Tart Craving Mad

Have you ever totally botched lyrics? Like, “Blinded by the Light” will always be followed by, “Wrapped up like a blah nah nyeah na nuuuneenooonana.” Or like my brother, who used to think that the words “Transformers: Robots in disguise” were “Transformers: For the miss bee fied!”

Or how I still think that “stark raving mad” is “star craving mad” because there’ll always be an eight-year-old in me wishing she could hop on a unicorn and make rainbows before blasting off to a land where mermaids are real (I mean, they are) and tree houses were the only houses.

I hope I never lose that girl. She’s pretty rad.

Don’t even think about tomorrow, how you haven’t organized your closet or how dirty the soles of your feet are (they’re like, really dirty). Just remember that little kid who comes out every so often to smack you in the face with a dose of Take It Easy. Save yourself the blisters and take off your shoes.

Indulge in tart craziness.

Sometimes, food is just so beautiful.

Like, really, really beautiful. Heirloom cherry tomatoes are outrageous.

I made sweet and savory tarts because, let’s face it, I would’ve eaten all of the sweet ones for dinner.

Space the puff pastry squares (rectangles) a good inches apart. They poof (puff?) in the oven.

Also, don’t bake the mint or basil leaves. They’ll fizzle and die. Wait until the tarts have cooled a bit and just pop off the blackberry before slipping in a mint leaf or two.

Or just throw the leaves on however you please.

Opposites attract.

Blackberry, mint and lemon goat cheese tart / Heirloom tomato, basil and brie tart

For the blackberry tart:

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1/2 pint blackberries
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, toss the blackberries with the balsamic vinegary and let sit for 10 minutes. In another bowl, mix together the goat cheese, lemon zest, honey and milk with a fork until smooth.

Cut the puff pastry sheet into 12 2-3 inch rectangles and score with a sharp knife, being sure not to cut all the way through.

Scoop about 2 teaspoons-worth of goat cheese mixture onto each square and top off with the balsamic blackberries.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the goat cheese and puff pastry are brown. Once the tarts have cooled slightly, slip a mint leaf underneath each blackberry.

Makes 12 four-bite-sized tarts.

For the heirloom tomato tart:

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
brie cheese, thinly sliced (12 small pieces)
12 basil leaves
6 cherry heirloom tomatoes, cut in half

Same procedure as the blackberry tart, but without the frills. Cheese, tomato, basil. Boom.

Makes 12 tarts.

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Spicy Vegetarian Chili with Goat Cheese Biscuits

It’s one of those cut-myself-shaving because I haven’t-touched-a-razor-in-months kind of days. You know, the good-lord-am-I-really-that-white morning. Wow-I-need-to-work-out afternoon.

And an ice cream evening.

Blissful denial gets me through the toughest times.

Especially butter denial. After years of no meat, some evil warlock in the back of my head tells me during just about every meal that I deserve butter. That butter has a lot of calcium. Butter is good for you.

It’s really not.

But don’t tell the biscuits I told you.

What’s the harm in butter when complimented with a platter of vegetables, right? says the evil, high-cholesterol dude in my brain.

Black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans. A lethal combination. They really are a magical fruit.

I get apartment-smell envy. It happens when I come home from work around 6:30pm and my vegan neighbors are cooking something divine that I know is good for them. So I demolish a bag of Triscuits seconds after entering the kitchen.

But then I spend a few hours chopping, sautéing, stewing and simmering and feel loads better. Because then the entire neighborhood smells like chili and buttered biscuits and no one but my friends can have ’em.

I’m not sure if that’s the dude talking or just me.

Oh. Hot. Damn.

The cast iron skillet gets preheated in the oven and slathered in a load of butter. Then more butter gets drizzled onto the raw biscuits.

I know. Cardiac arrest. It might be worth it?

True Life: I over-mix sometimes and things come out flat. But still amazingly stupendously onolicious.

You + me = us.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili with Goat Cheese Biscuits

For the chili:

1 yellow onion, diced
4-5 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 habañero pepper, de-seeded and minced
1 zucchini, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
15oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
28oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock (or cheap beer)
2 heaping tablespoons chili powder
1 heaping teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1/3 cup barbeque sauce
2 more cups vegetable stock

Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and zucchini and saute for another few minutes until they are slightly soft. Add the garlic, habañero and all of the spices and cook for a few minutes before adding 1 cup of stock or beer for a rapid searing. Make sure you scrape off all the spices from the bottom of the pan.

As soon as the liquid stops simmering, add the canned tomatoes, barbeque sauce and additional vegetable stock and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Top with cheddar or Monterey jack cheese.

Serves six.

For the biscuits:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for the pan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted for a glaze
4 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup buttermilk (or regular milk)

Preheat the oven and cast iron skillet to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter and goat cheese, making sure not to over-mix. It should resemble coarse meal.

Make a well in the mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Using a fork, lightly fluff until no pockets of flour remain.

Take the cast iron out of the oven and melt one tablespoon of unsalted butter until the pan is completely coated. Spoon about 1/4 cup worth of batter dollops into the pan, leaving about half an inch of space between every piece. They will bake into each other. It’s okay.

Bake for about 17 minutes or until the top turns golden brown.

Makes about 9 biscuits.