I have no idea how the French farmer I bought these beautiful peppers from ended up working with Happy Quail farm in Northern California.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed chatting en français and practicing the one skill I'm quite good at in French: grocery shopping. After three years of living in Paris here's what I can do: give and take an order in the kitchen, shop for food, ask where the toilette is, order from a menu, get directions, and swear like a sailor. What can I say? I learned my French in the kitchen. Anything on God, philosophy, or politics is just a big question mark.
Happy Quail's peppers are impressive: sweet Basque fryers (doux long des Landes), spicy purple and brown bells, super sweet Hungarian bells in light cream and red, banana yellows, Cubanelles, and the famous Spanish Piquillos that normally can only be found roasted in cans or jars. I paid $8 for 4 peppers. I know, outrageous, right? Wow, the real price of food is high.
I thanked the French farmer, wished him a bonne journée, then turned and gasped for air. Perhaps I should have practiced some of my swear words instead, but I'm sure growing organic peppers is a costly business.
This tart is all about highlighting the sweet pepper flavors instead of masking them in a stew or as a side dish. The crust is a simple pâte brisée with added black pepper and parmesan that gets a thick slather of pesto before the goat cheese filling is added.
The topping is nothing but peppers in all different colors and flavors with red onions and chili flakes for extra kick. Serve along side a big green salad and a nice glass of red or white wine.
Serves 6-8 in one 11-inch tart pan
Parmesan Black Pepper Crust:
200g All-Purpose flour, sifted
30-40g Grated Parmesan Cheese
5g teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4g salt 100g unsalted butter, cold cut in small pieces
2-3 Tablespoons ice water
1 bunch basil Olive oil
460g (16oz) goat cheese
60g crème frâiche
4 colorful peppers, sliced thinly
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
Red chili flakes
Preheat oven to 400˚F (convection preferred) with baking sheet•
For Parmesan crust: Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a whisk to incorporate. Cut in cold butter – you can use your finger tips to do this – pretend like you're counting money and squishing the butter and flour together to form a sand-like dough. Add egg and continue to cut in with fingers. Then add water, little by little, just until the dough comes together. Knead the dough a few times inside the bowl to make sure all is incorporated. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 10 - 15 minutes.
Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When oil is hot quickly sauté red onion until soft but not brown, remove to a bowl. Sauté red peppers until al dente in the same pan with a little extra olive oil if necessary. Season with a pinch of salt, and a few dashes of chili flakes, remove to a bowl.
Coarsley chop 1/2 bunch of basil. In a blender or cuisinart blend basil with 1/4 cup of oil. Reserve. Rinse the cuisinart or blender out and add the goat cheese, crème fraîche, and eggs. Blend until smooth. Add the flour and blend just until incorporated. 7. On a floured surface roll out the parmesan crust until 1/4" thick and place onto the tart pan. Prick the tart bottom with fork tines and slather on pesto.
Pour in goat cheese filling. Sprinkle onions on top then peppers. Place tart on the hot baking sheet and bake at 400˚F for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350˚F and back for 15-20 minutes more until the filling is set and the crust is golden brown.
Cook's notes: In order to create a crisp tart shell for this recipe without having to blind bake it first, make sure the baking sheet is good and hot before placing the tart on top of it.