January 24, 2008
One of my very favorite books I have discovered this year is “At Mesa’s Edge” by Eugenia Bone. It is part cookbook, part memoir, but mostly a wise, witty, and warm look at how one very talented cook connects to a new land and way of life she had no idea she would fall in love with. Before she came West, Eugenia lived in NYC, writing and cooking for Gourmet, Food and Wine, Saveur, and other high-falutin’ publications. The last thing she dreamed she would be doing was chasing cows out of her garden, fly-fishing, and picking wild mushrooms.
Her husband fell in love with and bought a small ranch in western Colorado and before she knew it she was renovating an old ranch house, wrestlin’ skunks, and trying to figure out how to live “out west”. It’s a very enjoyable read, particularly because she is willing and able to change her perceptions and adapt to the regional way of raising food, hunting game, and getting along with the neighbors, some of whom are prickly characters. The recipes are wonderful. Today I made Eugenia’s very delicious “Leek and Cilantro Pesto Tart”. Get this book. Cook these recipes. You will be a better cook for it. It made me more determined to find my own place where I can fish in the morning, pick peppers from my garden in the afternoon, then sit on a porch and ponder the mountains in the evening. I’m working on it. My husband and I are searching for a small ranch ourselves.
In the meanwhile, I’ll just be jealous of Engenia and her tart.
“Leek and Cilantro Pesto Tart” by Eugenia Bone (from the book, “On Mesa’s Edge”)
4 large leeks (I needed to use 5) washed well and sliced into thin rounds (6 cups)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ - 1 teaspoon cold water, as needed
3 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup olive oil
1 (I used 3!) large garlic clove, peeled
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch tart pan. (I used a rectangular tart pan – I love that shape!)
Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until they are soft, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to be sure they do not burn.
To make the pastry, cut the remaining 4 tablespoons butter into pieces and place in a food processor with the egg and flour. Pulse to blend until the dough forms a ball, or a lot of tiny soft balls, about 1 minute.. Add the water if the dough is not coming together. Wrap the dough in wax paper (I used plastic wrap) and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cream. Add the cooked leeks and salt and pepper to taste and combine.
In a food processor or blender, combine the cilantro, pine nuts, olive oil, and garlic until the mixture is a nubbly (What a great word!) puree. Add salt to taste.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough (I let mine warm up a bit before rolling) by pressing in the center of the ball with your rolling pin and slowly pressing outward in all directions. (Or the shape to fit your tart pan – mine was long and narrow) Place the dough into the pan, and press gently to fit. Pour in the leek mixture. Spread the cilantro pesto over the top as best you can (it doesn’t have to cover the entire top).
Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is just beginning to brown and looks puffy and a knife inserted in the middle comes out dry. Allow the tart to sit for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.