On most market days I am armed with a strictly defined list of ingredients and their quantities to prevent superfluous vegetables from rotting. However, my eyes get the best of me as I am frivolously drawn to purple colored vegetables. For some reason, this summer of vegetables has brought a bounty of purple colored edibles: purple bell peppers, purple tomatoes, purple string beans, purple cauliflower, et cetera. What’s a girl to do? Naturally, I started to collect these violet specimens, which accumulate themselves in my fridge as I frantically seek out the perfect recipe for these devilishly hued fruit. As I am writing these words, I’m also racking my pantry for various starches to fry up a handful of baby Japanese eggplants (imagine: finger sized purple beauties in a tempura batter).
As a cook, I am a creature of habit. Despite all of my good intentions to ‘explore’ new cooking methods, I will make a quiche on most weeks. Perhaps I should devote those hours to exploring something new and different? This past week was no exception. I discarded all of those good intentions for a sack of these lovely Chocolate cherry tomatoes. For good measure, I also tossed in some of those cute Yellow Pear cherry tomatoes. Purple and yellow makes such a lovely contrast, I reasoned as I took my defiant quiche habit to the kitchen and made a rich ricotta tart dotted with these roasted lycopersicum miniatures. As soon as the quiche came out of the oven , I ate a slice immediately. The Francophile in me purred a bit.
This particular quiche recipe (I usually just wing it) comes from my favorite cookbook, Cafe Paradiso Seasons. Denis Cotter is a kitchen genius whose complex recipes taste elegantly simple – the ingredients just belong. I’m constantly underestimating the length of time it takes to throw together a Cafe Paradiso dish, but the efforts are worth every bite. I pair weekend quiches with weekday soups and salads to make a meal. Additionally, a double batch of quiche can fit in a conventional oven if you are feeling super constructive.
Flaky Tart Dough (Pate Brisee): This basic flaky dough is based on Tartine’s 3:2:1 ratio of Flour: Butter: Water (by weight) that converts easily into larger double or triple recipes for multiple tarts. Be sure to add water about 1/4 c. at a time to account for various humidity levels. Below is enough for 1 tart.
1 1/4c. White Pastry Flour (5.5 oz.)
6 TB Butter (3 oz)
3 TB Water (1.5 oz)
1 ts Salt
6 strands of Saffron soaked in 1TB of hot water
1 c. Ricotta
1/3 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. Grated Parmesan
20 Chocolate cherry tomatoes & Yellow Pear cherry tomatoes
10 Kalamata Olives
Tomato Pesto: 4 sundried Tomatoes reconstituted in hot water, 1 Garlic, 1/4 c. Olive Oil
+ Start the pastry dough by dissolving salt in water and placing it in a freezer to chill. Cut the butter into 1 inch cubes and place in the freezer to chill on a plate, covered with plastic wrap (I’m paranoid about unwanted freezer smells). Measure out the flour into a metal bowl and place it into the freezer along with the butter and water until the butter is extremely cold. I usually have some tea and cookies at this time. To mix the dough, place sifted cold flour into a food processor with the cold chunks of butter. Pulse a few times, making sure to keep mixture chunky with pea sized butter bits. Slowly add water to this mixture, pulsing while drizzling cold water into the processor (mix as little as possible to prevent your gluten from overworking and shrinking during baking). Remove onto a floured surface and shape into a 1″ thick disk. You might have to knead the dough a bit to get it to solidify, but keep this to a minimum. Wrap the dough in a sheet of plastic and chill for at least two hours.
+ Roll out the pastry dough to a circumference 1 1/2 in. larger than the tart shell. Do not roll the dough out too thin or the shell will shrink in the baking process. You want to use the most dough as possible and reduce overworking the dough which causes the gluten to shrink. Roll your dough disk onto the rolling pin and unroll it onto the tart shell. Gently press the bottom and sides into the shell mold and remove excess dough with your pin by rolling it over the metal edge. Using a fork, put some holes into the dough to prevent the pastry from bubbling during baking. Cover the shell with plastic and chill for 1 hour. Or, freeze for up to 2 weeks. This step is especially important for flakiness.
+ Preheat the oven to 375°F
+ Prepare the fillings. Make your pesto by draining the tomatoes of their water and pureeing them in a food processor with the garlic while slowly adding olive oil. Set aside. Slice the olives and tomatoes. Place the tomatoes cut side up in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt.
+ Bake the dough by lining the shell with parchment paper and then topping the shell with an even distribution of pie weights such as beans or rice. After 20 minutes, remove the pie weights and parchment and bake the shell for about 3 minutes more. Place the shell on a cooling rack.
+ Roast the tomatoes for about 30 minutes – you want them to remain juicy. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Meanwhile, make the custard. Blend saffron with soaking water, ricotta, eggs, cream, and parmesan to a smooth consistency. Spread an even layer of tomato pesto onto the cooled pastry shell placed onto a flat cookie sheet (this makes the quiche easier to handle and prevents spillage in the oven). Once the tomatoes are done roasting, pour the custard into the tart being careful to not completely fill the shell ( I leave about a 1/4″ from the top). Place roasted tomatoes cut side up into the custard in an even pattern. Distribute olives in between the roasted tomatoes. If there is space left in your tart, spoon in any remaining custard (if there is any) using a tablespoon.
+ Bake your quiche for 30-40 minutes until the custard is set. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.