I make a lot of savory tarts, because they are easy and versatile, and everyone seems to love them. The ingredients vary according to the season and the occasion, and this beautiful chard-onion version remains one of my most beloved. The filling sits lightly on the buttery pastry, without weighing it down. A touch of fennel seeds and crushed red pepper provides spice but without overpowering everything else, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds on the edges of the crust adds a touch of sweetness that balances the earthiness of the chard and the tang of the cheese. I don’t bother with a tart pan when I make this, because I prefer the more rustic appearance of a free-form tart(also known as a galette or crostata)—plus, the rolling-out process is more fun if you’re not after a precise shape. The result is delicate enough to enjoy with a round of drinks. It also makes a fine contribution to a dinner or brunch buffet. Or serve larger pieces as a light supper or lunch.
For the cheeses, you’ll need one aged (like Comté or cheddar) and one fresh (such as farmer’s cheese). Fresh cheeses can vary greatly by region, so shop for one that is dry enough to crumble, slice, or spread thickly. Avoid any that are very wet (like ricotta), because the moisture can make the crust soggy. Fresh goat cheese is a good choice, adding a nice tang to the filling.
GET AHEAD: The tart travels well, making it just the thing to take to a friend’s house when you’re not sure what to bring. (And you can serve it warm or at room temperature, so you won’t need to impose by asking for oven space.)
Makes enough for one 9- to 10-inch tart crust
This basic dough is the ultimate in scratch cooking. By combining a few staple ingredients—flour, butter, salt, and water—you get a versatile dough that can be the starting point for all sorts of sustaining meals, from savory tarts to potpies). I rely on a simple ratio of 1¼ cups flour to 1 stick of butter, because it gives me a buttery, tender crust—and it’s easy to remember. It’s easy to double, which I often do—making one crust for now and wrapping and freezing one to save time later. You can also transform this into a sweet pastry dough by adding 3 to 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar to the flour.
The end game is to use only as much water and handling as it takes to get the dough to come together, as too much of either can lead to tough pastry. I make it by hand, because it’s easier to judge when the dough is just right than if using a food processor. Once the dough has come together, letting it chill for at least an hour (and up to 2 days) helps it relax and distributes the moisture evenly. Skipping this step can lead to a tough crust that shrinks when you bake it. Most often, the dough is shaped into a disk to chill, but if you know that you’re planning to make a rectangular tart, or a square potpie, it makes more sense to mimic that shape. It will make the rolling out that much easier.