I wasn’t going to write a single word about this artichoke tart with a polenta crust. I just wanted to admire the recipe, cook it and eat it (and share it with my husband, of course). But polenta pondering? Tart reflection? Nope.
I love to cook, but lately it’s been feeling more like work than pleasure. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been testing recipes for my new book. This means I’ve cooked — and eaten — the same things again and again and again (albeit with slight tweaks and variations). As a result, our freezer is bursting with soupe au pistou. We’ve consumed so many skirt steaks I’m scared to test my blood cholesterol levels. This week alone I’ve eaten buckwheat crêpes six days in a row. Six. If you cut me open, I’m pretty sure you’d find buckwheat batter running through my veins, dark and speckled.
So, it was no surprise that when I came across this post on an artichoke-rosemary tart with polenta crust — excerpted from Maria Speck’s brilliant cookbook, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals — I began to dream. And drool. And dream some more. I wasn’t just attracted by the ingredients — though artichokes, thick Greek yogurt and parmesan cheese are the food equivalent of tall, dark and handsome. It wasn’t just the intrigue of the polenta crust, or the whisper of fresh herbs. No, I was drawn to this recipe because it was bright and new and different, a world away from French country cooking, the polar opposite of a $*%# buckwheat galette.
There aren’t any photos of the cooking process because I didn’t take any. I didn’t want to be interrupted by the need to clean my hands to hold the camera, didn’t want to pause to make a note, or capture a pinch of salt into a measuring spoon, or keep one wary eye on a sizzling sauté pan and the other on my i-Phone’s stopwatch. No, I wanted to lose myself in patting polenta into the tart pan, in whisking eggs into yogurt, in the luxurious bounty of frozen artichoke hearts, the woodsy scent of fresh rosemary. And so I did. And I enjoyed every second of it.
The tart, when it emerged from the oven, was too hot to eat, but we ate it anyway, relishing the tang of yogurt against goat cheese, the toothsome polenta crust with satisfying oven-crisped edges, the artichoke hearts that made the ground corn taste a little sweeter. The next day I eagerly unwrapped the leftovers for lunch and when I saw it there, the final slice of polenta tart, so prettily pale yellow, so daintily delicious, I found myself reaching for… the camera. Before I knew it, I was emailing with the lovely Maria Speck, asking if I could share her recipe. She kindly agreed. Here, then, is her artichoke-rosemary polenta tart. I thought it was just for me, but it turns out it’s for you, too, dear reader.
Artichoke-Rosemary Tart with Polenta Crust
From Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck
Makes one 10-inch tart
For the polenta crust:
1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups polenta or corn grits
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces; use the large holes of a box grater)
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the artichoke cheese filling:
1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions (about 3)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (12-ounce) package frozen quartered artichoke hearts, thawed and drained (further chopped, if desired)
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1. To make the polenta crust, bring the broth and the water to a boil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the salt. Using a large whisk, slowly add the polenta in a thin stream, and continue whisking for 30 more seconds. Decrease the heat to low and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon about every 2 minutes to keep the polenta from sticking to the bottom. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring a few times. The polenta will be fairly stiff. Stir in the cheese, egg, and pepper.
2. Grease a 10-inch tart pan with olive oil or coat with cooking spray, and place on a wire rack. Have ready a tall glass of cold water. Dip a wooden spoon into the water as needed as you spread the polenta mixture across the center of the pan, pushing it up the sides. [Note from Ann: I used my hands.] Set aside to firm up at room temperature, about 15 minutes, and then form an even rim about 3/4 inch thick with your slightly moist fingers, pressing firmly. No need to fret over this — it’s easy.
3. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F.
4. Prepare the artichoke cheese filling. Place the yogurt, eggs, green onions, parsley, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a 2-cup liquid measure or a medium bowl and combine well with a fork. Distribute the artichoke quarters over the crust, cut sides up, forming a circle along the rim and filling the center (you might not need all the hearts). [Note from Ann: I found the chunks of large artichoke hearts made it difficult to cut the finished tart into wedges. You may want to consider cutting them into smaller pieces.] Sprinkle the goat cheese on top and gently pour the filling over the artichokes. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake the tart until the top turns golden brown and the filling is set, about 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and set aside at room temperature to firm up for at least 20 minutes, 40 if you can wait. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut into slices. Serve with more freshly ground pepper on top if you like.
To get a head start: The polenta crust, as in steps 1 and 2, can be prepared 1 day ahead, as can the entire tart. Cool to room temperature, chill for a couple of hours, and then cover with plastic wrap. Allow the tart to come to room temperature before serving, or gently reheat to warm (not hot) in a 325ºF oven for about 20 minutes.
To lighten it up: Use 1 cup non- or lowfat Greek yogurt in the filling instead of whole-milk yogurt.
More on Ancient Grains for Modern Meals (a James Beard award winner!)