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Sunday, 22 January 2006

In Praise of Prunes (Prune Blue Cheese Tart)

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summary: prune onion blue cheese tart (based on a recipe found at “Too Many Chefs”); links to favourite recipes using prunes; (click on image to see larger view)

prune onion blue cheese tart Last October, David Lebovitz talked about how prunes are maligned and sent out a challenge to bloggers to post favourite prune recipes in order to convert prune-skeptics into realizing that prunes aren’t just for relieving blocked systems… (how’s THAT for a run-on sentence?!). I (as usual) was too late to participate – even though David kindly included our recipes for vinarterta and Chicken (or Lamb) Couscous with Prunes and Apricots in the round up.

And how did I find out about the challenge in the first place? Barrett at Too Many Chefs made a spectacular looking Blue Cheese, Prune, and Onion Tart. When I saw it, I said I was going to make it that weekend. Ha. Okay, so I lied about which weekend…. Finally, yesterday, make it I did.

Why oh why did I wait so long!?! It’s fabulous.

First I made and baked a short crust in a smallish springform pan. Then I started making the filling, using Barret’s recipe as a guideline. Because the crust I had made was small, I knew I’d cut the filling in half. Here is what I did:

Prune Blue Cheese Tart
based on Barrett’s (Too Many Chefs) recipe
click on image to see larger viewprune onion blue cheese tartIngredients

Pastry
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp (give or take) sweet butter
½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp (give or take) cold water

Filling
111 gm (½ c) pitted prunes
boiling water (enough to cover prunes)
1 large onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
pinch salt
1/4 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
60 gm (or thereabouts) Danish blue cheese

Preparation
Pastry
1. Preheat oven to 425F. Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter. Pour in just enough cold water to make dough. Mix as little as possible. Roll out and place in a parchment covered springform pan. Prick all over with a fork and bake until golden (10 – 15 minutes) Set aside on counter when done.

Filling
2. While the pastry is baking, cut the pitted prunes in quarters (this way you can remove any rogue pits), put them in a bowl and pour enough boiling water to just cover the prunes. Set the bowl aside for 20 minutes.

3. Thinly slice the onion. Heat a large cast iron skillet to medium heat. Pour in oil and add onions and salt. Saute until the liquid is evaporated and the onions are transluscent with a tinge of gold. Add cider vinegar and continue cooking till all the liquid is absorbed. The onions should be quite soft.

4. Turn the oven down to 350F (the crust should be baked and sitting on the counter)

5. Use a pestle and mortar to finely grind the mustard seeds. Add powdered mustard and prunes to the onions and cook til most of the liquid is absorbed.

6. Pour the onion/prune mixture into the pie crust. Crumble cheese overtop and bake about 25 minute until the cheese is lightly golden. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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Please see the revised version of these tarts where the pastry was made with whole wheat flour.

We tried it with afternoon tea (some sort of herbal berry mix) and the pie was fabulous. My visiting sister thinks the filling would be great served separately as a dip for crackers. She also thinks she might put the filling into tiny tartlets to serve individually at her next wine and cheese party. I’m thinking that next time, I’ll make largish tart shells to make individual dishes for sit-down hors-d’oeuvres. Add a sprig of parsley to the side of the dish and it would look even more stellar. (Rats!! I should have stuck a sprig of parsley onto the pie for the photo.)

Did I mention that this really is stellar? Thank you, Barrett, for a wonderful new addition to our diet!

Last December, (or was it November??) we saw various stuffings on a ‘holiday cooking’ show on PBS. One of them involved prunes, dried apricots, dried cranberries soaked in rum (I think it was rum) We decided that might be a great idea. But without the rum. Using our usual stovetop dressing recipe, we substituted cubed sandwich and French-style bread for the cornbread and added some quartered prunes and apricots. The dressing was BRILLIANT. And in sandwiches the next day, it was also stellar.

6 Comments for In Praise of Prunes (Prune Blue Cheese Tart)” »

  1. Comment by Mats — 23 January 2006 @ 09:10 EDT

    I just have to say that adding photos to illustrate your blog was really a swell move!

  2. Comment by ejm — 23 January 2006 @ 09:46 EDT

    Thanks Mats! I must admit that I do love having a digital camera! I just have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay that my photos aren’t exactly magazine quality and there for ‘just the facts, ma’am; just the facts’

  3. Comment by Mats — 23 January 2006 @ 14:41 EDT

    “Magazine quality” involves equipment, asisstants, lighting, re-takes, many dishes, etc. It’s basically anti-blog. Your illustrations are great!
    After all, it’s a blog, not an e-zine!

  4. Comment by ejm — 23 January 2006 @ 18:29 EDT

    Thanks for the reminder, Mats!! I’m actually happily and giddily thrilled about the images I’ve recently introduced. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time.

    And the only reason I felt the need to try to excuse my first attempts at digital imagery was that I had just looked at the Lorrissa Shepstone’s wonderful “Foodography” site. Hard not to feel a tiny bit inadequate after seeing those!

  5. Comment by bing — 23 January 2006 @ 21:33 EDT

    But Lorrissa Shepstone is just doing straight photography that happens to have food as the subject.

    Not to suggest that striving for such beauty isn’t worthwhile, but I find it much more interesting to see pictures like the slack dough kneading and the prune pie, than her somewhat remote and chaste pictures of fresh ingredients.

  6. Comment by ejm — 24 January 2006 @ 10:41 EDT

    Ah, but if we could achieve the same quality that Lorrissa achieves in our pictures of slack dough kneading, prune pie, etc. etc…. (I actually think the slack dough kneading pictures are wonderful – I love them because I think they actually show how slack the dough is AND that it’s possible to hand-knead that kind of dough)

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