Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Delicious Roasted Yam and Ricotta Tart

Fall is by far my favorite season.  It is that time of year when the rain feels like a welcome relief to the beating sun of summer, the salmon start spawning in the river at the end of our street and the yellow leaves of the big leaf maple trees look like little lanterns against the grey sky.  We light the fire, pull out the blankets and make pots of tea.  It is also the time of year for cozy, warming food.

If there is one thing I have learned as a home cook, it is to buy what is in season and to buy it locally, as best you can.  This may sound like Eco-snobbery, but it is no such thing, it is practical.  My dad grew up in Hungary in the 1930's and 40's.  He had wonderful stories to tell about the seasons and how each one brought with it a special treat that they waited for all year long.  Summertime was the time for watermelons, juicy and ripe, perfect on hot days.  Fall was harvest time with grapes, fresh bacon and mushrooms.  He could never understand why we would buy strawberries in January or watermelon in March.  It didn't make sense to him because when he was young having out of season fruits and vegetables was unheard of.  They ate what was grown locally, not shipped from far away lands. 

Buying in season means that we get our food when it is fresh and at its peak. That is why those strawberries taste so good in June and why the yams in this tart taste so good now in October. Buying in season often means that we can also buy locally which in turn reduces the distance that your food has to travel to get to your plate.  It also supports your local economy and the farmers in your area that are growing the food that you depend on to eat. It is a win-win situation for everyone.

Now that autumn has arrived, this roasted yam tart is perfect for a cold, rainy night.  I have a love affair with tarts for many reasons.  One, they always look impressive thanks to the pan doing all the work for you with its fluted edges (I like having beautiful food to look at).  Two, they are not difficult to make but taste delicious.  And three, the possibilities of what you can put in them is endless.  I discovered this tart from the  Hollyhock Garden to Table cookbook  and it is delicious.  I have used a different crust recipe than suggested because I have another one that I prefer.

This tart is great with a salad for supper, take it to a potluck or have it for brunch.  The kids loved it and it is an easy way to get both protein and vegetables into one dish.  While I won't lie and say that this takes only minutes to make, the extra effort is well worth it.

Roasted Yam, Onion and Ricotta Tart
Adapted from Hollyhock Garden to Table by Moreka Jolar, Heidi Scheifley and the HollyHock Cooks

For the Pastry
Adapted from French Food at Home by Laura Calder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
About 4 tablespoons of ice cold water

4 cups onion, sliced into thin half-moons
2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 cups yams (or sweet potatoes if you prefer to call them that), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup milk or cream
3 eggs
1/4 cup chopped mixed chives and parsley
1 Tbsp fresh minced thyme
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup ricotta

Preheat the oven to 450℉. Measure the flour into a bowl and add the salt.  Cube the butter and toss it in the flour.  With your fingers crumble the butter into the flour until you get a crumbly texture.  Now add the water, one tablespoon at a time until you get a nice dough that is neither sticky nor dry, it should just come together.  Gather it into a ball and put it onto a floured surface.  Gently roll it out until you get it big enough to fit into your tart pan.  Press it into the pan making sure to cover all surfaces.  Bake in the oven for 10 min until the crust is starting to turn golden.  Many people suggest that you blind bake your crust.  To do this, you would either use pie weights or cover the pastry with parchment and then fill the pan with uncooked beans.  This will ensure that your pastry won't puff up and lose it's shape.  I find that you can get away without blind baking this crust but if you are enthusiastic, then please do.  Remove from the oven and let cool. 

Turn the oven down to 350℉. Toss the yams with 1 Tbsp olive oil and bake on a baking sheet in the hot oven until they are fork tender.  Remove from oven.  In a large skillet, saute the onions in the remaining olive oil until they are tender and caramelized.  The trick is not to cook them too high, you don't want to scorch them.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, milk or cream (which ever you choose), fresh herbs, salt and pepper.  Place the cooked onions and yams evenly into the tart shell and then add small scoops of the ricotta over top of the vegetables.  Next pour over the lovely egg and cream mixture, making sure that all the corners are filled.

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the tart has set (no longer jiggles when you tap it).  Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  To remove from the tart pan, you can either set the bottom on a jar (the bottom will balance on the jar while you remove the outer ring) or you can just put your hand underneath.  This last technique requires a bit of acrobatics as you will have to hold onto the tart and slip the ring off your arm.  You might want some assistance.  Your family will think you are amazing, because well, you are. 

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