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Easy Spring Vegetable & Pesto Tart. Once the warmer weather starts to return, I start to crave lighter meals. Quick and easy meals that are designed to get me in and out of the kitchen faster.
One of my favorite things to make for a quick and easy weeknight supper is this delicious Spring Vegetable Tart. Its an adaptation from a tart recipe which my late friend Audrey shared with me many, many years ago.
I fell in love with it then and I am in love with it now. I adapted the original to use baby English peas with a fantastic end result!
Its very simple and quick to make. It goes together even faster if you use a ready roll short crust pastry base and ready made pesto. I usually have both of those ingredients in my cupboard.
Actually I usually have most of the ingredients for this in my cupboard and refrigerator/freezer. They are simple basic ingredients. There is nothing too fancy here.
You can use a good store made pesto. I prefer the fresh one to the bottled one, and in basil season I make my own pesto from scratch. You can find that recipe here. It is really quite a simple make.
I like to use red onion because the taste is a bit mellower than the sharper brown onion. If you can only get brown skinned onions, by all means use them.
Gruyere cheese is a type of a Swiss Cheese or Apine cheese which comes from the town of Gruyere in Switzerland. It has a sweet, salty, nutty flavor that I really enjoy. If you can’t find this type of cheese, feel free to use any good Swiss Cheese.
I like to use baby Spinach leaves. I wash it really well and then dry it in my salad spinner. Once dried I remove all of the stems and discard them.
You can use fresh petite pois, or baby peas, if you are lucky enough to have them, or you can use frozen ones. To be honest I always use frozen peas.
They are a lot easier to come by and there is no faffing about with having to shuck them. Do make sure you thaw them before using them. This is easily done.
Just pop them into a bowl. Pour some boiling water over top, then drain them really well in a colander.
Its also very easy to toast your own pine nuts. Toasting pine nuts is really a very basic skill and there are three easy ways to do this.
One, you can add them to a skillet you have heated over medium low heat. Toss and stir them in the dry skillet with a wooden spoon until they are all toasty and nutty.
Second, you can toast them in the microwave oven. Just spread them out into a single layer on a microwave safe plate. Cook them on full power for one minute, stir, and then continue to toast them at 30 second intervals until they are toasted to your preference. Do keep an eye on them as they can burn very easily.
Finally, you can toast them in a regular oven. Just preheat your oven to 375*F/190*C/gas mark 5. Spread your pine nuts out on a flat rimmed baking sheet and pop the tray into the oven. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring them every 3 minutes until golden brown.
With all methods do transfer them to a cool plate once toasted so that they don’t continue to toast in the heat of the pan/plate, etc. Simple
The onion gets sautéed in a skillet first. You could add a bit of garlic if you wanted to, but I never do. You don’t want to brown the onion, so do take care.
Once your onion is softened you begin to add the spinach in large handfuls, adding a new handful as soon as the first handful is wilted. Spinach is one of those vegetables that cooks really, really quickly! It doesn’t take long at all.
You will need to let it cool down before you add the egg, or you will end up cooking the egg. Make sure you do let it cool and then I like to squeeze out as much liquid from the spinach as I can.
This is really easy to do by popping it into a wire colander and pressing it out. Simple.
My absolute favorite pastry to use when making all pies and tarts is my butter and lard pastry. You can find that recipe here.
Its really flaky and rich. It makes two crusts, but you can always freeze one, tightly wrapped, to use another time. It never hurts to have some pastry in the freezer.
Of course the easiest to use of all is a ready made pastry, and I confess even I do that from time to time. Once you have the filling and the pastry made, this tart is as simple to make as layering things together.
Pastry, pesto, filling. Fold up the edge of the pastry around to make a free-form tart. Sprinkle on a bit more cheese and the toasted pine nuts and bake.
I never bake this tart without thinking of my good friend Audrey. She and her husband Peter were two of the first friends I made when I first moved over to the UK, and remained good friends for the whole time I was there.
Sadly Audrey passed away several years ago from vascular dementia. She was a lovely sweet woman. Gentle and very kind. I can honestly say I never heard her say a bad word about anyone else ever. Not once. She was a beautiful example to me of the kind of person we all should be.
Here’s to spring-time and good friends. Miss you Audrey. You made my world a better place.
Easy Spring Vegetable & Pesto Tart
Author: Marie Rayner
Prep time: 15 MinCook time: 20 MinTotal time: 35 Min
A delicious supper dish that can get even the most ardent of spinach haters to eat spinach! It’s a free form tart and very pretty.
1 TBS olive oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 pound of baby spinach leaves, washed
1 1/2 cups (195g)of baby peas, fresh or frozen (thawed)
12 inch round of shortcrust pastry, thawed if frozen (300g)
2 TBS fresh pesto sauce
1 cup (120g) Gruyere cheese, grated
1 large free range egg, lightly beaten
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 TBS toasted pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. Have ready a large baking sheet.
Heat the oil in a small pan and add the onion. Cook, stirring for about 4 minutes, until softened.
Add the spinach and cook just to wilt. Drain all in a colander and press out as much water as you can. Set aside.
Roll your pastry out to a 12 inch circle. Place onto the baking sheet. Spread the pesto sauce into the center, leaving a 2 inch border free all the way around.
Reserve 1 TBS of the cheese and place the remainder into a bowl.
Add the drained spinach, onion, thawed peas, beaten egg, salt and pepper. Mix together well. Place this mixture in the center of the pastry circle on top of the pesto.
Fold the bare border edges of the pastry up over the spinach, pleating it decoratively. (You will only want to fold it up about 2 inches all the way around, leaving the center open.)
Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and pine nuts over the filling in the center of the tart.
Bake in the heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Cut into 4 wedges to serve.
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