A steaming hot bowl of French onion soup would be soothing, spring onions are especially sweet right now. Plus we need soup to go with our tea and blankets and warm cozy fire.
Things have gone even more awry than we thought possible climatically and geographically speaking, the hemispheres have flipped, we’re in the southern one, and it really is autumn. The compromise, somewhere between a wintry soup and a summery salad, is a goat cheese and onion tart using local cheese and onions – and whatever else sounds good. If the sun pops out eat it on the front porch or in the garden, if not, a movie and a blazing fire would work too.
Make a classic pastry for the tart shell, or, my daughter makes this with large fresh tortillas, healthy-easy-nummy, your basic guerrilla cooking principles. Naan works well too, brushed with olive oil, topped with onions and baked for 25 minutes. Use pizza dough and call it a pizza instead of a tart. Caramelized onions are the base, from there you could take it in a number of directions, including soup. Play around with other possibilities like using different cheese, substitute ricotta for goat cheese if you like, especially Poppy’s homemade ricotta, add bacon or prosciutto bits. Have this for supper with a colorful spring salad, or it’s a fine appetizer when cut into smallish pieces.
Onion and Goat Cheese Tart:
Make your favorite pastry dough. (Use tortillas or naan if you prefer and modify oven-baking time to about 20 minutes, less for tortillas.) After pastry has chilled for an hour or more in the fridge, roll it out into a circle or rectangle about 1/8th inch thick and approximately 12 x 14”. Place on large baking sheet with a piece of parchment underneath and chill again for a few minutes.
In the meantime, thinly slice three onions, include leeks and spring onions if you have them. You’ll need 3 -4 cups. Melt 2 T each of butter and olive oil, sauté onions on medium-low heat with salt and pepper to taste along with several sprigs of fresh thyme. Stir often until onions are golden and very soft, 25 – 30 minutes. Turn the heat off and let cool. Remove thyme.
If you’ve never cooked onions to the ‘caramelized’ stage before, you’re in for a treat. In dramatic contrast to their raw form, they soften in both flavor and texture, their natural sweetness is emphasized and they practically melt in your mouth. At this point the onions can be used in all kinds of ways: in soup, on burgers, pizzas, cooked with a little balsamic and placed under salmon or halibut, piled onto a pork sandwich. This time it’s an onion and goat cheese tart.
Brush chilled pastry with olive oil and cover with cooled onions. Leave about an inch around the border, roll and lightly pinch the edge all the way around. Pop onion-filled pastry into a 375º oven for 30 minutes, remove briefly and distribute dollops of goat cheese over the top; return to the oven for another fifteen minutes or so (cooking time varies). Remove when crust is golden and goat cheese has begun to melt. Sprinkle immediately with fresh thyme and toasted pine or hazelnuts (local). Let cool for 10 minutes, cut into big pieces and dig in. This tart can be eaten warm or at room temperature.
Local cheeses are available at Farmers Markets and some grocery stores: Sea Breeze, Samish Bay, Port Madison Farm ((firstname.lastname@example.org) makes fresh chevre, Mt. Townsend Creamery, Beecher’s, Rogue River Creamery (OR) . . . and there are more. Beecher’s shop at Pike Place Market carries local/regional cheese in addition to their own. Farmers Markets have a wide variety including goat cheese.