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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Savory Pastry Tart with Fruit, Almonds, and Brie

This is my friend, Valerie. She has no idea that I just stole this picture from her Facebook page and I have no intention of telling her. Valerie is one of my favorite cooking cohorts for several reasons:
1. She lets me completely take over her kitchen and offers me ingredients I would never have on hand at my own house.
2. She pretends to like everything I make--even stuff with spinach in it.
3. She's an amazing conversationalist with good ideas, intelligent replies, and her own point of view. And she's not afraid to tell me when she disagrees with me, which always makes life better.
4. She is incredibly adventurous when it comes to making food and often celebrates successes and failures with a Facebook post.

Why is she at the top of my recipe? 

One day when I was visiting the Amazing Valerie, she showed me a recipe she wanted to make. It had chunks of brie, caramelized sliced onions, and sliced apple, and pomegranate seeds, wrapped in puff pastry. The top was brushed with an egg wash and was golden and crusty. It looked heavenly. So we made it. And we followed the recipe exactly.

The finished product was good...but that was all. It wasn't stupendous or mouth-watering or to-die-for, at all. And we were a bit disappointed. So (as is our custom) we sat at the kitchen counter and dreamed of ways to make the tart better, and as we chatted, we dipped leftover apple slices in balsamic vinegar--and suddenly we were inspired to make this new, improved version which is definitely stupendous and mouth-watering. 

See why Val is one of my favorite cooking people?

Preheat the to 425 degrees. Then roll out two sheets of thawed puff pastry dough onto a baking sheet (this is on foil, but I prefer using parchment paper), overlapping the ends in the middle and pressing them together as shown. The edges of the pastry will extend up the sides of the pan--that's the way it should be.

Thinly slice an apple and a pear, sprinkle lightly with salt and immerse in about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. We like to use red pears and honey crisp apples. This time we used a Granny Smith apple and an Anjou pear. Also, this will make way too much fruit filling, so feel free to snack on these.

Toast slivered almonds until they're golden brown.
Slice an onion and caramelize it in 2 tsp olive oil and 2 tsp butter (oops--no picture) and remove the seeds from one pomegranate. Aaron has a really cool tool that does this. No one else in the family has figured out how to use it. I've heard you can remove the seeds easily if you do it while they're submerged in cold water, but again, I've never tried that method either. Thankfully, we had Aaron with us when we made this. You can borrow him and his pomegranate tool if you book in advance.

Cut 8 ounces of brie cheese into cubes.

Spread the fillings on the puff pastry sheet in this order:
1. Onions:
 2. Apples/Pears:
 3. Pomegranate seeds:
 4. Brie cubes:
 5. Toasted Almonds:

Cut the puff pastry edges into 1-2-inch strips.
 Bring down the top and bottom edges and strips as shown:

Braid pastry strips in this way:
If you want a shiny top, brush with egg wash. We don't use it because at this point we just want to bake and eat the thing. Bake at 425 degrees F. for about 20 minutes. Cut in strips to serve.

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