As a weeknight dinner solution, a savory tart has much to recommend it. It’s a quick and cheap one-dish meal much of which can be prepared in advance. Moreover, a savory tart requires only ingredients that you are likely to have on hand – namely milk, eggs and cheese — and is infinitely adaptable, making the dish a great way to use up leftovers. With a green salad, a savory tart also makes an elegant lunch that’s fit for company.
You may be asking what a savory tart is. Fair enough. It’s akin to a quiche, but less rich and easier to make. Basically, it’s an egg and milk mixture poured over a filling and baked in a tart shell. The ”tart shell” part may sound intimidating, but this is a place where you can use some convenience foods to make your life a lot easier. For your tart shell, you can buy a pre-made pie crust or make one from a mix, which is what I do. Then you pre-bake it, that is, bake the raw dough for a short time without any filling. This part can be done well in advance, which can help make a hectic evening go a little smoother. The filling can also be prepared in advance — if you are not using leftovers — and then all you have to do is assemble the tart and bake it for 35 minutes. Dinner done.
Let’s start with the tart shell. If you buy a prepared pie shell, all you have to do is roll it out a little until it is a ten-inch circle. What I do, actually, takes a few more steps, but they are not hard steps and I think the results are worth the extra work. I use a Jiffy pie crust mix. (I love Jiffy pie crust mixes and always have several boxes on hand for this kind of thing.) I just follow the directions on the box for making a pie crust — essentially adding 4-5 TB of cold water to the dry ingredients and mixing it gently with a fork. Then I carefully roll the crust out, using a well-floured rolling pin and a well-floured board, to a 10 inch circle.
However you get your tart dough, once it is rolled out to a 10-inch circle, carefully fit the dough into either a 9-inch tart pan — I like the one with the removable bottom — or an 8 or 9 inch pie plate. Trim the edges and then top the crust with a layer of aluminium foil. Now you need to weigh the tart shell down and pre-bake it. Preheat the oven to 350. On top of the foil, place pie weights, if you own them, or a layer of raw rice. Bake the shell for about 20 minutes until pale gold. Cool on a rack. (If you used the raw rice to weigh the crust down, you can save that rice in a bag and use it again for the same purpose.) As I mentioned, this step can be done hours in advance, so if you’re running around in the late afternoon, do this step early in the day, or even the day before.
For the filling, you need to use vegetables or meat that are already cooked. That’s why a savory tart is such a great use for leftovers. If you don’t have leftover vegetables, just saute a generous cup’s worth of vegetables. Think of inventive combinations. Onions, peppers, and zucchini will always work, but really, you can use almost anything. Bits of leftover meat are great too, especially ham, chicken or sausage. Recently, I used leftover asparagus and roasted potatoes, combined with some sharp cheddar that I happened to have lying around, to make a scrumptious and filling tart for dinner on a hectic weeknight. Feel free to use any flavorful shredded cheese, or combination of cheeses. Just try to make sure that the filling and the cheese go together.
Savory Vegetable Tart:
1 pre-baked tart shell (see above)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk, cream, half and half or some combination thereof
1 cup filling (pre-cooked vegetables, meat or some combination thereof), cubed
1 cup shredded cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Spread filling over bottom of pre-baked tart shell. Sprinkle cheese over the filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk or cream until blended. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly pour egg mixture over the tart filling. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Cool and serve. Can be served warm or room temperature.