I want to extol the virtues of the savory tart. From classic quiche to stunning flamiche, Chicken, Cheddar and Pecan or a seasonal Italian Summer Cherry Tomato. The permutations are endless, which is certainly a large part of the appeal, but for me the savory tart represents exactly what I aspire to in the kitchen most of the time. Beautiful, flavorful, remarkable dishes without too much faffing about. A good tart pan with lovely crimped edges gets you halfway to the post. Fill it with fabulous ingredients, then garnish it in an artful way, and you are set to impress. A tangle of colorful greens on the side and you have a lovely, impressive plate without wearing yourself to the bone. Weeknight dinner, weekend entertaining, family, friends – you are good to go.
This particular iteration is perfect for these early days of fall. Seasonal pears, the sweetness balanced by gentle leeks with the tangy edge of mustard are the focus here. I usually find locally grown green-skinned pears, but try a mix of red, yellow and green to your taste and delight. The creamy filling just holds the elements together without overwhelming them. I love the added crunch of walnuts in the filling, and because it they go so well with pears, I use them in a hearty crust as well. I’d like to try this with hazelnuts someday too.
Pear, Leek and Walnut Tart
- For the Walnut Pastry
¼ cup walnut halves and pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
Several generous grinds of black pepper
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
3 -4 Tablespoons ice water
- For the Filling
2 2/3 Tablespoons butter (the remaining butter from the stick used to make the crust)
2 medium leeks
Salt and pepper
5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoons whole grain mustard
½ cup chopped walnuts
- For the Pastry
- Pulse the walnuts in a food processor until finely chopped, then add the flour, salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Add the cubes of butter and process until the mixture is crumbly. Slowly drizzle in the ice water 1 Tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together in a ball. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk, wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but up to a day. When ready to make the tart, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray. Spread a piece of parchment paper on the counter and lightly sprinkle with flour. Place the disk of dough on the parchment paper, lightly flour the top and roll out to a round to fit the tart pan. Carefully transfer the crust to the pan and press it in to fit. Poke all over with a fork, then transfer the pan to a baking sheet. Shake the flour off the parchment paper and use it to line the pie crust. Fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave to cool completely and remove the parchment and weights.
- For the Filling
- Slice the leeks in half lengthwise, then into thin half-moons. Run under cool water in colander and shake as much moisture off as you can. Dice the pears, with their peels, into small cubes. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the leeks. Cook until wilted and soft, but not browning, about 6 – 7 minutes. Add the pears and stir well. Cook a further 3 or 4 minutes until the pears are beginning to soften. Season well with salt and pepper and leave to cool completely.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Beat the eggs briefly in the bowl of a stand mixer, then add the cream cheese, whipping cream and mustard and beat until smooth. Fold the pear-leek combo into the filling with a spatula, then fold in the walnuts until evenly distributed. Scrape the filling into the prepared crust and spread it to completely and evenly fill. With the tart pan on the baking sheet, cook the tart for 20 – 30 minutes until set and golden. Slice and serve warm.