I was strolling through Apartment Therapy this past week, a favorite non-food blog, and decided to click through to their sister site The Kitchn, where they often post great recipes. What should open up on the first page, but something that just flooded me with memories of happy travels and much wonderful eating. It was a photo of a gorgeous Tarte Flambée.
Between living in Italy and getting settled in London, many years ago when I was living in Europe, I spent a few lovely weeks in Strasbourg, in Alsace-Lorraine. Although I knew of the mixed German-French history of the region, I didn’t really understand how that contributed to its culinary culture. Fortunately, I had a few friends who guided me along the way. We’d meet in the town center and then head out to one restaurant or another eating local dishes like choucroute or other French regional specialties like crêpes.
With the weather having turned frigid here and the opening of the annual holiday markets in several locations around the city, the memories of the time I spent in that town were just reinforced for me. We would wander through the seasonal crafts fairs, looking at all the wares and picking up a freshly-made, loaded crêpe along with a cup of steaming hot orange and honey or glühwein to ward off the chill and to keep us fortified for some more shopping.
As the posting with the photo indicates, tarte flambée is simple, hearty and flavorful and just the perfect thing to tide one over until dinner after tackling a day of selecting gifts for the family. I’d forgotten how delicious it is and how perfect it is for cold winter afternoons. This is one recipe I need to try out and to add to my repertoire.
Tonight, I’m heading to a pre-Thanksgiving potluck. I offered to cook whatever was needed, except for providing the meat dishes, as those are not that easy to transport. Vegetable dishes were, what I was told, most in demand. So, I decided to pull an old favorite out of my recipe card file – Baked Couscous with Spinach and Pine Nuts – which came to me from a clipping in The Washington Post, but is from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin. (This year, in addition to reworking the recipes in my mother’s card file, I also thought it would be good to tackle my own.)
My usual M.O. has generally been to opt for bringing dessert to these gatherings, as I have a no-fail, crowd-pleaser one that I save for the holidays (See last year’s Thanksgiving post). I’m a little bit sad that I’m not making that this year, but I might save that pie for our family holiday get-together. One year, when I was working overseas and participated in an enormous potluck Turkey Day meal/party, a friend and I joined forces and made about fourpies (two of the ones I made last year and two apple, if I remember correctly), and I managed to pull off preparing this same vegetarian dish as well.
This recipe isn’t just for the holidays, it is easy enough to make and goes far enough that it would be a good, tasty weeknight dinner option as well. I’ve paired it with grilled lemon-garlic-olive oil marinaded chicken to round it out and also served it at a dinner party, starting off with Middle Eastern dips and pitas. It is even flexible enough to be prepared as a vegan dish – just substitute your favorite non-dairy cheese alternative. I just used some leftover parmesan and pecorino that I had in the fridge, which worked just fine.
On top of everything else, the colors in this dish are bright and vibrant, and it will stand out at any potluck table. Oh, and did I mention that the leftovers are great to bring to work as well, if there are any, that is? Almost every time I’ve made it, there’s nothing but a few crumbles of couscous left at the bottom of the tray!