Is it just me, or does the advent of summer put you the mood for happy hour too? Potentially even a daily happy hour. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?
I suppose that, technically, happy hours are called happy because of the inclusion of alcohol, but I think they’re happy in so many other ways. It’s a celebration of porches or patios! And evening breezes! And of the fact that you can laze about for an hour (or two) after work, enjoying some ridiculously buttery cheeses and crisp breads and a little glass of wine, and it will still be light out when you get around to dinner!
Joel and his parents joined us in Minnesota late in the week last week. And, on Friday we decided to have a little happy hour for them to introduce them to all the neighbors and welcome them to the north country. (It was the least we could do, given the weather certainly wasn’t being cooperative or welcoming. Their airplanes had to be diverted to the Twin Cities because Duluth was too foggy for landing. And then they wound up getting bussed up north at 3 am. Uffdah!)
As we were vaguely planning the happy hour (a good happy hour really shouldn’t take more than the vaguest of planning, otherwise you’re working too hard and it just isn’t as happy) my mother turned to me and said, “Oh, I have some beets that need to get cooked. Will you make something with them?”
“Sure, I’ll make a flatbread or something.”
It was an innocent enough promise, but then I discovered that my mother included the fact that I was going to make a fancy flatbread in her message to the neighbors telling them to come over. We got home from some errands just a half hour before people were set to arrive and my mother casually mentioned, “everybody’s going to come because I said you were going to make something and they’re all excited to eat it.”
Huh? I thought they were coming over because they were excited to see me, and Joel, and meet his parents! (Which in fact was the case, but you know, good food never hurts.) I needed to action this flatbread!
I decided it would be a better idea to make a tart because a) the crust is quicker to make than a flatbread and b) the crust is full of butter and is flaky and delicious and it practically doesn’t matter what you put on top of it because the flaky butteriness will make it taste phenomenal.
Okay, that’s maybe a slight exaggeration. You do need to think a bit about the combination of things that you will put on a tart to be sure they go together. I knew I was using beets – which I thrust into the oven to roast while the dough for the crust chilled – so I decided to play it safe and pair it with goat cheese. Earthy sweet beets with creamy, tangy chevre is always wonderful.
Looking through the cupboards, I found some dried figs. Figs also go well with chevre, I thought, why not add some in? I also grabbed the balsamic vinegar and made a quick little syrup to pour over the finished tart. Then I finished it with a handful of chopped mint, cool and pungent. (And Joel decided to document the whole process on my camera, which was fun!)
I paraded the tart out to the group of friends who had assembled around the picnic table and were chattering and laughing as animatedly as a flock of birds. We refilled the wine glasses, passed the tart around the table, and I instantly got several requests for the recipe.
I suppose because beets can be messy and stain one shouldn’t really serve them to guests. But, then, the same could be said of red wine. And truly, stains wouldn’t have mattered the least in that crowd of old friends – plus a couple new. It was one of the happiest hours I’ve spent in a while.
Tart with beets, figs, and chevre
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 6 Tbs. cold butter (like, really cold, I actually used butter that was frozen), cut into small chunks
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbs. white vinegar or lemon juice
- 3-4 Tbs. ice cold water
- In a food processor, pulse together the flour and salt to combine. Then, pulse in the butter chunks until you have a mixture that is a coarse meal that still has pea sized pieces of butter in it.
- Pulse in the vinegar and the water one Tbs. at a time until the dough just starts to come together. Then, turn it out and press it into a ball with your hands.
- Flatten the ball of dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. You can prepare the beets while the dough refrigerates
Beet and fig tart
- 3 medium beets
- olive oil, salt and pepper
- tart dough (from recipe above)
- 6-8 oz. chevre (soft goat cheese)
- 1/3 cup dried mission figs, stems removed, sliced into thin pieces
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint leaves
- Preheat your oven to 425F. Wash and peel the beets, then slice them into rounds that are about 1/4 inch thick.
- Toss the beats with a splash of olive oil. Spread them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (you may need to use 2 baking sheets) , then sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they are tender and easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool briefly.
- Turn the oven down to 400F. When the tart dough has chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a circle about 1/4 inch thick (or a bit thicker). It can have ragged edges, that’s fine, but fix any cracks by pressing the dough together with your fingertips.
- Crumble the chevre into small chunks (this is a slightly sticky process) and sprinkle half of the cheese onto the tart crust, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges.
- Sprinkle the sliced figs on top of the cheese, then follow this by layering on the beets (still leaving a 1-inch border). Sprinkle the rest of the chevre on top.
- Fold over the edge of the tart, toward the center, folding and overlapping the dough to keep it circular-ish. Slide carefully onto a baking sheet (if it is lined with parchment paper, it makes things – especially clean-up – easier) and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.
- While the tart is baking, put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn to a simmer, then cook until thick and syrupy and reduced by about three-quarters, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside.
- When the tart is finished, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes. Before serving, drizzle the balsamic syrup all over it and sprinkle the mint leaves on top. Slice the tart into thin slices to serve as an appetizer. Or have bigger slices accompanied by a green salad for lunch or dinner.