Pissaladiere Nicoise Vegetarienne (Vegetarian Mediterranean-Style Onion Tarts)
In France, you can't start a proper meal without an appetizer. This recipe marks the start to my 4-course "French meal" in honor of the opening of the movie called "Julie and Julia". I thought about making mini quiches, but I decided against it because of the vegetarians in the house who find them a bit eggy. I settled on making Pissaladière niçoise.
Pissala what, you say? Pissaladière niçoise is named after the city of Nice, located on the Mediterranean coast in southern France. The dish is composed of all the typical ingredients from the region such as black olives, onions, garlic and a bouquet garni (see tips). You can either use pizza dough or pastry dough. The only change I made is that I substituted nori for the anchovies. I know it's not traditional but none of the vegetarians in our house like anchovies. If you don't have a problem with them by all means, use them instead. They add additional flavor and complexity.
Yields: 8 servings2 onions, thinly sliced
1 bouquet garni
3 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole
6 cured black olives, sliced in thirds
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pinch red chili flakes
3 squares puff pastry dough (store-bought), thawed
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, for greasing the molds
1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns, freshly ground
2 cloves, freshly ground
1 nori sheet (or anchovies), cut into stick-shaped pieces
2 teaspoons curly parsley, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil. Add the sliced onions. Separate and spread the onions. Add the whole garlic cloves and the bouquet garni. Lower the heat to simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes until the caramelized onions become almost like a compote. Season with salt, pepper, red chili flakes and cloves. Keep stirring and let the onions cook for another 5-10 minutes. Transfer onto a platter and let cool completely. Remove and discard the bouquet garni and the cloves of garlic.
Place the dough in 18 mini-shells previously buttered (or in one 9-inch pie pan). Dock the dough with a fork to prevent it from rising too much. The dough should be evenly spread on the mini-square mold and over flow a little on the sides, as it will shrink while baking.
Place about 2-3 teaspoons of the onion mixture in each mold. Top with a piece of nori and a slice of olive.
Bake for 5 minutes at 400°F, then lower the temperature to 375°F for another 10-12 minutes.
Before serving, garnish with some parsley.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
How to make a bouquet garni: The traditional bouquet garni is composed of a sprig of thyme, 2 bay leaves (torn in half), 1 small portion of leek (only the green part), a few curly parsley stems and a small stalk of celery. You can always tweak it by substituting some ingredients such as bruised lemongrass, basil, coriander or star anise. Gather all the ingredients in a square of cheesecloth and tie it with some twine. You can use it to flavor your sauces and broths.
I topped the caramelized onions with some nori (sushi sheets) to resemble the taste of anchovies but you don't have to. I made the same application for my vegetarian quinoa caviar.
You can add mashed capers to the caramelized onion mixture if you'd like a more acidic flavor to the tartlets.
For an Indian-inspired onion tart, check my pearl onion confit upside-down tart recipe.
Don't discard the remnants of puff pastry. Make some cheese twists the next day!
Published By: on August 4, 2009.