I saw the first crocuses of the season yesterday, happy little heads poking out of the dirt in our back yard – a discovery I made while tidying up the yard with Hugo after a winter of neglect. Or I should say, the human members of our household have been neglecting the yard, but the k-9 member (yup little guy, I’m talking to you) has apparently been quite busy decapitating and generally tearing apart all manner of plants, shrubs, and vines back there. Our upstairs neighbor joked that he must be vitamin deficient. It’s always something with my little angel.
St. Patrick’s Day in Boston was a balmy 60 degrees, a late March treat which we celebrated (no, not with green beer) but with a beautiful run in Franklin Park. On our way back, we passed a line of 100 green-clad Irish enthusiasts outside of Doyles’ Tavern. They, and their police escort, high fived us as we jogged up the street.
The end of March, with those first few warm days, is such a tease food-wise. This time of year, we’re still eating last fall’s potatoes and squash while visions of asparagus, ramps, rhubarb, and strawberries dance in our heads. I talked to Vange in California this week who’s been baking up strawberry Meyer lemon pie with local berries and citrus. Yes. Please. They have it good out there.
Here in Boston, I’ve been making all sorts of “pretend it’s spring” meals – mostly salads, vegetables, and other light feeling fare. This tart fits that bill perfectly. A little hybrid creation that uses sweet potatoes from last years harvest at The Food Project alongside spinach just harvested in their greenhouse. Paired with the sweet depth of caramelized onions and the tanginess of fresh goat cheese, it was pretty addictive. We gobbled it up alongside a huge plate of simple green salad.
As a side note, I found myself overwhelmed by fresh spinach last week, and decided to try blanching it briefly (1 minute in boiling water) and then freezing it in ½ pound bags. The spinach held up remarkably well – certainly it’s nothing like fresh, but it works great in recipes like this.
One Year Ago: Apple Strusel with a Shortbread Crust
For the crust
For the Filling
- 1 small sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ pound frozen spinach or 3 large handfuls fresh spinach
- 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¾ cup whole milk or half and half
- Fine grain sea salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 oz soft goat cheese (chevre)
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Begin by rolling out your chilled tart dough to fit a 9 inch tart tin. Line the tin, pressing the dough up above the edge of the tart pan and trimming away any excess dough. Using a fork, poke several holes in the bottom of the dough. Place a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper over the tart shell and fill with dried beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake 20 minutes, then remove the weights and foil and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned.
Meanwhile, toss the cut sweet potato with ½ tbsp of the olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Roast while the crust is baking – about 25 minutes, or until the sweet potato slices are soft and golden around the edge.
If using frozen spinach, defrost. If using fresh, blanch briefly. Either way, drain the spinach very very very well in a mesh colander. Give it a few good squeezes to remove any extra liquid. Chop roughly and set aside.
Set a medium skillet over medium high heat and add the remaining ½ tbsp olive oil. Add the onions to the pan and cook 1 to 2 minutes until they begin to soften. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking the onions, stirring every so often until they are caramelized and very soft – about 30 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, and milk with 1 tsp salt, a little fresh pepper, and a few gratings of nutmeg. Add the chopped drained spinach and mix to combine. Set aside.
Assembly and Baking: Place the caramelized onions in the bottom of the baked tart shell. Pour over the spinach mixture (It should all fit, but due to slight variations in tart pan depth etc. you may have a little extra – in any case, do not overfill.) Dot the top of the tart with the roasted sweet potatoes and the goat cheese. Sprinkle over the thyme. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until set, puffy, and golden. Serve warm.