This is a “clean out the cupboard” recipe. That’s my goal of late, pantry cuisine. I’m not allowed run to the store for anything. Sundried tomatoes, eggs and baby spinach called from the cold, “Use me up.” Onions and garlic—always have them. I like choices, but it’s time to narrow down my flour assortment. The blue cheese, it’s housemade, from Deer Valley.
Just before I retired from my pastry chef career, I met Deer Valley’s new cheese maker, Corinne, who had set up shop in Silver Lake Lodge. Her buttery triple-cream Brie was already resting and ripening on shiny metal walk-in fridge shelves. “Meadow Lark” brie, just one of several brie variations, made its appearance on opening night last weekend, in dessert, on The Mariposa’s new menu. Corinne also makes blue cheese, several different variations. A nicely veined new blue charmed its way into these tarts.
This crust is made with whole-wheat flour because I love the nuttiness it adds to pastry. And fiber too. Not to mention that mixed with oil, whole-wheat pastry flour makes an incredibly flaky butter-free crust. (Go ahead and substitute regular whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour if cleaning out your pantry doesn’t yield the whole-wheat pastry variety.)
Spinach, Blue Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato Tarts
1 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
¾ teaspoon Real Salt
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons cold water
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon Real Salt
Pinch black pepper
9 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons whole-wheat breadcrumbs
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped in ¼-inch pieces
2 eggs, lightly beaten
About 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
The crust: Whisk flour and salt together. In a separate bowl whisk the olive oil and water about a minute. Pour over the flour and blend with a fork until everything is well mixed.
Divide into 4 pieces. This oil crust dough does not have to chill before rolling.
Roll each piece between 2 sheets of parchment or waxed paper. Carefully peel the top paper. Invert the dough over the pan. Carefully again, peel away the other piece of parchment. Tuck the dough into the corners of four individual (4-inch) tartlet pans with removable bottoms. With your fingers, build up the edges to fill in the sides of the tart pans making sure there is ample dough up the sides of the tarts, for sturdy edges. Place the pans on a baking sheet. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
Preheat oven to 350° F. In a nonstick skillet heat the oil over medium flame. Add the onions and cook, stirring every so often, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, salt and pepper, and then cook another few minutes.
Add the spinach. Cook about 10 minutes, until the spinach has wilted and most of the moisture has evaporated. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool a few minutes.
Stir in the blue cheese, breadcrumbs, sun dried tomatoes and eggs. Mix well. Season with more salt and pepper, to taste.
Divide the spinach mixture among the tart pans. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until the filling has set and puffed up slightly, and the cheese on top is golden.
Makes four (4-inch) individual tarts or one (9-inch) tart.
***I keep a small tub of breadcrumbs in the freezer. If I ever have a leftover slice of whole grain bread, I set it on a plate to dry. I grind the dried bread into crumbs in the food processor.
*** The sun dried tomatoes were given to me by California Sun-Dry.