Soup and Sandwich…Gourmet

When Fall hits our small part of the world, amazing deep grey clouds roll in, full of character, and sometimes full of rain.  We had two straight days of cold, cold rain last weekend.  The weekend my husband happened to be riding in Salt to Saint, a relay cycling race from Salt Lake City to St. George.  While my boys and I drove through 200+ miles of rain, my husband and his team rode through it on their bikes.  Good thing St. George is always sunny and warm.  We met the team at the finish line with homemade cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate, apple cider, and the good ol’ St. George sun.

Just in case your Fall is starting out cold and rainy, here’s a gourmet soup + sandwich combo you are going to just love: Creamy Corn and Potato Chowder + Tomato Asparagus Tart.

Sauté the veggies for bit, add stock and let simmer until the flavors have had time to shimmy and the veggies are perfectly soft, then add the half and half at the end until warm and creamy and heated through.

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Our town’s Farmers Market runs through October, and we can still find a couple large heirloom tomatoes.  I love the vibrant colors of heirlooms–they look just like the leaves!  Mop up some of the tomato juice with paper towels while poking holes in the pastry.

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Arrange the tomatoes and asparagus, bake, and sprinkle with a little love…aka…chopped walnuts and grated Parmigiano-Regiano cheese…

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CORN AND POTATO CHOWDER

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 medium celery rib, diced
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 red potatoes, diced
  • 2 ears fresh corn, cut from the cob
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3-4 cups half and half
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat the bottom of a large stockpot with olive oil and heat to medium.  Sauté the carrot, celery, onion, potatoes, and corn, with salt and pepper to taste, until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the stock and parsley, and reduce heat to low.  Allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are soft and tender, then add the half and half at the end, to get creamy and chowder-ish.  {Be careful to not let the soup come back to a simmer or boil, or the milk will curdle and your soup will separate.}

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TOMATO AND ASPARAGUS TART

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 store-bought puff pastry
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • grated Parmigiano-Regiano to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oven to 425F.
  2. Prepare a large un-rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Unwrap the thawed but chilled pastry and lay on the parchment paper.  Don’t worry about rolling or cutting or spreading it at all, just unwrap and lay flat on the sheet pan.  Poke with holes, using a fork.
  3. Prepare the tomatoes–they are too juicy and will make the pastry mushy.  Prepare by slicing thinly and placing on a paper towel.  Gently press the tops of the tomatoes with another paper towel.  When ready, arrange the tomato sliced on the pastry, leaving a 1-2 inch border (this allows the pastry to puff; without the border, it won’t puff as nicely).  Top with the asparagus.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 20-30 minutes.
  5. Before serving, sprinkle with chopped walnuts and freshly grated cheese.

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Tomato Tart in a Little Green Dress

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How I ended up in Italy 3 weeks after graduating from high school is a long story.  The biggest part probably being the amazingly gracious family friends that agreed to host this lost girl who thought she would find herself amongst the cobblestoned streets and olive oil-scented air.  While the rest of my graduating class was living up the last summer of teenage “freedom” before starting college, I was working as a nanny for an Italian family in a small riverfront town.  While the mom of the family I worked for was not the typical Italian mama (no flour-dusted embrace, tomato-stained apron, hands waving “Mangia!  Mangia!” (Eat!) ), the upstairs neighbor was.  She made homemade gnocchi and pesto and tomato sauce, and brought it all down for the blonde American to taste.

I was probably the only person on earth, in Italy, who did not like olives, prosciutto, and pesto.  All that homemade green golden goodness just upstairs from me–and I took one taste of pesto and thought it was…thick.  I’m not sure how else to describe it!  It was a totally new flavor, and I simply did not like it.  Silly American.

My palate has grown up since that summer oh so many years ago, and I have to say pesto is now one of my most favorite ways to dress up any meal.  Seriously.  It’s like the little black dress of condiments…Little green dress.  You thought salmon wrapped in puff pastry was good?  Try spreading some pesto on the salmon before wrapping it up, and you can now charge your guests $10 more per plate.  A spoonful of pesto will make your Minestrone soup sing.

Put a little green dress on a tomato tart, and you will instantly become the belle of the ball.  I have brought this Tomato Pesto Tart to numerous get-togethers and brunches, and it has always disappeared within the first 60 seconds, and I have had to recite the recipe from memory to countless tomato-pesto-tart-wanna-be-makers.  And now, the secret is yours!

The key to a flaky whole wheat pie crust is keeping your refrigerated fats cold and your ice water ice cold.  When you use your hands to pull the pie dough together, you are going to knead it just enough, so the heat from your hands doesn’t heat up the butter and shortening.  You want to see “butter lumps” like this in your dough, then you know it’ll be extra flaky and crispy for your tart.  Gently fit it into your tart pan and get it ready to blind bake.  You can use a tart pan with the removable bottom, but I wanted to use this white porcelain one (mainly for aesthetic purposes).tomato pesto tart dough tomato pesto tart shell 2 tomato pesto tart shell 1

While your tart shell is blind baking, just whip up the rest of your ingredients–fresh garden tomatoes, your favorite pesto, fontina cheese, a little plain yogurt (or sour cream, or vegan mayonnaise) and then bake again until it all gets melty and your kitchen smells like a small corner of Italy.

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Serve with a little side salad and your dinner will be of the amazing-rave-to-all-your-neighbors sort.

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TOMATO PESTO TART WITH WHOLE WHEAT CRUST

  • Servings: makes one 8-10 inch tart
  • Difficulty: easy if you've made pie crust before; medium if it's your first time making pie crust, as it adds another element to the recipe
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 INGREDIENTS FOR THE PIE CRUST
(This recipe will make a double pie crust; for the tart, I just cut it in half)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons ( 1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
  • 8-10 tablespoons ice water

INGREDIENTS FOR THE TOMATO TART

  • 1 cup fontina cheese, finely shredded and divided in half (you can substitute mozzarella)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt (or sour cream, or vegan mayonnaise)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2-3 fresh basil leaves, julienned

DIRECTIONS

  1. Start with the pie crust.  Place flours, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix well.  Dice the cold butter and add with the shortening to the flour mix.  Cut in with a pastry cutter until pea-size.  Add 4 tablespoons of ice water to the dough and stir with a spoon until it starts to stick together.  Add 4-6 more tablespoons until most of the dough is a ball.  Dump out on a floured surface and knead just until the dough forms into a ball.  Flatten into a disc, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425.  Roll out the pie dough on a floured surface into a 12-inch circle.  Fit the dough into an 8-10 inch tart pan and prick the bottom with a fork.  Fit a large piece of parchment paper into the pie shell and fill with beans or pie weights.  Blind bake for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and let rest on a paper towel to absorb extra liquid.  Stir together half of the shredded fontina cheese, yogurt, parmesan cheese, pesto and pepper.
  4. When the tart shell is done baking, sprinkle with the remaining shredded fontina cheese and let stand for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted.
  5. Arrange the tomato slices over the cheese. Spread the pesto yogurt cheese mixture over the tomato slices, leaving a 1″ border around the edge.  Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is golden.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Sprinkle with fresh basil before serving.

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