Was this supposed to be a healthy recipe blog? Did I tell you that? Did I say it? I’m sorry, that must have been a mistake.* I would be making and eating these tarts daily if I wasn’t afraid of running out of butter halfway into the recipe.
This puff pastry tart celebrates the freshest summer vegetables. I chose leeks, sweet corn, and pasilla peppers, but you could use just about any vegetable that’s at the market this time of year. Paper-thin slices of eggplant and tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil. Rounds of zucchini and yellow squash. Roasted bell peppers of all colors. Blanched potato slices with rosemary and butter.
To me, these tarts are all about keeping things simple and elegant. They’re easy enough to make, but they’re something you’d be proud to pull out of your home oven. They celebrate summer produce. Sweet corn, leeks, and smoky-spicy pasilla peppers are salted, cooked down, and caramelized in a pan, and spread over a homemade, all-butter puff pastry crust.
Yes, the puff pastry is homemade. But it’s a “rough puff,” made with a shortcut method that rules out most of the tedium and difficulty of making pastry. Because, let’s face it, I wasn’t going to make a full-on authentic puff pastry from scratch. I’ll take this version— no torn pastry dough and butter messes, no hours-long process of chilling and rolling and chilling again, but still absolutely delicious.
The pastry recipe I made was a mashup of Chocolate and Zucchini’s Rough Puff and this Epicurious recipe. While I wrote up some puff pastry instructions below, you can always consult one of these recipes for more details. The recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini has step-by-step photos that show how to mix, fold, and roll the pastry, and that’s hugely helpful if it’s your first time making a puff pastry.
The recipe below is long and detailed, but the actual process of making these tarts is quite simple. If the full recipe still looks intimidating to you, skip the homemade puff and go for the store-bought version. It’ll cut your cooking time in half, and these tarts will be a snap to pull together.
I’d serve these at a dinner party.
* In all seriousness, usual reasonably-healthy-recipe programming will return as soon as I get through this episode of summer decadence. Soon. Probably.
Summer Vegetable Tart
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 13 tablespoons butter, diced and chilled
- 5 to 6 tablespoons ice water
For the topping:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 leeks
- 1 cob corn
- 2 pasilla peppers
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt, to taste
- lemon (optional)
- Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, work the cold butter into the flour until chunks of butter are the size of a pea or less, and the flour mixture is crumbly.
- Mix in the ice water one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture barely holds together. It should still be slightly crumbly. Knead gently until the dough holds together, and form it into a rectangle. Be sure not to overwork the dough. You’ll know it’s time to give it a rest in the refrigerator if the butter or dough begin to stick to your hands.
- Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll the dough out until it is roughly 1/2 inch thick, in a long rectangle. Dust the flour off the top of the dough with your hands, then fold in the top and bottom of the rectangle one at a time. You should now have a somewhat square piece of dough that is folded in thirds, forming 3 major layers.
- Rotate your dough 90 degrees, making a quarter turn, and repeat the process of rolling out a rectangle of dough. You should be able to roll your rectangle larger and thinner this time, as thin as 1/4 inch.
- Repeat the turning, rolling, and folding process 4-5 times, chilling the dough in between if necessary. I left my dough in the freezer for a couple of minutes every 2-3 turns.
- Shape your finished puff pastry dough into a square. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or freeze for no more than 5 minutes, before using.
- Remove the husk and silk from the corn, and rinse clean. Cut kernels off with a knife into a bowl. Set aside.
- Pull apart the leeks and rinse under running water. Slice into 1/2 inch pieces and rinse in a large bowl of cold water, careful to rub all of the grit off. Drain and set aside.
- Wash and dry pasilla pepper, and rub with vegetable oil on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a preheated broiler, checking for color every 30-60 seconds. When the skin of the pepper begins to blacken and char, use tongs to turn it slightly and expose another side to the flame. Continue until the pepper is charred on all sides. (Not all of the skin will be charred, but most of it will be.) Remove the pepper from the broiler, place it in the bottom of a paper bag, and fold over the top to seal it and steam the pepper inside.
- Five to ten minutes later, remove the pepper from the bag and peel the skin off with your hands. It should slide off easily at this point. Remove the stem, cut the pepper in half lengthwise, and remove and discard the seeds. Slice thinly, set aside.
- Melt butter and olive oil over low-medium heat in a sauté pan. Once melted, add the minced garlic and leeks. Salt lightly, and cook until the leeks are soft and beginning to caramelize.
- Stir in the corn. Cook for a couple of minutes longer, until the corn is warmed through but still firm. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped pepper. Season to taste with salt and lemon. The mixture should not be too tart.
- Roll out chilled puff pastry until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 4 4×8 inch rectangles. Place the rectangles onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spoon filling onto each piece of puff pastry, spreading it to 1/2 inch from the edge of the tart.
- Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, until the pastry is puffed, golden brown, and cooked underneath. (Lift the corner of a pastry with a spatula— it should be both firm and golden brown.)
- Cut each pastry into 4 pieces and serve hot or at room temperature.