Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer Vegetable Tart -- Just Another Plain Jane

This is not the summer vegetable tart that Julia wanted me to make. I'm sure her tart was stunning and delicate and graciously proportioned. A Julia tart would have won the swimsuit competition AND the talent competition. Had I actually seen a video or photo of it, I think I could have made a better showing myself. But I'm pretty sure that even a beauty queen tart would have evoked the same reaction on taste: meh.

As another TWD baker suggested, I'd rather just tunnel my way through a bowl full of veggies and cheese. Why waste perfectly decadent, butter-drenched phyllo dough under a messy glop of vegetables, herbs and goat cheese? Save the phyllo for the baklavah, or for the spanikopita, where at least the filling holds firm within the pastry and there's no soggy/oily bottom to remind you of how much butter you slathered onto that crust.

To use up my CSA farm share, I changed the veggies in this recipe to onions, mushrooms and zucchini, which I sauteed with salt, pepper and thyme. Then, I cleaned out my cheese drawer just seconds before the mozzarella and Parmesan might have succumbed to their battle against the summer heat. Alas, my poor garlic did not fare so well, so I had to omit that part. Once the tart was sprinkled lightly with the cheeses, I popped it back into the oven on low heat just until melted. It sure seemed like a good idea at the time. But I'm here to report that no matter how you dress her up, this girl is just another plain Jane in an ill-fitting poofy party dress.

Yet here's the rub, and the reason I keep coming back to these fussy recipes and my wonderful TWD colleagues. Even when I'm baking up epically uninspired veggies, I'm learning valuable lessons, such as how to clarify butter. The key word here is "learning" -- it seems there is a fine line between "clarified" and "browned" butter, but I'm getting there. I'm sure making my own clarified butter will be a handy skill to have in my arsenal, once I master it.

Since my first attempt to clarify butter, I've found this great recipe from David Leibovitz, in which there are words and photos. Plus, he uses a strainer and a cheese cloth to remove the milk solids. Strainers, cheesecloth, words, pictures -- who could ask for more?

To learn how other folks fared with this dish, check out the Tuesdays With Dorie blogroll.


  1. We went the whole mushroom & zucchini route as well. 1) I had tons of CSA zucchini in my fridge and 2) I don't particularly like bell peppers.

    re: clarifying butter. This was a first here too - I used coffee filters to keep the ickies out. The strainer didn't seem to be enough to do the trick.

    And yes, give me a cheese drenched plate of vegetables any day...

    Stay cool!

  2. I could have done without the phyllo crust. I prefer it in dessert form. My first trial mini tart I just used regular old melted butter. My second full size tart, I sprayed with olive oil. Worked fine - did not get a deep golden color though, more tan-ish. I have not tried this, but here is a link for an easy way to clarify butter:


    1. thanks! Just think of it this way: we can now use the leftover phyllo for it's best purpose: baklava.

  3. Well it looks yummy with the mushrooms and zucchini! I wish I could have found a video showing this being made too....it certainly helps. I liked the phyllo crust because it was so much lighter than an actual pastry crust (and because I didn't have to make it!) :)

  4. I love the mushroom and zucchini combo!

  5. I make baklava and phyllo spinach pies quite often and never clarify the butter. I just melt it and brush it on. To me that was just another step you didn’t need. Actually clarified butter is pouring off the milk solids…so when you get down to the white milky stuff dump it out.
    Your tart looks delicious…and so pretty!

    1. Good to know about the butter. That process was a bit nerve wracking, but still, I want to master it just so I can say I did it. Then I'll probably go back to the easy way!


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