While I’ll admit to the occasional dinner that was not so much “cooked” as it was “spotted at the cheese counter and then paired up with a baguette and consumed with great enthusiasm,” there are, in fact, more instances than I can count during which I decided to make a dinner that was based on a bag of discounted vegetables at the green market.
Sounds suspect, you say? Not if you saw the types of goods the green market offers on their discount shelf, all of which are sold in bulk for a mere $1. Bags of red and orange peppers combined with a dozen tomatillos? Yes. Ten perfectly ripe avocados that need to be eaten as soon as you get home, but, hey, that’s okay because who doesn’t love avocados? Definitely. Half a dozen habanero chilies, two yellow onions, four plump tomatoes, and a handful of green beans? That right there is homemade salsa, plus a crisp snack to munch while you make the salsa.
Last week, however, the $1 shelf outdid itself. As if it somehow managed to read my mind, the green market had decided to off load a pile of new potatoes and spring leeks, both of which, though generally associated with heartier winter fare, had been on my mind lately (perhaps because of the preponderance of chilly weather we’ve been subjected to for what seems like an eternity). The cold in my bones was thinking soup, but a brief peek of sunlight through the clouds brightened my mood enough to encourage me to begin thinking of something a little lighter and more spring-ish.
While not everyone might think of a tart as being spring fare, I have to disagree. A vegetable tart, made with this exceptionally savory and flavorful olive oil crust, can be a perfect warm weather meal. Eaten on a bed of fresh spinach or baby greens, it is light, yet filling, and the abundance of greens evidenced in the meal is always a welcome sight. Well, to me, at least. But, as previously discussed, I also get excited about a $1 bag of cast-off vegetables, so perhaps I should just say that you shouldn’t take my word that this tart is a welcome and delicious spring meal, you should instead simply make the tart and discover its deliciousness for yourself.
New Potato and Caramelized Leek Tart in an Olive Oil Crust
Olive Oil Crust
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour and salt. In a small bowl, combine olive oil and milk and whisk together until integrated. Add milk and oil mixture to flour mixture and, using a fork, combine the mixture until fully incorporated.
Gather the dough together and knead it into a ball. Press it evenly into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (I use a small measuring cup to smooth everything into place and it works wonders). Pierce crust on sides and bottom with a fork, and parbake in the preheated oven until only very slightly browned on the edges, 10-12 minutes.
Remove tart crust from oven and lower oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
New Potato and Caramelized Leek Filling
3 large leeks, fully rinsed and trimmed of their dark tops
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large sprig fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces new potatoes (or red or Yukon gold, or any other small, creamy potato) scrubbed and then sliced about ¼-inch thick
½ cup milk
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Slice rinsed and trimmed leeks in half lengthwise, then slice the white and light green parts about ¼-inch thick. On medium low heat, combine butter and olive oil and heat until butter is almost completely melted and just begins to foam. Add leeks and thyme, stir to coat leeks with butter and olive oil, then reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, over low heat until leeks are softened and gently caramelized to a light brown color, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
While leeks are cooking, boil the potato slices in lightly salted water until crisp tender, about 7-10 minutes. Drain potato slices and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine eggs and milk and beat to combine well. Add in parmesan cheese and continue to mix until combined. Add cooled, caramelized leeks to the egg mixture, making sure to remove the sprig of thyme, then mix well to combine.
Arrange the potato slices in the parbaked tart shell, overlapping them in a concentric circle. Pour egg and leek mixture over the potatoes.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the middle of the tart is set and no longer wet. The leeks exposed on top of the tart will turn dark brown and continue to caramelize even further, which is fantastic. However, if, partway through baking, you see your leeks starting to turn brown to the point of blackening and burning, loosely cover the tart with a sheet of foil for the remainder of the baking time.
Serve warm or at room temperature.