Sample text for Vegetarian suppers from Deborah Madison's kitchen / Deborah Madison.

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Savory Pies and Gratins

If I added up all the savory pies and gratins I've made in my life, they'd comprise a book in themselves. There's an instant appeal and sense of ease about both of these dishes. In my experience, everyone likes pie no matter what's in the crust. As for fragrant gratins, bubbling under their "crust" of bread crumbs, they are simply irresistible.

A crust makes a pie a more formal and special dish, but if you're not at ease whipping one out—it really is very easy with some practice—know that I've used the word pie very loosely. Some crusts are bread crumbs patted into the dish, and others don't have a crust at all. For the Feta and Ricotta Cheese Pie, it's the rim of the black cast-iron skillet, rather than pie dough, that frames the ingredients. But when you do make the dough given on page 8, note that it is made with less fat than most and with a mixture of whole wheat pastry and all-purpose flour, making it a little crisper and a lot tastier than the usual all-butter white-flour crust.

To make gratins or these shallow pies or tarts a main supper dish, plan to serve a big wedge or a quarter of a 9-inch pie. I like both pies and gratins served with a salad or saute;ed greens right on the same plate and a separate vegetable course or soup to start. Serve rich gratins with lighter foods such as crudites for appetizers, thin soups for starters, and the aforementioned greens. In the case of nonstarchy gratins, such as the eggplant gratins on page 12, rice, quinoa, and other grains just drink up their good juices.

Tart Shell

makes one 9-inch tart shell

A lower-fat version of the usual buttery crust, this tart shell is a bit crisper than the traditional one. Whole wheat pastry flour gives the dough more substance and flavor than white flour.

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/8 teaspoon sea salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into chunks
3 tablespoons sour cream, reduced-fat if you like
ice water

1. Combine the flours and salt in a food processor.

2. Add the butter and pulse to form coarse crumbs, then add the sour cream and pulse again. Dribble in just enough ice water, about 1 tablespoon, to make damp-looking crumbs, working as briefly as possible. Turn the dough out onto a board, gather into a ball, then shape into a disk. Refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.

3. Roll the chilled dough into a 10-inch circle, drape it over the rolling pin, then lay it over the tart pan. Gently settle the dough into the pan. Using your fingertips, press the dough against the sides so that they are about 1/4 inch thick. Freeze for at least 15 minutes or until ready to prebake. Formed tart shells, well wrapped in foil, can be frozen for a week before using.

to prebake

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the frozen tart shell on a sheet pan and bake in the center of the oven until lightly colored and set, about 20 minutes. Check a few times during the baking and prick any swollen spots with the sharp tip of a knife.

Onion and Rosemary Tart
with fromage blanc

serves 4

Fromage blanc is nonfat cheese similar in texture to sour cream and crème fraîche. It lacks the unctuousness of its full-fat cousins, but when baked it's perfectly creamy and smooth.

I like this tart with a robust vegetable, such as roasted artichokes or mushrooms sauteed with spinach and seasoned with lots of pepper. For wine, a bistro-style red such as a Cabernet Franc from France's Loire Valley goes nicely with these straightforward flavors.

Unless you have a tart shell ready, begin by cooking the onions, then make, press, and freeze the shell while they're cooking. Once you've prebaked the tart shell, reduce the oven heat, fill the shell, and put it in the oven about 45 minutes before you're ready to eat. This tart is best eaten warm.

2 teaspoons butter or olive oil
4 small or 3 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise, at least 4 cups
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1 9-inch tart shell (page 8)
2 eggs
1 cup fromage blanc

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and add the onions. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, give a stir, cover the pan, and cook slowly until soft and pale gold, about 30 minutes. Add the rosemary, then season with pepper and taste, adding more salt if needed.

2. While the onions are cooking, prepare and prebake the tart shell. Then reduce the heat to 350°F.

3. Whisk the eggs with the fromage blanc, 3/8 teaspoon salt, and a little pepper. Stir in the onions, then pour the mixture into the shell. Bake until golden and nearly firm, about 35 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then remove it from the tart pan, set it on a platter, and serve.

Variation with scallions

Scallions take far less time to cook than onions and make a more delicate tart, one that's just right for spring. You'll want 4 bunches of scallions, including a few inches of their greens, thinly sliced. Cook them in the butter until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Use a spring herb in this version
chervil, tarragon, the first few basil leavesand serve the tart with asparagus, the first peas, or leeks simmered in wine.

Dried Porcini
and fresh mushroom tart

serves 4

This succulent mix of mushrooms may tempt you to forget the pastry and just spoon them over some toast--an excellent idea, in fact. But if you want a dish that has more style, make a tart. It will look glorious, and with the full ounce of dried mushrooms it will be intensely mushroomy.

While rich in flavor, this is not a heavy dish, so go ahead and include a soup (a roasted red pepper soup would make a lively start), a side dish (think of roasted carrots with garlic and thyme or braised black kale), and a sprightly green salad. A glass of Bandol rose is the perfect wine.

Turn on the oven, get the dried mushrooms soaking, then use that window of time to prepare the tart shell (unless you have one ready). and slice the onion and mushrooms. Bake the tart shell while the mushrooms are cooking. This tart can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature.

1 ounce (1 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry sherry
1 9-inch tart shell (page 8)
1 tablespoon olive oil or a mixture of butter and oil, plus a little oil to finish
1 large white onion, finely diced
1/2 pound white or brown mushrooms, sliced 1Ú4 inch thick or less
1/2 pound (3 small) Portobello or other large mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick (see note)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 heaping teaspoon tomato paste
1 parsley sprig and a few thyme or marjoram sprigs, minced
1 egg
2/3 cup half-and-half, cream, or Mushroom Stock (page 209)

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Put the porcini in a saucepan with the wine and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for 30 minutes. Once the porcini are tender, pour the liquid through a fine strainer into a bowl, then chop the mushrooms into 1/2-inch or smaller pieces. Reserve the soaking water.

2. Meanwhile, prepare and freeze the tart shell.

3. Heat the oil in a wide skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until it starts to color, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the fresh mushrooms. Raise the heat to high, season with 1 teaspoon salt, and cook, tossing occasionally, until they start to color, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and a few tablespoons of the mushroom-soaking liquid, then add the porcini and continue cooking, adding more mushroom liquid in small amounts, until the mushrooms are tender and glazed, about 15 minutes. Add half the herbs, then taste for salt and season with pepper.

5. While the mushrooms are cooking, prebake the tart shell.

6. Beat the egg with the half-and-half. Slide the mushrooms into the prebaked tart shell and pour the custard over. Bake until the custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes. When done, sprinkle the remaining herbs over the top and dab a few drops of oil on the mushrooms to make them shine.

Note: If you're using Portobello’s, remove the gills with a spoon before cooking, or the dish will be very dark.

Two Eggplant Tarts
with tomatoes, olives, and goat cheese

serves 4

These two tarts use the same ingredients, but with very different effect. In the first, roasted eggplant is beaten into the custard, over which the tomatoes form a pretty coverlet. In the second, the eggplant is sliced and broiled, then mixed with the tomatoes, making a more rustic tart. Both are good to keep in mind when an assortment of tomatoes, such as Sun Gold, Yellow Pear, and Sweet 100, are available—they look and taste gorgeous--and both versions make a fine dinner on a hot night.

I might start this meal with a zucchini and basil soup, include a salad on the plate, and end with a platter of fresh figs and raspberries, possibly accompanied by a Muscat sabayon. A Rhone-style rose from California's south-central coast, such as an Ojai Vin Gris, would be good with all the elements in these tarts.

In both versions the eggplant can be prepared (roasted or broiled), the custards whisked together, and the tart shells prebaked hours before completing the tarts.

Smooth Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Tart

Ideally, you might roast the eggplant over the coals the night before if you're grilling, which adds a rich smoky flavor. Once roasted, the eggplant can wait for several days.

1 9-inch tart shell (page 8)
2 medium eggplants, about 1 pound each
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 heaping tablespoon finely slivered basil leaves, plus a few leaves for garnish
2 heaping tablespoons pitted Nicoise olives, finely chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup half-and-half, cream, or creme fraiche
3 to 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese
2 cups mixed small tomatoes, halved crosswise
olive oil for drizzling

1. Preheat the oven to 4250°F. Make and prebake the tart shell. Reduce the heat to 400°F.

2. Pierce the eggplants in several places, then put them on a sheet pan and bake until they're collapsed, about 40 minutes, or roast them over hot coals until collapsed. Set them in a colander for 15 minutes to drain, then scrape the flesh out of the skin, put it in a bowl, and mash coarsely with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the basil and olives and season with pepper. Beat the egg with the half-and-half and goat cheese and whisk it into the eggplant.

3. Pour the custard into the tart shell. Cover with tomatoes, cut sides up. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until the custard is set, about 30 minutes. Sliver the reserved basil leaves and scatter them over the hot surface. Let the tart cool for at least 15 minutes or serve at room temperature.

Rustic Eggplant and Tomato Tart

For this tart, use 2 pounds narrow Japanese or Italian eggplants, a few tablespoons olive oil, and an additional 1/2 cup half-and-half.

Make and prebake the tart shell, as in the preceding recipe. Preheat the broiler. Brush a sheet pan lightly with olive oil.

1. Remove strips of the eggplant skin, leaving a few thin bands. Slice diagonally about 3/8 inch thick and toss with 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil. Place them on the oiled sheet pan in a single layer and broil until golden, 10 to 15 minutes if your broiler is hot. Turn and cook the second side, about 10 minutes. Transfer those that finish first to a bowl. When all are done, season with a few pinches of salt and some pepper.

2. Beat the egg in a small bowl with the half-and-half and goat cheese, leaving the cheese a little chunky.

3. Add the olives, basil, and most of the tomatoes to the eggplant and toss together. Put them in the tart shell and pour the custard over all. Tuck the remaining tomatoes here and there where they can be seen and bake until the custard is set, about 35 minutes. Serve warm or tepid.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Vegetarian cookery.