Thursday, April 9, 2009

Celebrating Brunch: Goat Cheese and Roasted Vegetable Tart

You may have heard that Easter is this weekend. You've seen the displays in the grocery stores, you might have even bought a ham or an egg-dyeing kit in anticipation of Sunday. And good for you for enjoying Easter. I, on the other hand, have only been thinking of other, better holidays.

There's Christmas, which is a month-long bender of cozy fires and cookies and company; an excuse for indulgent nostalgia served up with booze in unlikely things like hot cider and milky nogs; and just enough residual belief in Santy Claus to warm your bitter, stressed-out, over-worked and over-shopped little heart.

There's also Thanksgiving, a personal favorite, since no gifts are required and you're elbow deep in a turkey before you can have your second cup of coffee. It's a sanctioned excuse to eat your weight in mashed potatoes and gravy, not to mention the leftover turkey sandwiches dripping with cranberry sauce for days to come.

New Years means champagne and midnight kisses and wondering what the next year might bring, while Valentines day equals chocolate, which is never a bad thing, even if it's bittersweet.

And then there's Easter. I know that Easter come
s with glazed pork and the official debut of Spring vegetables. I know that for kids, or adults who have kids, it means the Easter Bunny (our most personality-less pagan character), and giggle-filled egg hunts on the lawn. But it also comes with Peeps, and intentionally-stained boiled eggs, and a feeling that I should be feeling more. Maybe it's different for you, maybe you have a basket-full of memories, or you have kids to distract you, or you actually like pastel-colored marshmallow candy. As for me, Easter just kind of makes me shrug. It's just an okay holiday. I mean, I get more excited about Cinco de Mayo, and that's not even a real thing. But at least it comes with chips and guacamole.

However, Easter has one redeeming quality, one tradition I can whole-heartedly endorse, and that's the concept of brunch. Is there a more glorious word than brunch? When else do you permit yourself to drink champagne in your orange juice, or eat crab within the same meal as strawberry french toast. Since it's two meals in one, no one will scorn you for eating fourteen pounds of food. In fact, when I really think about it, brunch might be my favorite holiday.

So here's my solution. From now on, I'm calling the holiday itself Easter Brunch. Now that's something I can get behind.

I've received quite a few messages in the last few weeks from intelligent, successful, capable women who claim they "can't cook," and I have to say, this always upsets me a little bit. Because, I can't cook. I mean, I didn't go to school for it, and I didn't have grandmothers who showed me their hard-earned old school techniques, and even my own mother never really slowed down to show me things until I asked her to.

Really, cooking is not so different a process than putting together furniture from Ikea. You just follow instructions, and try to make it look like the picture.

So, for Easter Brunch this year, I'm giving you a recipe that sounds fancy, looks fancy, tastes fancy, but is easier than a Billy bookshelf from a Swedish furniture superstore.

It's called Rustic Goat Cheese and Roasted Vegetable Tart. I know, right? But here's all you do: you buy pre-made pie dough, spread some goat cheese and cream cheese on it, throw some roasted veggies on top and bake it. It's as easy as making a pizza, but way more satisfying. I can't tell you how delicious this is, and how highly you'll think of yourself after you make it. I made it last night (on a weeknight, THAT'S how easy it is), and I'm still feeling rather kitchen-goddessy today.

So, in honor of the first official Easter Brunch holiday, and as a gift to the phenomenal women who think they can't cook, I give you the Rustic Goat Cheese and Roasted Vegetable Tart. May it forever wash away the taste of Peeps.

(I kind of ruined Paul's life last night by asking him at 11:45 to help me brighten up the picture above in Photoshop -- pictures taken at night in haste are never as lovely as I'd like them to be. So if you see him, tell him I told you he's a good husband. Or if you just want to see a better picture of the tart, click here. But be sure to follow my recipe, it's simpler.)

Rustic Goat Cheese and Roasted Vegetable Tart
Adapted from Los Angeles Times

Note: Use a ready-made pie crust (not the ones found in tins). My all-time favorite is from Trader Joe's, in the frozen section next to desserts, but you can also find them in the regular grocery store in the refrigerated section. Just make sure it's not the kind that comes in a tin.

Nonstick cooking spray
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 yellow squash, thinly sliced
1/2 pound assorted mushrooms, sliced into small equal pieces
2 shallots (or half a medium yellow onion), thinly sliced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced small
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts for 2-crust 9-inch pie

Set a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the zucchini, squash, mushrooms, shallots, tomatoes, bell pepper, thyme and oregano in a large bowl. Stir in the olive oil to coat the vegetables evenly and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the vegetables into a large roasting pan in a single layer and roast until the vegetables are softened, 15 minutes. (You may need two pans, depending on the size. It's important that veggies are in a single layer.)

While the vegetables are roasting, combine the goat, cream and Parmesan cheeses in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add 1 egg and mix on high until smooth, 2 minutes. If you don't have a mixer, just stir the heck out of it until it's creamy and smooth. It's a good arm workout.

Unwrap the pie crusts and lay them out 1 on each baking sheet. Repair any tears in the dough by pinching tears together. Divide the cheese mixture between the two crusts, spreading it to within 2 inches of the edges. Spread the vegetables on top of the cheese filling, dividing them between the crusts. Fold in the sides of the crusts to the middle (they won't reach the center) so that each fold overlaps the last slightly to form a rustic-looking tart (this is easier than it sounds). Pinch the overlapping edges to seal. Beat the remaining egg and brush it on the exposed folded crusts to coat.

Depending on the size of your oven, you may need to cook one tart at a time if both trays don't fit on the center rack.

Bake the tarts until the crusts are golden brown, about 20 minutes.


  1. Yum indeed! And so easy. I actually called my mom and sister and told them if they don't try this recipe, I'll disown them. It's that good.

  2. Casey in JacksonvilleApril 11, 2009 at 2:17 PM

    I must know how you eat like royalty and stay so thin! This looks divine; I'm planning on Onion Pie for Easter Brunch - but maybe I could serve this another time.

  3. This sounds right up my alley. I'm sooo IN!
    thanks darling

  4. Gonna have to try this one....

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