The next time you settle for "presto", think about reading the nutritional facts on the back of the package. When was the last time you read that label that should sometimes come with a skull and cross bones with a warning, that gives you the good and bad news about what you're about to consume? Can we talk sodium? Some servings of those savory, quick foods can contain nearly an entire day's worth of sodium, an ingredient that can be more dangerous to your health than fat. It's also amazing to note the amount of sugar contained in some of those quick fixes for cravings.
All in all, you know you can do better in the kitchen with minimal effort and ingredients to fulfill the need to satisfy your savory cravings. And the fact that you have control over and know what's going into your creation, is all the better for you and your health. With proper fresh ingredients, herbs, and spices, you can turn a savory tart for example, into a not-to-bad-for-your-health dish. About the only thing you have to worry about is the puff pastry, which admittedly, is a bit over the top in regards to fats; however, with careful planning, you can counter the bad with the good you put into your filling. Using herbs instead of salt will minimize the sodium intake. Using low fat or part skim milk cheese will balance out the added fat in the crust. And using tasty vegetables, properly prepared, will provide a wonderful bouquet of savory flavors. Roasted red peppers, olives, shallots, and garlic offer wonderful taste enhancers that will satisfy your yearning for a savory bite. Read on . . .
This vegetable tart is a wonderful idea to satisfy you taste buds. It's also easy to prepare, doesn't take but a bit of time to cook, and certainly will be welcomed open mouth by your loved ones. These tarts are great because you can prepare variations of the one you're about to be presented with. The sky is the limit as to what ingredients work well.
First things first, thaw out 2 sheets of puff pastry for about 2 hours. You will want to gather all your ingredients and cooking hardware together, called "mise en place" in the culinary world. This will make for an easy time in the kitchen. Next, take out a nice chilled bottle of white wine of your choice and pour yourself a nice glass. This will make for a happy time in the kitchen (one can't forget the well being of the chef). Finally, preheat your oven to 425 (210c) about 20 minutes before your tarts are ready to be baked. As for the hardware, here's what you want:
1 frying pan (9 inch diameter)
4 tart pans (4 to 6 inch diameter)
1 cookie sheet (to set the tart pans on) or foil sheet
1 stirring utensil
1 cooking brush
1 medium cutting board
If you don't have tart pans, don't fret. You can simply prepare the tarts directly on the cookie sheet. It won't look as pretty and round, but it'll work. Tart pans are relatively inexpensive and you can usually purchase them in sets of 4 for less than $20. It's something you should add to your kitchen if you don't already own some. Purchasing different sizes allows you to have plenty of flexibility when preparing dishes like this, as well as sweet dessert creations.
Now here's the list of your food ingredients for this version of 4 savory tarts:
2 puff pastry sheets (thawed for 2 hours)
4 roasted red peppers *(see note below)
3 medium sized shallots, finely chopped (1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped)
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of dry basil flakes
1/2 teaspoon of coarse ground black pepper
1/2 cup of low fat or part skim, shredded Parmesan cheese (or Gruyere, yum!)
1/4 cup of that white wine you're drinking
2 tablespoons of olive oil (enough to coat the frying pan)
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
2 tablespoons of water (beaten with the egg)
*Regarding the roasted red peppers, you can go through the labor of roasting them yourself; however, it is preferable for this recipe to buy yourself a jar of roasted red peppers. It may actually be less expensive that purchasing 4 peppers to begin with. A jar will run you about $5.00. Spread the red peppers on a cutting board and julienne them lengthwise, strips being about 1/2 inch wide.
The egg wash needs a footnote as well. If you want to keep the cholesterol down, you can omit the egg yolk and just use the white; however, the amount of yolk you will end up using has about 100 mg of cholesterol which comes to about 25 mg per serving, not enough to worry about.
Another note to add regarding sodium. Did you notice this preparation doesn't call for any salt? The ingredients will provide the full flavor you want in a savory dish. The Dijon mustard is great to use in this case. It has no sodium, no fat, much healthier than mayonnaise, and will provide wonderful flavors!
You can begin the preparation of the vegetables about an hour before the pastry is thawed. It will take about an hour to prepare, cook, and cool, which will be just about the perfect timing.
Heat your frying pan over medium high heat, adding the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, making sure the entire bottom of the pan is nicely coated. Fry your shallots (or onion) for a couple of minutes until they start getting slightly browned. Now add the garlic, stir and continue frying for another minute. You don't want to burn the garlic.
Now add the 1/4 cup of white wine, basil flakes, and pepper. Stir well and shut the heat off. Remove pan and allow to cool to the touch (usually about 5 to 10 minutes)
We are now going to prepare the puff pastry shells. Remove and lay out 1 puff pastry sheet on the cutting board. Take your fingers and smooth out the folds. Cut the sheet diagonally so that it makes 2 triangles. If your tart pans are nonstick, place a triangle in each pan so that the bottom is completely covered, the pastry going up the sides of the tart pan, and the ends of the sheet are hanging over. Don't worry about how far they hang over because you're going to fold them back in. If your pans are not nonstick, spray a bit of cooking spray in each pan.
Now brush a nice coating of the Dijon mustard on the bottom of each sheet. Set them aside while to prepare the second pastry sheet the same as you did with the first. You now have 4 ready to fill tarts.
Take the cooled fried ingredients, the roasted red peppers, and the shredded cheese and separate each into 4 equal parts. Begin filling the shells by placing the shallot mixture at the bottom, then sprinkling the cheese over the shallots, and finally adding the julienne red peppers on top of the cheese. Don't over fill the tarts with the peppers. Usually 5 strips will work fine, a couple more if you want.
Finally, fold the overhanging ends of the pastry over the top of the roasted red peppers loosely. Don't pat it down. Be artistic if you want. Finish by brushing the egg wash over the top of the puff pastry. Place the 4 tarts in the cookie sheet and bake in your 425 preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until they have puffed up nicely and are medium brown and shiny. Keep a close eye on them while baking, as you certainly don't want to burn the tarts.
When finished, remove tarts from oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before removing the tarts from the tart pans. You can serve these wonderful tarts with a nice tossed salad of mixed greens to make this a nice lite lunch or service them alone as a nice appetizer or an afternoon snack. Bon appetit!!