I wanted to get this post out to you sooner, since I have such a perfect recipe for exactly this part of the year. I’m sorry that I didn’t. It’s both an easy cocktail party dish, and a DIY food gift—a blog post that really delivers! I made this Easy Onion-Apple Tart for a party I threw this week and found it appealing on many levels. There’s a cheap and readily available cast of ingredients, and the flavors and textures are rich and succulent, respectively.
Also—and this even surprised me—it can be a sneaky vegan appetizer that no one will even stop to wonder about. I was shocked when I learned, while preparing to cater a party a few years ago, that Pedridge Farms Puff Pasty is actually vegan. It’s not organic, and it’s quite a processed food, but it is vegan. (Other brands aren’t, so check the ingredients if this concerns you.) One time I added a dusting of Parmesan just before putting it in the oven, and I’m including that option below in case you’re interested, but I really don’t think it makes or breaks the dish.
And then what elevates this specific finger food is what I’m lovingly referring to as “Crack Salt.” It makes most anything taste good, and it’s really easy to make. Dry some sage in your oven and then crumble it up. Toast a few dried chilies and grind them. Mix both with a few spoonfuls of flaky salt or fleur de sel, and there you go: crack salt. If you generally like really spicy food, adjust the amount of chilies.
This seasoned salt is good in olive oil as a bread dipping sauce, sprinkled over eggs or steamed or roasted vegetables, or as a finishing salt for anything that needs a spicy-sagey kick. If you’re still scrambling for a gift, party favor, or stocking stuffer, make a quadruple batch of the recipe below, divide it between cute little jars, and you’re all set.
Happy holidays and New Year, everyone!
Easy Onion-Apple Tart with Spicy Sage Salt (“Crack Salt”)
Makes about 3 dozen squares
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white or yellow onion, sliced into 1/4-inch thick wedges
3 cloves garlic, coarsely minced
1 sheet puff pastry (about a half-pound)
About 1/2 teaspoon Spicy Sage Salt (recipe below)
Optional: 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring and shaking the pan periodically, until tender and caramelized, which will take 15 to 20 minutes. The onions should develop some brown parts, but if they are burning, turn down the heat. Stir in the garlic, cook for a minute, then remove from the heat. Season with a big pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper.
2. Dust a working surface lightly with flour. Lay out the puff pastry and dust it as well with flour. Roll out the pastry to a roughly 10 x 15-inch rectangle. Drape it over the rolling pin and transfer to a baking sheet. Use a paring knife to score a 1/4-inch border around the perimeter of the pastry.
3. Core the apple and then slice it into thin (about 1/8-inch) wedges. Arrange the onions over the pastry, followed by the apples. Dust with the cheese, if using. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pasty is golden and the apples are curled up a bit and browned. Sprinkle with a few pinches of the spicy sage salt. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve hot or warm, or even at room temperature.
For Spicy Sage Salt
Makes about 3 tablespoons
4 to 5 leafy sage sprigs
2 medium-sized dried chili peppers, such as de arbol
2 tablespoons flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
1. Preheat oven to 325° F. Pull the leaves from the sage sprigs and arrange them in an oven-safe skillet or baking sheet. Place in the oven and cook until crisp, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely, then crumble the leaves, using with your fingers, into a small bowl.
2. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the whole chilies and toast, turning with tongs, until fragrant and just beginning to color. Transfer to a cutting board or a plate to cool completely, then pulse in a spice grinder until finely ground. Add to the bowl with the sage. Stir in the salt. Store in a covered container.