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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Caramelized Garlic Tart from Plenty

As I leaf through Ottolenghi's Plenty and marvel at the way his mind works, I stumble upon something that makes me react out loud, the "Funny Onions" chapter.  The more I read the introductions and the compilations of his recipes, the more I realize that this is the real way to compose.  I tend to focus one one ingredient that I want to make shine, and then create the recipe around that one ingredient, with other vegetables used to elevate the importance of the initial ingredient.  So the "Funny Onions" chapter is all about making bulbs sublime.  This speaks to me, for I am a garlic and onion lover.. sometimes I don't know which to choose, so I use both.  I love shallots, and can easily cook them whole and eat them as a side, for they sweeten when cooked.  I love fennel bulbs, raw or roasted, paired with just about anything.  Never in my mind had I ever thought of making a garlic tart.  Onion tart, yes.. onion soup.. yes, but Garlic Tart?  You mean a pie full of garlic?  What a genius idea!
This tart has almost 3 whole heads of garlic in it.. but it is relatively mild, since the garlic is left whole and par-boiled, then caramelized.  The result was mind blowing.  Mild, slightly sweet, and most importantly, making the garlic shine like the star she really is.
Adapted from page 38 of Plenty.
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer
1 rosemary paprika buckwheat shortcrust (original uses an all butter puff pastry)
2 1/2 heads garlic, separated and peeled (original uses 3)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
3/4 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1 tsp chopped thyme
150g cubed feta (original uses 2 different goat cheeses)
1 handful roasted cubes butternut squash (not in the original recipe..I had leftovers)
1 large handful cherry tomatoes (not in the original)
2 eggs
200mL yogurt (original uses double cream and creme fraiche)
salt and cracked black pepper
1.  Place the shortcrust or puff pastry in a 28cm fluted tart tin over parchment paper, lightly stab it with a fork, and cover the edges with foil.  Pre-bake it for 15 minutes at 180°C 360°F.  In a lower oven rack, place the cherry tomatoes so they can get a head start and lose their water.
2.  Make the caramelized garlic.  Place all the garlic cloves in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a simmer and blanch for 3 minutes.  Drain, but reserve 1 cup of the water.
3.  Dry the garlic and the sauce pan, then heat the olive oil and the whole blanched garlic cloves on high heat.  Fry for around 2 minutes, then deglaze with the balsamic vinegar and garlic water.
4.  Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes.  Add the sugar, rosemary, and thyme along with a pinch of salt.  Leave to simmer until the garlic cloves are coated in a dark syrup (around 10 minutes).  Set aside.
5.  Assemble by placing the feta cubs into the pre-baked crust along with the butternut squash cubes and blistered cherry tomatoes, then add the garlic cloves and their syrup, making sure to spoon it evenly all over the other vegetables and cheese.
6.  In a separate bowl, make the custard by beating the eggs until frothy, and then adding the yogurt and beating well.  Add some salt and pepper to this mixture before pouring it into the crust over the rest, making sure to fill the gaps but can still see some veggies and cheese over the surface.
7.  The recipe says to bake at 160°C 320°F for 45 minutes, but after 1 hour, mine was still not done, so I turned it up to 170°C 350°F for 20 more minutes.  You want the custard to have set and the top to be golden.  By this time the house smells so lovely you just can't handle it anymore.. you just want to dive into the oven and swim through all that magnificent caramelized garlic.
8.  Let cool at least 20 minutes.  You can do it!
I served mine with a crunchy salad of baby romaine, shredded cabbage, chickpeas, lime, cilantro, and olive oil.

So.. how did it taste?  That first bite is transcending.  It's crunchy from the caramelized garlic that crisped in the oven and creamy on the inside.  The sharpness of the feta mixed with the tang of the oven roasted cherry tomatoes dance as if to thank you for having elevated them to this high ranking status.
That tart is honored to be your guest.  This is genius at its best..

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