There’s nothing more satisfying in late August and early September than a warm picnic that can be brought with you on excursions with friends to our myriad local beaches, parks and hiking trails, or simply to a cosy backyard where social distancing is still a comforting option.
Savory tarts are a great base for experimenting with any season’s bounty, but they are especially well-suited for late summer crops like fresh local sweet corn and onions.
Uncured onions in all their glory are fresh and local in July and August. These humble members of the allium family are currently mellow and sweet and brimming with juice. You can slice them in a salad, char them on the gril and add them to just about everything savory. Slow cooking in a bath of olive oil and butter really brings out their star power. Layered with local corn, farm fresh eggs and cheese make this a scrumptions tart that is a go-to for summer picnics or lazy porch lunches.
Pair with a warm dish of local string beans, dressed in a spicy blend of sweet and sour Asian flavors, topped with sliced local scallions. Happy dining!
North Fork Corn & Onion Tart
Pre-baking the tart shell ensures that the crust will be thoroughly cooked. Resting the dough at several stages helps the fat to solidify after handling and hold its shape better. Lining the crust with parchment and then weighting with dried beans prevents the shell from bubbling up and collapsing during baking. If you plan on baking regularly, you can purchase reusable ceramic beans for this purpose. You will need a 10 inch tart pan with a removable base.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup plus two Tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1⁄2 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. iced water
Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process briefly. Add the butter and blend until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water, making sure it is evenly mixed. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and quickly shape into a round. Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.
Place the chilled dough on a floured surface and roll out to a 14-inch thin round (you will have extra left). Gently press the dough into the pan, trim the edges leaving a half inch overhang and fold this back on edge of the crust. Let the crust rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before moving on to the next stage. Lightly prick the base of the crust with a fork, line with a 12 inch circle of baking parchment and fill with dried beans or uncooked rice. Bake on the middle shelf of a preheated 365 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment and set aside to cool.
Mix uncured local red and white onions for maximum color and flavor. I cooked the onions separately so that they cooked evenly, and I could layer the red variety on top, but you can skip this step and cook both in the same pan.
1 medium-large local white onion peeled
1 medium-large local red onion peeled
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
2 ears local corn shucked
1 1⁄2 cups coarsely grated gruyère cheese or a mixture of gruyère and cheddar
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves minced
Whole thyme leaves for garnish
Salt and fresh black pepper
Using a sharp knife scrape the corn kernels from the cob discarding any stray pieces of the silk and set aside. Cut the onions in half lengthwise and cut into half-moon slices about 1⁄4 inch thick. Place 1 tbs. butter and 2 tbs. oil in each of two non-stick skillets and heat until butter starts to sizzle. Add the white and red onions to separate skillets, add a pinch of salt and stir to coat with the fats. Turn the heat to low and cook gently until onions are translucent and soft (about 7-10 minutes). Do not allow them to brown. Set aside to cool. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a medium bowl, stir in the cheese and minced thyme leaves and add 1⁄2 tsp salt and a few twists of fresh black pepper. Spread the white onions onto the cooked tart crust and top with the corn kernels. Gently pour the egg and cheese mixture over the corn, being careful not to overfill as the mixture will expand slightly during cooking. Scatter the red onions over the surface of the tart and sprinkle with a few whole thyme leaves for garnish. Place in preheated 365-degree oven and bake for about 20 minutes until just set. Allow to cool for at least thirty minutes before serving with the sesame green beans. Best eaten slightly warm or at room temperature. Will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
Spicy Sesame String Beans
Use tender local string beans for this recipe. The wonderful spicy dressing is also delicious served on asparagus or steamed broccoli. Can be served warm or cold, but add the dressing to the beans when they are still warm.
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 lb. local green beans
1 1⁄2 Tbsp. white miso
1 clove local garlic, finely grated with a microplane
1 1⁄2 tsp. Go-Chu-Jang (Korean spice paste)
(can substitute Sriracha)
2 Tbsp. Mirin
1 1⁄2 tbs. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. light soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1⁄4 cup canola oil
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds and toast for a few minutes, shaking the pan occasionally until they are a pale golden brown. Set aside to cool. Wash the green beans and trim at stem end. Place in a large pan of boil- ing salted water and cook at a low boil for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain and place in a large bowl.
Whisk the ingredients for the dressing together until the miso paste is fully combined. Pour the dressing over the warm beans and toss thoroughly. Place in a shallow dish or platter and sprinkle on the scallions and sesame seeds. Best served warm but can be refrigerated and served next day. The dressing can be stored for several days.