Do you ever get one of those cravings for vegetables that just overwhelms you? Well, earlier this week I succumbed to one and the result was a veggie pie. I make these fairly often and the composition changes frequently. They all try to mimic the Tarte Provençale I used to buy at a bakery called Yamazaki, when I worked in the 16th arrondisement. I never quite succeed, but this is mostly because I get ambitious and start adding more and more vegetables until it only has the haziests of similarities to the original. (For your information, the original is a dainty little tart with a flaky crust and a combination of goat's cheese, tomato slices, courgette slices and thyme.) This time, however, I decided to make an extra special effort in the presentation of the vegetables so that it would look all pretty for you, our readers. The above photo is how it looked at its best; things went downhill visually albeit uphill taste-wise as time went on.
To make this delicious and vegetable-ridden dish, start with a puff pastry from your local grocery store. Some day I will learn to make one on my own, but it will have to be when I'm on a nice long vacation or retired. Take it out of the fridge before you start slicing vegetables, as it will need to warm up slightly in order to roll out cleanly. Start the oven preheating to about 210C/425F. Then slice your vegetables. My pies nearly always include: thinly sliced rounds of eggplant and zucchini, onions (either sliced or chopped), thin slices of tomato, cheese and thyme. This time around, I departed from my usual mozzarella or goat's cheese and tried feta for the cheese. I also decided to put sliced jalapenos on the Critic's side of the pizza and mushrooms on mine. I usually brush a bit of olive oil on the crust before starting to lay down the vegetables, too. Another departure this time was in the construction of the pie: I started in the middle and layered eggplant, tomato and zucchini slices in a spiral, which looked pretty nifty when I was done. However, by the time I added the thyme, chopped onions, jalapenos, the cheese and the mushrooms, it was all less pretty.
It was very tasty, though. Unlike mozzarella (and to a lesser extent, goat cheese) the feta did not leave one side of the pie in a somewhat sodden mess, as is usually the case. It also went VERY nicely with the thyme. I used dried thyme and it actually worked a bit better than my usual fresh thyme, probably largely because it takes less patience to shake a large quantity of dried than to pick and chop fresh!
So it isn't really a recipe, but more of a suggestion if you are in the mood for a really good vegetarian pizza but don't want all the calories!
For the original, try
6 chaussée de la Muette
01 40 50 19 19
Their salads and sandwiches are also extremely good. I used to think they had the best pastries in the world too, but TWICE they dropped a favourite pastry from the menu just as I had become completely addicted to it. They aren't catching me again - I avoid the pastries now!