I grew up only eating American cheese every now and then. It wasn’t part of my diet growing up and of the cheese I did have, it was either a thin, square piece wrapped in cellophane or a neon, orange gloppy sauce over french fries. But I’ve come a long way and gained more appreciation for cheese. I slowly started trying other cheeses within the past few years which became more frequent when my husband worked at a local Trader Joe’s (TJ’s) grocery store. TJ’s is my go to store for cheese because they have quite a variety at affordable prices. Even my husband loves his cheese and he’d often come home from work to tell me about a cheese to try.
One of his favorite cheeses is a goat cheese mixed with honey and shaped into a log (which is found at Trader Joe’s). Although I find it good, I prefer plain goat cheese because it’s much more versatile. I remember when I first tried it, I wasn’t sure if I was a fan. Goat cheese for the first time can be a little off putting. The cheese is slightly chalky and has a tang that’s an acquired taste. It took me awhile to get used to it and try in recipes… but now, it’s a definitely staple in our kitchen.
It’s a good thing I had some on hand because a suggested Ina Garten recipe from last week was her Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts. These tarts have a puff pastry base which is topped with caramelized onions, creamy goat cheese, chopped tomato and fresh basil. Similar to the flavors of a Margherita pizza or caprese salad, the goat cheese adds a great flavor unlike the usual mozzarella cheese. To create the base, you can use any round cookie or biscuit cutter, but I’ve been having fun with my oversized flower cookie cutter lately. It gives a nice presentation of scalloped tart edges and you can get some bites of just the puff pastry. You could use any large cookie cutter too for various shapes. Also, don’t limit yourself to just these toppings. Puff pastry is merely a blank buttery canvas so you can use this recipe to inspire you to put whatever you’d like on top!
recipe adapted from Ina Garten
1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
Good olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced thin
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet)
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves
Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 3-inch wide round cookie cutter, cut 4 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 8 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 1 large sheet pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.
Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and place 1/8 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1/2 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Sprinkle the diced tomato in the center of each tart along with the basil, salt, and pepper.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Serve hot or warm.