Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fennel and zucchini tarte tatin

Last night, we were all sitting together in the children's room before bedtime. The room was bathed in the golden light of a bedside lamp. The shutters were closed, it was a dark and cold outside. My husband was reclined on our dauther's bed, in a comfy sweatshirt and warm socks. We were all listening to her read a few pages of a book out loud. It was sweet and moving to watch her lips form sentences, to hear her little voice read us a story, halting here and there to re-read a word she couldn't grasp. I was lying across from them on my son's little bed. He was nestled and cozy under the duvet. I was stroking his impossibly soft, just washed hair and breathing in that delicious smell of clean child and fresh sheets. I felt the pillowy comforter and crisp sheets beneath me.
My daughter read something funny and we all laughed. We started and we couldn't stop. In glee, my son jumped out of the bed and hopped onto his sister's bed, kissed his father and curled up into his arms. his fingers playing with his worn blankie, sucking on his beloved ciuccio. My daughter read on.
It was one of those perfect moments. A fleeting instant of total, pure, unadulterated joy. We were together, we were one, we were comfortable and safe and happy.
This is a moment I will remember. Not this exact instant perhaps, but I know when I think back and remember these early years I will remember them being oh so good because of a collection of moments like these. This is what makes every difficult, exahusting, frustrating moment of parenthood 100% worth it. This is what life is really about.
This recipe was inspired by the beautiful blog Manger, a real treat for the eyes as well as the palate.
I love how versatile it is, you can pretty much use any vegetable following Mimi's simple, straightforward directions.
I had never made a tarte tatin because it felt a little daunting. You see, tarte tatin happens to be F's favorite cake after pecan pie (my second post! Forgive that store bought dough and photo, it still is a killer recipe with a homemade crust) and when we honeymooned in Paris (twelve years ago this month) he ate it at least once a day while I, little trollop that I am, hopped from mousse au chocolat to crème brûlée to a tatin or two myself. Now that I have made a very tasty (if I may say so myself) savory version, I feel I can try to approach the traditional version of this greatly beloved tart.
200gr or 1 1/2 cups flour
125gr/1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3 tbsp chilled water
2 large fennel bulbs
2 zucchini
2 shallots
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp butter
Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and mix until crumbly. Make a well and add the egg and water. When the dough is mixed well, form a ball and then roll it out onto a floured surface until it is big enough to cover the surface of the tart. If it is too sticky add a little flour.
Clean the fennel and cut into thick slices (approximately eighths). Heat the sugar in a large frying pan and when it starts melting mix in 2 tbsp of butter. Place the fennel in the pan and cook on pretty high heat until they start caramelizing. Season with pepper and salt. Set the fennel aside and add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Fry the shallots for a few minutes. In the meantime cut the zucchini into about 1/4 inch/1/2cm disks and fry in pan until they are a little soft. Season and set aside.
Preheat oven to 180°C/ 350°F.
At this point you can assemble your tart in two ways: if you have an ovenproof pan, distribute the fennel on the bottom of the pan, fitting the pieces tightly. Make sure you distribute them nicely because the bottom of the tart will be the top once you flip it over. Then add your layer of shallots and zucchini and finally cover with the rolled out dough. The second option is to lightly butter a tart pan and display the vegetables the same way and cover with the dough. Either way, make sure you tuck the dough in at the edges. Prick the pastry dough all over with a fork and bake for about 30 minutes, until the crust turns golden. Let cool for 10 minutes before carefully turning it out.  


  1. Aha, what a lovely moment. Mine are all grown now, so it is lovely to hear you cherish those moments as they will be adults before you know it.

  2. WOW. Just the kind of creation I'd go for, plus much more useful than a tarte tatin! I mean who can eat tarte tatin for lunch or dinner? This looks superb!

    1. I really was delicious, and you can pretty much make it with whatever veg you have on hand.

  3. Courgette (or zucchini) and fennel is one of my favourite combintions. I love them baked or shaved raw into salads, and now I have another way to enjoy them. Thanks for the new blog recommendation too!

  4. How beautiful! And I bet is delicious too!

  5. You can have all the razzle dazzle but it's moments like that that you really treasure :) What a gorgeous tarte tatin-I've seen a tomato one but this one is even better!

  6. What a beautiful scene to read about and remember. (OK, I almost cried!) Yes, it's these moments we have to hold on to because the rest is so hard at times!!

    Happy Belated Anniversary! We will celebrate 12 years in April!
    Beautiful tart- I look forward to reading about your food ventures in 2013!


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