Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Mistery Box, The Leftover Police and Everything in Between: Farmhouse Beet Leaf and Whole Wheat Tart

Please take a look at the first photo, pretty please, because that my friends, is how a spring market should look like. Halleluiah. The market has finally taken notice of my prayers and bickering. My dad is here for a visit, and we went to the Union Square market together, on a glowing pre-Memorial day Saturday, and as you can see, all of that is in my photo... The joy of the late spring and promises of summer to come, the flowers, and Unions Square bursting with happy souls, and Saturday with Dad -- it is all there smiling for the camera.

Now that I think about it, the blog has become a sort of an unofficial diary, my camera and pencil are capturing the everyday moments of our Three Little Halves family with astonishing accuracy, sometimes from distance, sometimes with a great deal of passion. In its own special way the blog has taken a reign in being the keeper of our existence: ups and downs, blizzards and downpours, sweet and sour, it is all there, one just needs to take a look beyond the recipes.

Which brings me to this dish. A couple of days ago, a very mysterious box arrived from King Arthur Flour. King Arthur folks have always been kind to my Three Little Halves enterprise. Last year they've invited me to contribute doodles to the Thanksgiving issue of their Sift magazine, I participated in their campaign for better biscuits, and sometimes they send me stuff, a bag or two of flour, which I always put to great use with immense enthusiasm and appreciation.

So the box arrived. And I could tell that it had a purpose. It contained a bag of King Arthur white whole wheat flour, a jar of cinnamon, a jar of yeast, and a photo of something that appeared to be a cinnamon swirl bread, but there was no recipe printed on the back, only a hashtag -- #lovewholegrains. I could tell that The King wanted me to make something, but for the life of me I could not quite get to the bottom of His Majesty's thought process.

Perhaps there had been an email, which would have solved the riddle, but it must have fallen over the precipices of my spam folder. These days my Google spam folder appears to be having a mind of its own, eating up delicacies it is not supposed to eat, so let me put it out in writing just in case anyone from Alphabet is following this blog and has the powers to act on this cry for help. Help!

Anyhow, back to the cinnamon and whole-wheat enigma.

What to make with these ingredients -- I wondered.

I deposited the flour on the shelf with my other edible raw materials, and looked at it from a faraway spot in the kitchen, loving it, just as the hashtag was prompting me to do, but cinnamon, man, that required a new level of creativity for a Memorial Day weekend. Ain't I supposed to be grilling like there is no tomorrow this Memorial Day? The jar of cinnamon would have received a warmer welcome around Thanksgiving or Christmas, when our hearts and our tummies crave a blanket, a fireplace, cozy slippers and a cinnamon bun. But we are six months away from the winter wonderland, and I was wearing my flip flops, and my new ivory-colored lace dress and I was fresh from the market with a bounty of late spring goodness: baby beets in all colors, baby carrots in all colors, herbs and weeds, and the most peppery arugula in this universe, and fresh farm eggs, and some really nice fresh fish from the folks at Blue Moon, so what on Earth was I supposed to do with this cinnamon?

I almost defaulted on the project, until it all came to me in the most unexpected way. I was in the midst of roasting my veggies, and baking Dorie Greenspan's apricot and tarragon cookies -- the one and only, and our absolutely most favorite cookie of all, and I was cooking Meen Moiley, a whimsical fish stew from Kerala, and I could not be happier. And I was blasting the food processor into what was supposed to be a chimichurri for the veggies, and blasting some Frankie Goes to Hollywood in the process, when Dr. V appeared from his dark corner upstairs to complain.

"It's hundred degrees here, can't you be doing something else. This is unbearable!”

Dr. V bickers about heat all the time, something I will never understand; he was born and raised into Sri Lankan hotness, just like he was born into monsoons, yet he grumbles about the rain. But I was in a waaaay too good of a mood to engage in a battle... (Truth to be told, my husband was born and raised in the country of glorious food, the land of magical curries, so I guess I could tolerate a little bit of bickering for everything else he brought in return.) 

And wouldn't that be a corner of the world named (aptly) The Cinnamon Garden, a corner of the world where folks put cinnamon into just about everything, savory dishes included, savory dishes most of all, and it tastes mighty awesome?

Who said I had to make cinnamon buns?


And I looked at them, my box of whole wheat and my jar of cinnamon, and the leftover beet leaves, and the fresh farm eggs, suspiciously arranged on the countertop as if they were trying to tell me something, looking at me in surprise because it took me like an eternity and a half to get the hint.

Not bad, not bad at all.

I am hastaging it #lovewholegrains, so let's see what happens.

Farmhouse Beet Leaf and Whole Wheat Tart

for the dough

* 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
* 1 tsp Turbinado sugar
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 7 tbsp very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into pea-sized bits
* 1 large egg
* 1-2 tbsp ice water

for the filling

* 12 oz beet leaves, hard steams removed
* 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
* 1 large sweet onion (about 8 oz)
* 1 large tomato (about 8-10 oz)
* 1 large garlic clove
* 4 eggs
* 4 oz cheddar cheese, grated
* 1/4 cup whole milk or cream
* 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp ground cloves
* 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
* salt and freshly ground white pepper
* a little bit of butter and flour for greasing the pan


* 9 or 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom

To make the dough

In a bowl of food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt. Pulse a couple of times to blend. Add the butter and pulse several more times, until butter is coarsely incorporated into the mixture. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the ice water. Pour about the third of the egg mixture into the dough and pulse once or twice. Repeat two more times. Pulse only once or twice after each addition, to avoid over-processing the dough. (The dough shouldn’t form a ball or ride on the blade, but just barely come together in a moist, malleable mass.)

Place the dough on a work surface dusted with flour, gather it into a ball, and then gently flatten into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and place into refrigerator for at least three hours or overnight.

To make the filling

Cut out the stem end of the tomato with a paring knife, and score an X just through the skin on the top of the tomato.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Drop the tomato into the water, and keep it for about 30 seconds. Remove and set aside to cool. Now add the beet leaves to the pot and cook them until soft (it could be a minute or two, depending on how tender the leaves are). Drain. When the leaves are cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess liquid. Chop the leaves finely.

Take the tomato and peel off the skin with your fingers or with a paring knife. Cut the tomato in 1/2-inch chunks.

In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, and sauté, for about ten minutes, until the onions are deep golden and are about to begin to caramelize. Add the spices and garlic, and continue to sauté for about a minute or two, until the garlic and spices become fragrant. Add the beet leaves and the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, mix well and remove from the heat. Let the mixture cool completely before adding the eggs.

To make the tart

Heat oven to 370°F convection (400°F regular).

Butter and flour the tart pan.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a round. The rolled-out dough should be about 1/4 inch thick and at least 12 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to the pan without stretching it, and press gently against the bottom and the size. Trim the edges. Transfer the pan to refrigerator and chill the dough for about one hour.

Using a fork, prick the dough all over. Cover the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove paper and weights and bake an additional 3-5 minutes until it is lightly golden. Remove the pan from the oven and let the dough cool completely before adding the filling.

Reduce the heat to 350°F convection (375°F regular).

In a small bowl beat the eggs lightly with the cream. Add the eggs to the beet leaf mixture, and mix well. Pour the mixture inside the tart. Bake the tart until filling is set and pastry is golden brown, about 35-40 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6


  1. I live this post. Everything about it from the smiling photo to how the ingredients guided you to inspiration from bickering over the weather. What a lovely spring dish utilizing this awesome flour and spices that this past of the world reserves mainly for winter and desserts. Bravo!

  2. I remember when my husband called me: Why did you leave me alone with all these veggies and fruits? When I went for a long walk after I have brought two big bags from the spring market alone. I didn't understand that he will be afraid, but he was because he didn't know what should be done with it :) Tart looks fantastic.


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