Photo by Judith Hausman
Tarte flambée is an Alsatian (Alsace is a small region in France) specialty, perfect with a stein of beer or a glass of Riesling or pinot gris and a seat near the fire. It’s neither flaming nor a tart, as you’d think. In fact, it actually resembles a pizza. It’s as easy as (pizza) pie too, especially with the short-cut version shown here.
Tarte flambée is often eaten as an appetizer in France, but it’s certainly substantial enough for brunch, lunch or a light dinner with some soup. Traditionally, it has bits of crisp bacon on top, but you can make a vegetarian version, too.
If you’re feeling ambitious, by all means, make basic bread or pizza dough yourself. I start with whole-wheat pizza dough from the supermarket. To thin the dough, stretch and rest it, and then repeat, until it eventually makes a rectangle; not a round, pizza shape.
To simplify the search for French fromage blanc and crème fraîche, I substituted a less-expensive and easy-to-find mix of farmers cheese and Greek yogurt. The thick yogurt smooths the texture of the farmers cheese and provides the tangy backdrop for the onions, which are on top of the tart. You can also use whole-milk ricotta and sour cream as stand-ins. Maybe you know where to find some locally produced dairy products.
At least local onions and shallots are readily available where I live, so I used a combination of local red and yellow onions, really just for looks. You don’t want the onions to brown, so turn the heat under them down and have a little bit of patience. If covered, they only take about 15 minutes to soften adequately, and the rest of the tart will be ready in a jiffy.
Recipe: Tarte Flambée
- 2 good-size onions, thinly sliced
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup farmers cheese
- 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 portion of whole-wheat, supermarket pizza dough
- fresh ground pepper
Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a heavy, covered pan, slowly cook the onions in 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil over low heat until they soften well but do not brown. Mix together the farmers cheese or ricotta and the yogurt or sour cream.
Stretch the pizza dough into a rectangle on a greased cookie sheet (see instructions at top), silicon baking sheet or pizza stone. Spread the cheese mixture onto the dough. Pile the onions on top. Sprinkle with thyme, and season with fresh ground pepper (and 5 to 6 crumbled pieces of cooked bacon, if using). Drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until nicely browned.