Vegetarian version of Julia Child's classic Pissaladiére Niçoise onion tart.
Julia Child has been an inspiration to a generation of women. A woman with a mind of her own, who was fearless, and completely embraced life. A woman who began a new career later in life, and ended up revolutionizing the way American women cooked.
I didn't pursue cooking as a sport until later in life, and have often thought about the choice Julia made long ago in Paris to enroll in Le Cordon Bleu. That decision led to private study with a series of well-known chefs, and ultimately to Cercle des Gourmettes, where she met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, with whom she formed long friendships and fruitful partnerships. A naturally flowing series of events and coincidences that became the building blocks of a thriving career and satisfying life. I've wondered, at what point did she realize the impact she was having?
At what point do any of us?
We are all building our lives, one event at a time, one decision at a time. Opportunities and possibilities intersect our path every day, many of which we don't give deep thought to. We react with gut instinct. We choose a college because it's in a cool area with lots of skiing, or at the beach. We major in something because of nothing more substantial than the first couple of classes seem interesting, or our boyfriend is taking those classes. We choose this job, because we didn't get that one. We move across the country to see new horizons. It's only in looking back that we realize which of those decisions were life-changing, major forks in the road that set us on the path that made the difference.
In honor of Julia Child's upcoming 100th birthday on August 15, I have joined in on #SundaySupper's celebration of her life, and chose a classic French recipe from her Volume I Mastering the Art of French Cooking, one of my bibles when I was in culinary school. Pissaladiére Niçoise is France's version of a pizza: with onions, anchovies, and Niçoise black olives. The name stems from the word pissala, which is a paste made from fresh, young anchovies and sardines, layered with salt, spices, and olive oil. Another way of breaking down the word Pissaladiére is piscus, meaning fish, and sal, meaning salt. Hence the anchovies. But, my husband is very allergic to the tiny fish, so I substituted roasted red peppers and capers and did a vegetarian version I hope you like. I also used a pâte brisée with a little blue cheese for the crust to create a sharper contrast with the onions. But the biggest secret to this tart is a slow saute of the onions to heighten their natural sweetness.
Pissaladiére Niçoise – Vegetarian Style
- 2 cups 9 ounces all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 6 ounces 1 1/2 sticks chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch bits
- 2 tablespoons packed blue cheese
- 1/3 cup cold water or more as needed
- 2 pounds yellow onions sliced very thinly
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 herb bouquet of 2 - 3 bunches of fresh thyme tied in cheesecloth
- 1 clove garlic peeled and smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pinch ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon capers plus 1 teaspoon of the brining liquid
- 10 niçoise olives pitted, halved (kalamata olives work just fine)
- Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and blue cheese all at once and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. Do not overdo this step as the fat will be blended more thoroughly later.
- Add the water and pulse 10 - 12 times until the mixture starts to come together as a dough. It will still be very crumbly.
- Spill it out onto a lightly floured workspace, and press and slide the heel of your hand through the mixture 3 times. This technique is called fraisage, and effectively creates layers of fat that translate into a beautiful flakey crust.
- Form the dough into a single large disk and wrap it in wax paper. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour, or until firm.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the dough as quickly as possible due to it's high butter content. I posted tips with photos for rolling out dough here.
- Fold the rolled out dough in half, and in half again, and carefully place in the base of a tart pan with a removable bottom. Gently tuck the dough into the fluted edges, allowing the dough to be 1/2" above the sides of the tart pan. The dough will have some shrinkage.
- Line the tart with parchment paper and pie weights. Bake for 8 - 9 minutes at sea level, 12 minutes at 6500 feet above sea level, or until the edges of the pâte brisée begin to set up. Remove the pie weights and the parchment paper, prick the bottom of the shell with a fork to keep the dough from rising, and continue to bake for 2 - 3 minutes at sea level, 5 minutes at 6500 feet above sea level. When the shell is starting to brown, remove it from the oven. Set aside while you prepare the Pissaladiére Niçoise.
- Cook the onions very slowly in the olive oil with the herb bouquet, smashed garlic, and salt for about one hour, or until a golden brown and very tender. Discard the herb bouquest. Stir in the cloves and pepper, and adjust for seasoning. Remove from the heat and add the balsamic vinegar, scraping up any bits of onion that have cooked onto the bottom of the pan. There's a lot of flavor there!
- Spread the onions evenly on the bottom of the Pâte Brisèe.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Slice the red pepper into long thin slices, toss with a little olive oil, and roast for 15 minutes. Add the capers and brine and continue to roast for another 15 minutes.
- Arrange the pepper strips on top of the onions in a pattern. Sprinkle the capers on top.
- Arrange the olives in a pattern on the tart.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Return the tart to the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes at sea level, 20 minutes at 6500 feet above sea level, or until bubbling hot.
- Serve warm.
This week’s #SundaySupper in honor of Julia Child’s 100th Birthday is being hosted by Samantha from The Little Ferraro Kitchen. Join us this week Around the Family Table for #SundaySupper! That fun starts at 3pm EST with these fabulous recipes being showcased and ends with our #SundaySupper live chat at 7pm EST. This is a #SundaySupper you don’t want to miss!
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