Last Monday was Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year, according to a publicity campaign from a travel company. This pseudoscience was based on a formula including factors such as weather conditions, debt level (i.e. debt from the holidays, I assume vs ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action. Needless to say this is rubbish. Any day could be really bad for anyone, just as it could go stupendously well for another.
My Monday was very busy and long, given a rare 16-hour workday, but not depressing in any way. While it has kept me indoors, it didn’t deter me from enjoying and appreciating the generous amount of sunshine we’ve been getting this week.
Of course, all this sunshine reminds me of Spring’s not-so-distant arrival. I get a little anxious, I’ll admit. I stop in my tracks to think about what I might have forgotten to schedule or do, or what I should have done or should be doing by now. I ruminate on these things in the morning when everybody’s out the door, and find comfort in a fresh cup of coffee. I never realized how a simple ritual such as this could be so calming. Being the only coffee drinker in the house, it’s one of the few things only I (get to) enjoy. Sure, cleaning that little French press each time could be a drag, but the whole process is pretty grounding. Coffee pun, unintended.
And then there are the seasonal food-related traditions I look forward to, like making silky smooth Meyer Lemon Curd. My winter liquid gold. Getting Meyer Lemons from California is not the most 100-Mile diet-friendly choice out there, but this is one of the few guilty pleasures I allow myself. It sure brings a sunny welcome to long cold days.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a New Year Resolution kind of person. Instead, I stick with a word–a mantra, if you will–to guide me through the year. Can you guess what it is this year?
We have been doing our own “eating down the fridge” meals to clean up, too. Roasting vegetables and putting them in a sturdy buttery crust elevates their almost-forgotten state. When I have to foresight to do so, I pre-make pate brisee dough for freezing. It lasts for a couple of months frozen and is a lifesaver both for savory and sweet dishes.
You couldn’t tell, but we also pre-roasted the vegetables a week before we baked this:
Do enjoy this recipe. Go crazy with it!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons ice cold water
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups roasted vegetables, cooled
- ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons (or 6 tablespoons total) plain or herbed goat cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons heavy or whipping cream
- salt and pepper to taste, depending on how seasoned your cheese and vegetables are
- Combine flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 5 times.
- Add the butter cubes and mix until the texture of the flour resembles coarse sand, with some pea-sized pieces.
- Sprinkle ice cold water a tablespoon at a time on the dough and pulse. Continue to process until it more or less forms one mass and the pieces stick together.
- Transfer dough onto a cold work surface or kitchen counter and roughly shape a 6-inch disc. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
- Unwrap dough and place on your work surface that is lightly dusted with flour.
- Roll out the dough using a rolling pin, down to ⅛-inch in thickness thickness, creating a 12″ to 13″-diameter disc. If the dough is too cold and stiff to roll out, leave it on the counter for 5 minutes or so, until it becomes more pliable.
- Carefully pick up the rolled dough and drape over the 9″ x 1″ tart pan (with removable bottom), without stretching. Gently pat the bottom, corner and sides to make sure the pan is fully covered. Trim the edges of the dough about ¼” from the top of the pan. Fold the extra dough into the sides touching the pan, top flushed to the top edge of the pan. Gently press the sides into the curves of the tart pan to secure the dough into the fluted sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line the top of the crust with a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill the bottom with pie weights, uncooked beans or rice to keep the crust flat when baking.
- Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the weights and the aluminum or parchment sheet. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, until the dough starts to turn light brown ever-so-slightly at the edges. Take out to cool on a wire rack while you prepare the filling.
- Whisk the eggs, heavy cream, 2 tablespoons of goat cheese, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper together. The cheese doesn’t have to be fully disintegrated; small pieces can be left in the mixture.
- Spread the roasted vegetables on the cooled crust, then pour the custard mixture over the vegetables. Dot the top of the tart with torn pieces of the remaining goat cheese. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the custard is set and the top of the tart is golden. Allow to rest in the tart pan perched on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Planning Ahead: I must warn you that you cannot start this at 6:00pm and expect to have dinner in an hour. There are many things you can do ahead of time. The tart shell can be prepared and partially baked beforehand, just make sure to cool it before wrapping in plastic film for storing in the fridge (if using the next day) or in the freezer (for up to 2 months). The tart dough can also be pre-made and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Another option would be to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer–just remember to add 5 or so minutes to the baking time.
Roasted Vegetables: You can make your roasted vegetable mix by chopping chunks of vegetables (e.g. zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, cauliflower, etc. ) and tossing them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and some herbs and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast in an oven preheated at 425°F for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and store in the fridge (if used within 2 days) or in the freezer. This can be used in your savory tarts, mixed with noodles, or even just with some goat cheese and crackers. When pulsed in the food processor with some caramelized onions, it makes a very hearty vegetable dip.