During these months of staying at home when cooking has become an incessant daily chore, I have moments of kitchen fatigue when no food or recipe appeals. Those days we have scrambled eggs and toast for dinner. Then I get excited by a new recipe from the Smitten Kitchen, the New York Times or King Arthur Baking. I try a chicken curry or a loaf of Harvest Bread.
During the holidays I cooked a lot, sometimes with my daughter and husband as assistants. We made smoked salmon for Christmas dinner and spent the afternoon of New Year’s Eve making spinach pasta sheets and ricotta for a big pan of lasagna.
Zoë and Bud rolled the pasta dough into sheets. I cooked the milk and cream for ricotta.
With a simple tomato and garlic sauce, grated mozzarella and fresh basil, we were ready for the assembly.
Many layers later, we baked the lasagna and enjoyed it for our New Year’s Eve dinner.
Now I’m ready for simpler meals. One of my favorites is a savory tart accompanied by a salad. I use a wonderful, easy recipe from Patricia Wells for a simple, crisp, crust.
Combine 1 cup unbleached flour, a big pinch of salt, 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup water. Press the dough into a 8 – 9 inch pie plate or tin. (I used a Betty Woodman dish.)
I don’t prebake the shell. If you do, prick the bottom but there’s no need to weight the pastry as this does not shrink (another recommendation for using the recipe). I make spinach, asparagus, tomato or cheese tarts with this dependable crust. Lately I’ve had a yen for caramelized onions.
Thinly slice two largish yellow onions and sauté over medium high heat in two tablespoons olive oil. When the onions have begun to soften, lower the heat and cover the pan. Continue to cook over low heat, about 25 minutes, until browned and caramelized. Watch so they do not burn, stirring every now and then. Uncover in the last 5 minutes and raise the heat a bit to further brown. Stir frequently. Cool.
Use a spoon to paint the bottom of the tart shell with a good tablespoon Dijon mustard.
Combine the cooled onions with 1/2 cup half-and-half or milk, 1 large egg, 3 ounces grated Gruyere or cheddar, and five or six grinds of black pepper. Fill the shell and bake at 375° for 25 – 30 minutes. The center may be slightly jiggly but will firm up as the tart settles.
Happy New Year and happy cooking ─ even if you make scrambled eggs for dinner.