Thursday, 3 April 2014

Welcome Spring-Thyme!

Torta Salata con Feta, Peperone, Finocchio, Albicocca & Timo al Limone
Feta, Pepper, Fennel & Apricot Tart with Lemon Thyme

Finally, Springtime is with us, the Winter (that never was, here in Europe), a thing of the past and warmer, sunnier and brighter days are here at last! And it's about time too! Not that I have any reason to complain, as we didn't even have a week of snow in all this year... maybe not even more than a couple of days... but still... I love the Springtime!

But as you may have noticed, I can be a little impatient at times... and if I get impatient about the seasons, is it any wonder that I can also get impatient about putting some yummy food on the table? I think we both know that answer to that- hehe! So here's another of my nifty and super-speedy puff-pastry creations from the frying pan... surely you have made one of these yourselves by now?!?

And if not- here we go again!

From next-to-no ingredients and in next-to-no time, I whipped up this beautiful, "light" tart... in just 20-30 minutes or so to be precise. All I needed was half of a small fennel bulb, a shallot, a red pointy pepper, a half pack of Feta cheese, 5-6 dried apricots (depending on whether you nibble on one or not) and some lovely, fresh lemon-thyme... yum-yum-yum! All nice tasty ingredients and a perfect combination together with a base of puff-pastry... which may be naughty... but is always soooo nice!

First step- turn on the oven to its highest setting... just like the boy scouts- be prepared!

Next- get chopping! The pepper into a fine dice, the fennel into slices, same with the shallot and yes, you guessed it- with the dried apricots too. May I just suggest that you nibble on them before slicing them if you have already just used the knife for the shallot? I would recommend it- lol!

Pop the fennel, peppers and shallot into your frying pan with just a little olive oil- really, not more than a teaspoon... those ingredients have plenty of moisture of their own for them to cook in and apart from that, you do not want to have greasy vegetables in a butter-rich pastry... I won't allow it! And anyway- you are only going to sauté them for 5 minutes at the most- just until the fennel and the shallot become translucent and begin to soften. 

Once you have done that, allow the peppers, shallot and fennel to cool for a minute or two and in that time, cut a circle of pastry to the size of a smaller non-stick frying pan and lay it inside... don't worry if there are a few folds in the pastry at this point. 

Next, sprinkle the base of the pastry with half of the crumbled feta cheese and then spread out the fennel, peppers and shallot on top. Now add the apricots and the other half of the feta cheese and go straight to your stove top, do not pass go or pick up any money... just turn the heat up high and get the pastry party started!

After just 4-5 minutes, the butter in the pastry will melt and it will shrink down and slide a little deeper into the frying pan at first, as you can see in this picture... but at the same time, you will see that the color will change from yellow to white as it begins to bake and set and become firmer around the edges... this is the time for it to come off the stove top and move on to the oven!

Before bidding it farewell, give it a good sprinkle of pepper and just a little salt, then pop it onto your middle shel in the oven, with the hot air circulating, for 5 minutes and then for a further 3-4 minutes under the broiler to make it puff up, turn flaky and become a lovely golden brown!

After just 10 minutes at the most in the oven, this is what my little piece of pastry nothingness looked like! Well... at least it did after scattering it with a couple twigs-worth of thyme- delicious "lemon-thyme" with a mild citrus flavor in this case, which went wonderfully with the feta and apricots!

I resisted the temptation to add a drizzle of honey this time... but you know... it DOES go pretty wonderfully with feta... ;-)

I also made a very conscious decision to do without adding egg, cream or any of the other usual suspects for a quiche or tart... simply because there was enough flavor, enough texture... and enough calories in this little thing as it was! 

It is nice to indulge a little- especially if you are going to all the trouble and cooking just for yourself. So I say- leave out some of those sinful ingredients and enjoy just a little more of the healthy and good ones... it can be done!

This tastes great eaten hot or cold, would make a great, light, Spring or Summer meal with a side of salad for example, or be a great addition to any party or picnic. 
It would make a great appetizer or and excellent addition to any buffet... do you get the idea that I really kinda like this, somehow? lol!

So there you have it- a perfect quick dish, simple, inexpensive, delicious and plenty of fun! Especially if you use your frying pan! Why aren't you all already doing it guys and gals?! Go grab your pans and get busy! Enjoy!

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