Caramelized Onion and Olive Tartlets

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With the holidays approaching, I am once again seeking inspiration for yummy nibbles and hors d’oeuvre to serve with cocktails for when friends and family pop in for a visit. These days, though, with three small children at home, my creative hours in the kitchen are few, so I’m not only on the lookout for delicious dishes, but also for recipes that I can make ahead. The holidays are busy enough with shopping, children’s school activities, and special events that laboring at the stove, even for those of us who like to cook, just isn’t practical. I have found that by spending a little time here and there preparing a variety of dishes, I can easily have something delicious and satisfying on hand to serve almost at a moment’s notice.

Reminiscent of the gorgeous Niçoise flatbread, pissaladière, these caramelized onion and olive tartlets are my new favorite savory two-bite treats. They are just right for holiday parties, as they are not only delicious, but can be prepared ahead in parts or in their entirety, as well. Tender pastry is just the right complement to a combination of sweet caramelized onions and salty oil-cured black olives. They are delightful hot right out of the oven or at room temperature, and would be lovely with a variety of cocktails, in addition to a full-bodied Chardonnay or a fruity Gewürztraminer or Riesling. Make the pastry and filling ahead of time, or put them together in an afternoon and keep them on hand for several days—if they last that long.

Caramelized Onion and Olive Tartlets

Makes 18

Pastry

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

Filling

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 small onions, peeled and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and chopped

To make the pastry, combine the flour, salt, and butter in a large bowl and, using your fingertips, break up the pieces of butter in the flour until they are about the size of lentils. Do this as lightly and quickly as possible so as to prevent the butter from becoming too soft. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing with your fingers or a fork to form a dough. Shape it into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and set in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.

To make the filling, heat the olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, salt, pepper, and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the olives, and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble the tartlets, roll the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out 18 rounds, about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter, and fit each round into the cup of a mini muffin tin. Crimp the edges decoratively and set in the refrigerator to chill for about 15 minutes. Divide the onion mixture among the chilled pastry cups and bake until the pastry is golden brown the tartlets are fragrant, 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve the tartlets warm or at room temperature. Store cooled tartlets in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. 

Quick Summer Tomato Soup

As I was cleaning and organizing the kitchen one evening last week, the day before we were leaving for a four-day mini-break, I eyed the three New Jersey tomatoes sitting on the counter. They had been there for several days slowly ripening, and now they were perfect. Time was short and I still had many tasks to complete, but I couldn’t just leave them there—or, heaven forbid, stash them in the refrigerator.

So, I rallied and quickly put together a tomato soup that, even if I had had more time, I would have been happy to prepare and proud to serve. This is another family friendly recipe, as babies, kids, and adults will find it yummy. (Do make sure, of course, that your baby can tolerate onions and tomatoes.) Keep it simple and season the soup with just a bit of dried herbs (I used herbs de Provence, a mixture of dried thyme, basil, savory, fennel, and lavender) along with salt and pepper. Or, if you want more flavor and freshness, stir in some chopped fresh basil, oregano, and/or thyme after you’ve pureed the cooked soup.

Serve this soup warm, room temperature, or chilled. It is lovely just as it is, but it is also delicious garnished with fresh herbs and/or spoonfuls of fresh ricotta cheese. It freezes nicely, too.

Fresh Summer Tomato Soup

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Peel and slice 1 medium onion and add to the oil. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and light golden in color, about 7 minutes. Stir in 3 chopped medium tomatoes, add about 1/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence (or a mixture of dried or chopped fresh basil, oregano, thyme, etc., as desired), and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have released their juices and are soft, about another 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and puree in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment until smooth. Stir in some chopped fresh herbs if you wish. Serve garnished with fresh herbs and/or spoonfuls of fresh ricotta cheese, if desired.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups