Fully preoccupied with coming up with fun new shapes for my favorite cookie a few weeks ago, I went deep into a YouTube cooking show rabbit hole and emerged somewhere in France, where a twisted pastry that goes by the name tarte soleil stopped me in my tracks, and zipped itself right to the top of the Must! Cook! Now! list.
It looks like it would take tweezer-level pastry cheffing to pull off, or at least some advanced mathematics. You’d imagine that this recipe would begin with a bracket of instructions labelled “Day One:” and you’d close the tab immediately. But you, like me, be forgetting that most French home cooking is remarkably simple (intentionally leaving the souffles and quenelles for the white tablecloth-ed establishments) and if you can find puffed pastry worth eating in the freezer case and leave it in the fridge overnight, you could be bringing this to a party an hour later. Trust me, I leave everything to the last minute and still got this out of the oven and digitally recorded with available light before the sun set at approximately 3:22 p.m. yesterday.
Which is the other reason this, to me, is the fitting-est thing to make this week as it’s both great party food (you get to grab those radiant beams by the crunchy ends and sweep them through a bowl of whipped lemony feta before chomping down, yess) and an upbeat celebration of the sun itself, which as of last week’s solstice, we’re finally going to see more of again as we tilt towards the light.
One year ago: Roasted Grape and Olive Crostini
Two years ago: Gingerbread Snacking Cake and Rum Campari Punch
Three years ago: Fromage Fort
Four years ago: Cinnamon Brown Butter Breakfast Puffs
Five years ago: Crescent Jam and Cheese Cookies and Milk Punch
Six years ago: Spinach and Cheese Strata and Pear Bread
Seven years ago: Braised Beef Short Ribs
Eight years ago: A Blue Cheese Iceberg Wedge and Robert Linxe’s Chocolate Truffles
Nine years ago: Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Chocolate Chunk Granola Bars and Oven Ribs, Even Better
1.5 Years Ago: Cherry Almond Dutch Baby
2.5 Years Ago: Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw and Peach and Pecan Sandy Crumble
3.5 Years Ago: Triple Berry Buttermilk Bundt and Chopped Salad with Feta, Lime and Mint
4.5 Years Ago: Blueberry Yogurt Multigrain Pancakes
Feta Tapenade Tarte Soleil
Inspired by a whole bunch of YouTube videos; the feta dip is from Ina Garten
I texted a picture of this to a friend yesterday and she said her husband “thought it was chocolate was getting in the car to come over” which seems like a good time to note the obvious: you could fill your puffed pastry sheets with anything you desire, so long as it’s spreadable and not too runny. On the savory end, I made a pesto-tapenade-ish blend of sundried tomatoes (because the 80s are back), kalamata olives, oregano and garlic and a dip of whipped feta that you could not possibly go wrong with. For a more subtle flavor, basil pesto or another garlic-herb paste, plus or minus some sharp cheese, this walnut pesto or pretty much anything else you can dream up would likely work well here too. Should you want to make a sweet version, perhaps jam, Nutella, melted chocolate, almond or another nut paste, and a sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar or chopped nuts (with or without a puddle of dark chocolate ganache to dip it in) might be fun places to start.
My puffed pastry packages were 1 pound each; my usual favorite brand (DuFour) comes in 14-ounce packages; if yours, too, are smaller, you’ll probably only get a 10 to 11-inch round out of it and might have a tablespoon or two of filling leftover. Btw, I added 1 tablespoon parsley leaves to my filling for color, but as is barely noticeable and added little flavor, you can absolutely skip it.
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves; thyme and rosemary would work too
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil or reserved oil from tomatoes, plus more to loosen if needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes to taste
2 packages puffed pastry (leave in fridge overnight to thaw)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water (for egg wash)
1 tablespoon sesame or poppy seeds to sprinkle (optional)
6 ounces feta, crumbled
2 ounces cream cheese, cold is fine
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Coarse or kosher salt, to taste (changed from 1/2 teaspoon, which could be overkill if your feta is very salty)
Freshly ground black pepper
Make the filling: Blend ingredients in a food processor until finely chopped and spreadable. Mixture will be thick. You can thin it with more olive oil if needed, but no need to make this thin like a sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste. Set aside.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Assemble the tart: Roll first package puffed pastry flat on a large piece of parchment paper or reusable baking mat into a 12-inch circle; use a 12-inch round plate or bowl to mark the size for a clean cut. Repeat with second dough, setting one aside in the fridge until needed.
Place first round on a parchment- or nonstick mat-lined baking sheet. Spread with filling to all but 1-inch from edge. Dab edges with water and place second round on top. Set a small glass upside down in the middle. Being careful not to cut through parchment paper or baking mat, cut away from glass (i.e. not through center) in quarters, or at the 3-, 6-, 9- and 12 o’clock marks. Cut through each quarter again, making 8 strips, and again, making 16 strips, and one last time so that you have 32 “rays” of pastry emanating from the center. If at any point in the cutting the pastry feels annoyingly soft and hard to cut, just pop the tray in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it back up.
Remove glass. Place finger near center of each ray (where it is most likely to break off prematurely) and gently twist each strand a few times. Beat egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water; brush it over pastry and sprinkle with seeds, if desired.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown all over.
Meanwhile, make whipped feta dip: Blend all filling ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste. Place in bowl for dipping.
Remove tart from oven, let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer to a serving platter. Tear off rays of sun, dip in whipped feta; repeat as needed.