Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Refrigerator Disaster and a Bell Pepper Tart that Came Out of It

My spare refrigerator broke down and it was full. After I came back from vacation I went for an enormous food shopping and stuffed the refrigerator for a long weekend and a hot week ahead.

When I went down to the basement on Monday, to take out some vegetables from the refrigerator, I noticed that, instead of a cooling draft, it was producing a warm breeze. Exactly opposite of what it was designed for.

I tried to save whatever I could. I transfered all the perishables into my kitchen refrigerator. But I still had a lot of leftovers from the night before when our neighbors came for dinner plus a lot of vegetables I bought for the upcoming week.

There was only one solution to save as much food as possible--throw another dinner party.

I made two salads, served the leftover eggplants from the previous night, made a bell pepper tart, pork tenderloins with herb stuffing, and baby potatoes with green beans. I also made two desserts to use all the heavy whipping cream I had.

I got excellent reviews for the eggplants again. Our guests also liked the bell pepper tart and the vegetables which I prepared at the last moment to save two bags of frozen French green beans.

I will share all these recipes in the coming posts, since they have already been tested and approved. Today, I begin by posting my bell pepper tart recipe.

Bell Pepper Tart

Pastry crust
One large crust (about 11 inches) or 6-8 small ones

2 1/2 cup unbleached flour,
1 stick of chilled unsalted butter (1/2 cup),
1 stick (or 1/2 cup) of vegetable shortening--look for the one without trans fats,
1/2 tsp sugar,
1/2 tsp salt,
3-5 tbsps iced water,
1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds, optional.

1. Cut butter and shortening into smaller pieces and put them in a food processor.
2. Add flour, salt, sugar, and sesame seeds if used.
3. Using the "on/off" turns process all the ingredients until the mixture resembles chunky breadcrumbs.
4. Add 3-5 tbsps of chilled water and process the mix to the point when crumbs turn into a smooth dough.
5. Chill the dough in a refrigerator for at least an hour.
6. Take the dough from the refrigerator, roll out with a pin to an appropriate size, and put on a buttered tart form.

Tart filling

3 bell peppers, different colors--red, yellow, and orange together look best,
1 large yellow onion,
3 eggs,
1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese,
1 tbsp fresh thyme,
1/4 tsp salt and pepper to taste,
3 tbsps olive oil.

1. Peel onion, cut in half, slice.
2. Cut peppers in halves, remove seeds, slice.
3. Heat the oil and fry onion with pepper until onion becomes transparent and pepper softens.
4. Cool down the vegetables a little bit.
5. Mix ricotta cheese with eggs, season with thyme, add salt and pepper and fold in the fried peppers and onions.
6. Preheat oven to 375F.
7. Poke the bottom of the crust with a fork (to prevent bubbles forming) and bake until hard, but still not gold, for about 15-20 minutes.
8. Take out from the oven, put in the filling and continue baking until the crust turns gold and cheese is set, for about 30 minutes.
9. Cool down slightly, cut, and serve with green salad.

Useful tips:

This crust can also be made with fingers. First, chop butter, shortening, and flour with a knife into small pieces, then make dough with hands by adding iced water.

Longer chilling helps crust to become shorter--crust can be made even a couple of days ahead.
I usually chill it for at least half an hour, then put it on a tart shell, as this makes it is easier to work with it, and chill it again until I need it or freeze for a later use.

Arugula salad with lemon and walnut oil compliments this dish perfectly. But you could also serve it with any mixed salad with balsamic vinegar and mustard dressing.

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