Sunday, February 26, 2012

Caramelized Garlicky Glee

Fate has a thousand wiles when it chooses to impose on us its incomprehensible whims. A temporary blackout, a moment of inattention or blindness is enough to insinuate an act between the Scylla and Charybdis of decision. Afterward, with hindsight, we may endlessly ponder that act, explain our motives, try to discover our true intentions; but the act remains irrevocable.
-Bruno Schulz ("Father's Last Escape")

Finally, after 68 pages, 100 footnotes and a long, winding analytical discussion of 9 Russian authors and more episodes of 30 Rock than you would believe is possible to watch in the course of a week, I am back. I know that I've neglected the blog recently, but I suppose that the sad truth is that sometimes there's only enough time in the day for one project. The good news, however, is that Chapter 2 is done and, even though I can't help but feel a little nervous about the two meetings I have with my committee members tomorrow (there is the possibility that they may hate it, after all), I also believe that this may be the best work I've ever produced. It turns out that 3-4 hours a day of writing creates its own "zone"--that perfect place you have to be in to feel that you're saying what needs to be said about the topic at hand. It really got to the point that I was "living" my material, but that kind of closeness with your material (healthy or not) has, in my experience, made all the difference between quality work and so-so work. And let us not forget the requisite night in the library with a granola bar for dinner that shows that you've really suffered for your craft and have the tenacity to keep on going even when you want nothing more than to stop looking at the computer screen and move on with your life (i.e. the moment when the typos happen and you don't even care).



But to return to the good news, even though all has been quiet on this western front, I've nevertheless been cooking, eating and planning posts. I've got several desserts to tell you about, as well as a great and simple vegetable recipe, but that's all for another day. Tonight I give you the Caramelized Garlic Tart, courtesy of Ottolenghi's Plenty. While I don't own this book myself, a friend and fellow blogger has told me nothing but good things about it; I thought it would make a good Christmas gift for the Greek's mother and, when I was perusing the table of contents to see the book's offerings, I saw the recipe for this tart. As a garlic lover, I knew I had to make it and immediately. My immediately, however, is often a few months down the line. I do what I can. And, as with most things, I believe that it's better late than never.



Thursday evening, after a triumphant day of leaving copies of my chapter in all the committee members' boxes, eating lunch in the sunshine with a friend and reclaiming by existence and dignity by finally doing some laundry, I got around to assembling first the puff pastry (although I have fantasies of one day making my own puff pastry--I've heard it's quite easy--I used the frozen stuff) and then the caramelized garlic topping. All I can say is this: even if you claim you don't like garlic and find its taste to be excessive and overly potent, you would never even know that garlic is in this tart. By first blanching the garlic, then frying it in olive oil and, only after all that, adding balsamic, water and some spices and sugar, you're taking the garlic to some super (as in above) state of being. It transcends its normal potent self and becomes something soft, sweet and luscious. Not even a vampire would be scared to approach....



Encased in the puff pastry and surrounded by goat cheese and a creamy, quiche-like filling, the garlic is the true star of this dish. I've started to imagine a world in which I roast all kinds of vegetables and top them with the caramelized garlic. This place may just be my paradise (let the image of the kite from today's hike speak for my glee--at both the end of the chapter and the fact that I finally got around to making this tart).





Caramelized Garlic Tart


Adapted from Ottoglenhi's Plenty via the interwebs

Serves 8 celebratory slices

13 oz all-butter puff pastry
3 medium-sized heads of garlic, separated and peeled
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 Tbsp. sugar (roughly 2 1/4 tsps)
1 1/2 tsp. rosemary (I used dried, which is all I had on hand)
1 1/2 tsp. thyme (again, I used dried)
8 oz. soft goat cheese 
2 eggs
3/4 cup 2% milk (the original recipe called for a combination of creme fraiche and heavy cream, but the 2% didn't detract from the flavor in the least)
sea salt and black pepper, to taste

-Preheat the oven to 350.
-Grease a loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin. I would also suggest, based on my experience, inverting the bottom and perhaps also lining it with foil. 
-Roll out the puff pastry so that it will line the bottom and sides of the tin, plus a little extra. 
-Line the tin with the puff pastry. 
-Line the pastry with parchment and either fill with baking beans or set a pie plate within the tin (this is a trick of my grandmother's), so that the pastry will not shrink. 
-Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. 
-Once these 20 minutes are up, remove the parchment and/or pie plate/baking beans and let bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until golden. Leave the oven on after you've removed the pastry. 
-In the meantime, begin to caramelize the garlic. Put the separated and peeled cloves into a saucepan, cover them with water. Bring to a simmer and then let cook for an additional 3 minutes. 
-Remove from the saucepan and drain well.
-Dry the saucepan and add the olive oil, heating it at high heat. Add the garlic cloves and let cook for about 2 minutes.
-Then, add the balsamic vinegar and the water and bring the mixture to a boil. Let these ingredients simmer for 10 minutes.
-Once the garlic cloves have begun to soften, add the sugar, rosemary, thyme and half of the salt (1/4 tsp). Let simmer for an additional 10 minutes, on medium heat, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic has a dark syrupy coating. Then, set aside.
-Break the goat cheese up into the tart shell, making sure to cover it completely. 
-Spoon the garlic and syrup evenly over the cheese.
-In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and 1/4 tsp. of salt, as well as some pepper. 
-Pour this custard over the tart filling, making sure that the garlic is still visible. 
-Cook for about 30 minutes at 350, or until the filling has set and has taken on a golden hue. 
-Remove the tart from the tin, very gently, and prepare to be swept away by garlicky waves of happiness. 







3 comments:

  1. That looks amazing! I am so glad to hear things are going well with work too! Congrats on chapter 2! In unrelated hilarity, last night I dreamed that the university wasn't going to accept my dissertation because they didn't like the width of my Russian letters, apparently some kind of typing penchant of mine they'd secretly tried to dissuade me from in years past. Just before my alarm went off, I told them, 'Look, you can even ask my husband, unless there's something genuinely wrong with my method, I'm not going to be an early adopter of whatever else it is you say I should do." Good times! Long live the ridiculous dissertation dream!

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  2. Thank you! It's quite horrifying to think that, even a few months after filing, you're still having nightmares about the thing! I guess a dissertation is just the kind of thing that dies a long and slow death (especially in one's subconscious?)...? All I have to say is that, maybe it's one more chapter down, but all that really means is one more round of editing. Perhaps the finish line is in sight, though?

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  3. Dude, you are light years beyond where I was when I was at your stage of the process. You are seriously a dissertation rock star! And, once it's all over, the bad dreams just turn funny and not stressful at all:)

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