Caramelized Fennel and Cornmeal Tart
By Michael Welch
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out dough
¾ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
3 pounds fennel (about 4 medium-size bulbs)
1 large red onion, cut in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and toss to coat. Press the butter into the dry ingredients with your hands or a pastry blender continuously until the mixture resembles coarsely ground cornmeal and there are no large pieces of butter visible.
Beat the egg in a small bowl and stir into the mixture with a fork until the dough begins to hold together.
Sprinkle flour over a clean, dry surface and scrape the dough onto it. Press and knead the dough, rotating it quickly, with the heel of your palm, until it is smooth. Roll the dough into a 6-inch circle and lay it between two pieces of plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour.
Trim the fronds and stalks of the fennel bulbs. Pick one tablespoon of the fronds and chop until fine and reserve. Slice the bulbs in half lengthwise, cutting out the cores, and then slice the bulbs into ¼-inch slices. Slice the onion halves into ¼-inch slices lengthwise and add to the fennel slices in a large mixing bowl. Stir in three tablespoons of the olive oil, the herbs and the salt and pepper. Mix well. In a large saucepan, heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil over medium-low heat. Stir in the fennel-onion mixture, cover and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are very soft and thick, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Using your fingers, press the chilled dough evenly into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Cover the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, rice or dried beans to keep the dough from rising while it bakes. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the weights and parchment paper. Bake for another 10 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Let cool slightly.
Remove the lid from the fennel-onion mixture and increase the heat to medium high, and cook about 5 minutes longer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread the filling in the tart shell and sprinkle the chopped fennel greens and optional cheese evenly over the top. Serve hot or at room temperature.
This recipe originally appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of Edible Finger Lakes. For more great Fall recipes, be sure to subscribe and get our upcoming issue. We’ll even send you a FREE copy of our Wine Issue when you subscribe!