In search of an excuse to have a weeknight dinner party, I invited a few friends over to watch Game 5 of the World Series. After all, I do live in SF now so I should be excited about the Giants, right? Just to clarify, I mean the baseball team, not the football team. And before you ask, just because I grew up in Texas doesn't mean that I am a Rangers fan.
While planning the menu, I decided to stick with a more Mediterranean theme, thinking it would fit well with the way that I have been thinking about cooking lately. As much as I enjoy cooking spicy Indian dishes with elaborate curries and complex flavors, I haven't wanted to cook like that for some time now. I am much more intrigued by food focused on high quality, seasonal produce. Maybe this is a sign that I am meant to live in California?
After work, I threw myself into the kitchen and cooked up a feast for dinner:
figs with melon, arugula, and mint cream
cheeses with olive bread
heirloom tomato tart with Niçoise olives, capers, and caramelized onions
cherry tomato fresh herb salad
moroccan couscous with pine nuts, feta, currants
roasted patty pan squash with thyme
The tart has all of the flavors of a traditional Italian puttanesca sauce- late season heirloom tomatoes, Niçoise olives, capers, and anchoives (optional) all piled onto flaky puff pastry and carmelized onions with thyme. It is tangy, sweet, salty, and packed with flavor. And of course it looks so pretty with a mix of colorful heirloom tomatoes! I tossed several shards of shaved parmesan over the top.
I served the tart with a complementary salad of cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs (chives, basil, and parsley), and peppery arugula generously dressed with bright lemon and really good olive oil. This salad is all about using fresh herbs and a light and refreshing vinaigrette. It is a perfect example of how to really get the maximum goodness out of fresh ingredients. This beautiful salad would brighten up a heavier dish like risotto or pasta.
The dinner party was a fun evening with good food, friends, and wine. Oh and the Giants won the World Series!
And many thanks to my amazing dinner guest turned sous chef turned food photographer for taking such beautiful photos.
Tomato, Niçoise olive, caper, and carmelized onion tart with cherry tomato-fresh herb salad (Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques)
2 tbsp olive oil
6 cups thinly sliced onions
1 tbsp thyme leaves
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
1 large egg yolk
3 medium heirloom tomatoes, mixed colors
4 tsp capers, soaked and drained (or 3-4 salt packed anchovy fillets, rinsed, bones removed, sliced on the diagonal + 2 tsp capers)
1/4 cup Nicoise olives, pitted and cut in half
1-2 oz of parmesan, shaved using a vegetable peeler
Cherry tomato fresh herb salad
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tbsp finely diced shallot
1 tbsp really good extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, for juicing
1/2 lb arugula, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley
1/4 cup small basil leaves
1/4 cup 1/2 inch snipped chives
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in 2 tbsp olive oil, and add onions, 2 tsp thyme, 1 tsp salt, and some pepper. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often. Turn heat down to medium and cook 15 minutes, stirring often, until onions are a deep golden brown. Let cool completely before combining with puff pastry.
Preheat oven to 400.
Roll out defrosted puff pastry on a floured surface. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. Score a 1/8 inch thick border around edge of pastry. Whisk together egg yolk and 1 tsp water; brush the border with egg wash. Add caramelized onions evenly within the border.
Core the heirloom tomatoes. Slice into 1/4 inch round slices. Place tomato slices, just touching but not overlapping, over the caramelized onions, staying within the border. Season the tomatoes with 1/4 tsp salt and generous grinds of black pepper. Arrange anchovies, if using, capers and olives over the tomatoes and onions. Sprinkle with remaining tsp of thyme and scatter several shards of parmesan over the top.
Bake tart 20-25 minutes until crust is golden brown.
Just before serving, place halved cherry tomatoes and diced shallot in a bowl. Season with 1/4 tsp salt and generous grinds of black pepper. Drizzle with really good olive oil and squeeze in a little lemon juice. Toss, add arugula and herbs. Toss well and taste for seasoning.
Serve tart with cherry tomato herb salad.