One of my favorite things about my Eatwell Farm CSA box is not picking my own produce. I love grocery shopping but the joy here comes from the surprise of opening the box, discovering what’s inside, and then having to figure out what to do with its treasures.
I was most excited about the leeks in last Thursday’s box–mostly because I’ve never had leeks from the farm before and because I realized that I’ve actually never cooked with leeks nor did I have a very good idea of what leeks tasted like. (Answer: giant green onions. At least that’s what I garnered from my first bite of one while it was still raw.) I searched online and found quite a number of fried leek recipes (which I may make with the green ends) and one on how to make very appetizing-looking spaghettini with Gorgonzola, leeks, and shallots. I briefly considered leek and potato soup but decided against it despite Julie Powell’s description of how tasty it is in Julie and Julia–and even despite the fact that it’s Julia Child’s first recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. When I landed on Chow.com’s post for a savory onion and leek tart, I knew I had my winner.
I was going to make this on Thursday but fortunately decided the handmade crust could wait until tonight. Smart move. This recipe is tremendously easy but just takes a while to make–30 minutes of sauteing onions and leeks will do that to a dish. Preparing a mise en place–and placing a call to your grandmother once the browning’s begun–will make it more fun, though.
I learned about mise en place while writing the table of contents for Dwell’s March 2010 kitchen-themed issue. (Though I am a cook, crafter and co-founder of Owl In Bag, athlete, and adventurer by (morning and) night, by day, I’m an editor at Dwell, a job I truly love.) I was playing around with pithy phrases and working ways to tie in cooking terms when I discovered this phrase and its meaning: A mise en place means “everything in place.” In the cooking world, this translates to preparing your ingredients and dishes before beginning to cook.
While “mise en place” never made it into the table of contents, it has since made it into my standard method of cooking, as it makes your feel like a certifiable chef and also makes it far easier and quicker to cook. (And I finally bought mise-en-place dishes today at the hardware store–and scored 20-percent off for bringing my own bag in which to carry them home!)
Here is my mise en place for the savory onion and leek tart:
Which looked like this before it all ended up chopped and measured and placed in pretty (mostly, anyhow) bowls:
Though the recipe took a long time–I started around 6 pm and didn’t finish until after nine–everything can be prepared in advance and then put together and baked the next day. The final assembly and baking only take about 25 to 30 minutes so it can be the perfect plate if you’ve invited guests.
Here’s how your do it: Make your mise en place. (Okay, you don’t have to but I’ve loved doing it since I’ve started and think you will too.) Saute the onions and leeks, one third at a time, in butter. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in the creme fraiche (I used sour cream instead because I didn’t have creme fraiche) and herbs (thyme, marjoram, and parsley). Roll out the pastry and then cut it into a ten-inch circle with the assistance of a plate and paring knife. Place the pastry on a baking sheet and then the onion-and-leek mixture on the pastry, spreading it out until it is evenly distributed, save for a one-inch perimeter. Then fold up the pastry around the filling and create cute little pinches to hold the edges together.
Here’s how mine looked before I gave the pastry an egg wash and popped it into the oven:
The result: amazing deliciousness. Not only was this dish incredibly beautiful–I was seriously sad that I didn’t have a potluck to go to when it came out of the oven–but it’s scrumptious as well. And the pastry; oh, the pastry! Incredibly flaky. Just perfect. My only warning is that this tart is very rich. I was washing the copious amounts of dirt off my CSA box spinach (I swear I get half the farm with every bag of greens in my box!) and so tossed up a salad of spinach, leaf lettuce, and carrots. This was a very good decision. The fresh, light taste of the salad did an excellent job at balancing the heavy, creamy nature of the tart. Still, I might try making it with plain yogurt instead of sour cream next time.
Here’s my dinner:
Now off to bed since I’m hosting brunch in the morning!