it a great choice for all that summer entertaining you do.
Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is. Think I’ll have another slice . . .
SUMMER FENNEL TART
Adapted from Moosewood New Classics
NOTE: You’ll need to make your gluten-free pie crust at least 2 hours ahead so plan accordingly
FOR THE CRUST:
- 350 grams GF flour mix (your favorite)
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your mix already includes gums)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 Tablespoons mascarpone cheese
- 5 Tablespoons ice-cold water
FOR THE FILLING:
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup thinly sliced onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel, outside layer removed, reserve a few of the fronds for top, if desired
- 2 fresh tomatoes – juice and pulp removed, reserving ½ cup
- 1 cup seeded and diced zucchini
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel pollen
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 4 eggs
- 1-1/2 cups feta cheese, crumbled, packed
- 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese, packed
METHOD FOR THE CRUST:
Note: It is imperative to the success of your crust that all your ingredients are cold; I keep a tub of AP flour AND butter in my freezer so I can make either pie crust or biscuits whenever I fancy. I use the large grater disc on my food processor and grate the butter – as frozen butter is difficult (if not impossible) to cube. You can place all the dry ingredients in a zippered bag or a bowl and place it in the freezer for 30-minutes to an hour before putting your dough together; additionally, you can cube cold butter, then place the cubes into the freezer for the same amount of time.
- Place chilled dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse 3-4 times to blend flours together
- Add both butter and mascarpone cheese; pulse until mixture looks like small peas – about 8-10 pulses, give or take
- Add water and pulse again until the mixture is more sand-like; your dough won’t look like dough – it will be crumbly and won’t hold together – this is exactly what you want
- Scoop half the mixture into the center of a large piece of plastic wrap, pull up the sides and smish the dough together so that it begins to hold together, somewhat kneading/pressing the pieces together until it forms a ball/disk; wrap tightly and repeat with the remaining mixture.
- Place both disks into the refrigerator overnight; this allows the flours plenty of time to hydrate and makes it easier to handle (you’re only going to use 1 crust for this particular recipe; the other will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days or in the freezer, wrapped tightly, for up to 3 months)
- About 15 minutes before rolling, remove from refrigerator and place disk between 2 pieces of parchment and roll – size of dough should be approximately 2-inches larger than the dish/pan you are using
- Remove top piece of parchment and carefully, turn the bottom parchment over so that the crust is now able to be placed into tart pan
- Gently peel parchment from the crust and nestle the crust into your tart pan; no worries if it tears or is a bit thin near the edges – you’ll use any trimmings to fill in where needed and once the tart is filled and baked, no one is the wiser!
- Place tart pan into the refrigerator until you’re ready to add the fillings
METHOD FOR THE TART FILLING:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Heat oil in large cast iron skillet (or other non-reactive skillet) over medium heat
- Add onions, garlic, red pepper and salt; sauté until onions are translucent – about 5-7 minutes; add fresh fennel and sauté for an additional 3-5 minutes.
- Halve the tomatoes, scoop out the pulp and juice; set aside ½ cup. Dice tomato flesh to make 1 cup and add it, with the zucchini and fennel pollen to the onion-fennel mixture
- Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes have softened and begin to fall apart
- Remove from heat and stir in basil; taste for seasonings and add more salt/pepper if needed
- Let cool
- In a blender add eggs, tomato juice/pulp and the feta cheese; blend until smooth
- Place chilled tart pan on a baking sheet (catches any overflow)
- Spoon cooled vegetables into chilled crust
- Pour custard over the vegetables
- Top with grated Gruyere (tart will be very full), add reserved fronds and bake for 50 minutes
- Cool to room temperature and serve