Friday, September 23, 2011

Beet & Goat Cheese Tart

This one is worth staining your fingers pink!

Beets and goat cheese are a classic combination: go to any semi-chic luncheon spot and you will see a beet and goat cheese salad on the menu.  Earthy and sweet, creamy and tart: they're a perfect pair.  Throw a little balsamic vinegar in there, maybe some walnuts, and you've got yourself one delicious and satisfying lunch.

But what if you're not in the mood for a messy, banal chopped up salad?  What if you want something a tad more refined, a little prettier, a little... fancy?  Well, if that's you-- and even if it's not-- I have a tart that might just knock your socks off.

This tart is very simple: a whole wheat crust, a goat cheese filling, roasted beets, and a balsamic glaze.  A little thyme throughout emphasizes the earthiness and helps bring it into fall.

- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme or Italian herb blend
- 1/2 c. all purpose flour
- 1/2 c. whole wheat flour

- Cut up the butter and combine in a large glass bowl with the olive oil, water, salt, and herbs.
- Put the bowl in an oven preheated to 400 degrees and bake for 15 minutes.
- Carefully take the bowl out and add the flours all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon until combined.
- Let the dough cool until it is safe to handle.
- Place the dough in your tart pan and push it out with your fingers, making sure to press it firmly into the sides.
- Bake the tart shell at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until it is just firm but still pale.  Set aside to cool.

- 1/4 c. minced onion or shallot
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- dash of freshly ground black pepper
- 2 eggs
- 5 oz. fresh goat cheese, softened
- 2-ish roasted beets

- Add the onion to a food processor, (a mini/prep version will do), and pulse a few times until it is finely minced.
- Add the remaining ingredients, except the beets, and blend until the mixture is even.
- Pour the goat cheese blend into your cooled tart shell.
- Peel and slice your beets into 1/4" slices.  You could certainly slice your beets thinner for a more elegant look, but be sure not to fan them out too much or they may dry out during baking.
- Delicately arrange the beet slices on top of the goat cheese mixture, taking care to 'float' them rather than push them in.  I recommend laying your slices out on a plate first so you know just how you want them: once you put them on the goat cheese you won't want to move them.
- Bake the tart at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the goat cheese is set.

- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- dash of pepper
- 1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

- Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and simmer until it is reduced by half, the honey bubbles, and the mixture becomes syrupy.
- Brush over the top of the tart as soon as it comes out of the oven, (you won't use it all).
- Allow the tart to cool before serving.

With the multiple steps, this tart can be a little time consuming but there's nothing actually difficult about it.  Even better, the crust can be made and par-baked and the beets can be roasted days ahead of time, leaving only a little whirring of the food processor and some arranging to do before tossing it in the oven.

Serve this savory tart with a simple green salad, a delicate vegetable soup, or some lightly sauteed greens.  Refrigerate it if it won't be consumed the day it's made.

And guess what?  If you swap the herbs in the crust for a bit of sugar, leave the onions out of the filling, and put a bit more honey in the glaze... you have dessert!


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