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In Season NW: Sorrel Tart

(post, Kathleen Bauer)

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It's not exactly in the same league as King Arthur's search for the Holy Grail, and I'm nowhere near as dedicated as Julia Child was in her effort to master French cuisine, but my quest to incorporate more seasonal greens in my repertoire continues apace. This time it was a basket of sorrel that caught my eye at the Gathering Together Farm stand at last week's Hillsdale Farmers' Market.

Years ago I tasted some of the green, spinach-like leaves that a friend had grown and was intrigued by its fresh, almost lemony tang. I even tried growing it, but was overwhelmed with the volume of leaves that sprang from the almost three-foot-high plant.

But this lovely little bunch proved to be just the right amount for a tart with bacon and cheese. And, as I'd read, it lost some of its puckery tartness after steaming, and the leaves were so young and tender I didn't need to remove the stems, making this an easy and quick week-night dinner.

Sorrel and Bacon Tart

This quiche-like tart is infinitely mutable. Use any green (or not) and feel free to improvise by eliminating the bacon, adding peppers or whatever catches your fancy.

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter or frozen margarine
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. ice water

1 small bunch sorrel
3 slices good bacon
1 big onion, thinly sliced
Pinch of sugar
1 c. milk, Half & Half or cream if you’re feeling indulgent
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Generous pinch of salt
1/8 tsp. thyme
4-5 oz. cheese (use a good full-flavored cow’s milk cheese like Spahn, Fontina D’Aosta, or Gruyere), grated

Cut together flour, butter, and salt in a small bowl with a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles an uneven, coarse meal with some pea-sized butter lumps. Drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture and blend (or process) until incorporated. Squeeze a little in your fist. If it crumbles, add a little more water, blend in and squeeze again. Repeat if necessary, but don’t work the dough too much or it will be tough. When you’re satisfied, press dough into a disk about five inches across, and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Roll out dough so it will fit in a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press it into the pan and up the sides, leaving 1/2" overhang. Fold over this excess and press against sides. Freeze 10 minutes. Line it with foil and fill with beans or pie weights (I use heavy-duty aluminum foil alone) and then bake crust 10 minutes. Take out the weights and foil and bake until it’s starting to turn golden, maybe 10-15 minutes more. Pull it out and let it cool while you make the filling.

Steam the sorrel until just wilted (remove stems if tough). Chop finely. In a medium skillet, sauté the bacon over medium-low heat until it’s crisp and has rendered its fat. Pull out the bacon and drain on paper towels. Raise the heat to medium and sauté the onion in the drippings with a pinch of sugar until they’re deep golden brown (15-20 minutes). Spread the onions over the bottom of the crust, break bacon into bite-size pieces and sprinkle over onions. Top with grated cheese and sorrel. Blend together the milk, eggs, salt, pepper and thyme, then pour into the crust.

Bake until filling is set, about 25 minutes. Cool tart on rack for a few minutes and then remove pan sides. Serve warm or at room temperature.