You know how much I love meat. I really do. I love it barbecued, pan-seared, slow roasted, sous-vide, even raw (Oysters!? Beef tartare!? Sooooo good).
BUT I also really love fruits and vegetables. And, I have to admit, after reading the China Study, I had a moment where I thought that the only way to avoid certain early death was to give up all animal products. But, two second later, while gnawing on the rind of a chunk of Parm, I realized I would rather take my chances.
That being said, it got me thinking: was I giving fruits and vegetables my all? Was I pushing the envelope with said ingredients? Challenging my comfort zone? So often, in the kitchen, we consider baking the perfect cake or presenting the perfect crown rib roast as cooking success. What about perfectly roasted, pomegranate-glazed carrots?
Enter the amazing world of what I consider to be "advanced veggies" in Yotam Ottolenghi's book Plenty . Here, you find yourself with an arsenal of vegetarian (but not preachy - he is a meat eater!) recipes that will teach and inspire you.
One of the first recipes I tried was the Surprise tatin: literally, a tarte tatin (yes! with caramel!) of vegetables, cheese and puff pastry. I've tweaked it a little bit over the months (I dry my tomatoes out a little bit more and caramelize the onions) although the jury is out on whether I've actually made it better. Served with a simple salad and crusty bread, oh, my (sigh)…meatless, but heavenly.
Surprise Tatin (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's book Plenty)
1 1/2 C grape tomatoes
2 T olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over the tomatoes and for the pan
salt and black pepper
1lb new potatoes (skins on)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 T sugar
2 t butter
3 oregano sprigs
5 oz aged goat cheese, sliced (I use Midnight Moon)
1 puff pastry sheet, rolled thinly
Oven at 275 for tomatoes. Then 400 for tart.
Roast tomatoes: Halve and place cut side up on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in oven to dry, about 90 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, cook potatoes in boiling salted water until fork tender, about 25 minutes. Trim off a bit of the top and bottom of each potato, then cut into 1/2 inch thick slices.
Caramelize the onion: Over low heat, add the onions to the 2 T olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Keep over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely softened, about 15-20 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium-high, now stirring more frequently, as the onions start to brown. You can deglaze the pan with a touch of water, broth or wine, which will also help color the onions. They are done when evenly brown and almost gooey soft. Let cool.
Once you have prepared all the vegetables, brush a 9-inch cake pan with oil and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. In a small pan, cook the butter and sugar on a high heat, storing constantly with a wooden spoon, to get a semi-dark caramel. Pour the caramel carefully into the cake pan and tilt to spread evenly over the bottom. Pick the oregano leaves and scatter evenly onto the caramel.
Lay the potato slices close together, cut side down, on the bottom of the pan. Gently press the onions and tomatoes into the gaps and sprinkle genersouly with salt and pepper. Spread slices of goat cheese evenly over the potatoes. Cute a off pastry disc about 1 inch larger in diameter than the pan. Lay the pastry lid over the tart filling and gently tuck the edges down around the potatoes inside the pan.
Now with the oven at 400 degrees F, bake the tart for 25 minutes. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees F, continuing to bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and thoroughly cooked. Remove tart from oven and let sit for 2 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate or platter. Serve tart warm or hot.
Do ahead: Fully assembled tart can be chilled for up to 24 hours before cooking, making it a great dinner party meal!!