Tomato and Cheese Pop Tarts are nostalgic fun for adults and simply delicious eating for kids.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk into your kitchen and create a dish from what is available and season it to perfection? Sounds difficult for the average home cook right?
Well, I have good news for you. Reading KITCHEN CREATIVITY Unlocking Culinary Genius-with Wisdom, Inspiration, and Ideas from the World’s Most Creative Chefs by Karen Page will teach you how to do just that. I have read it cover to cover and highlighted half of it. This book is a guide to a more inventive and intuitive approach to cooking (without recipes!)-one that will inspire you to think, improvise, and cook like the world’s best chefs.
I was able to get creative with Karen and her photographer husband Andrew Dornenburg at a media luncheon at Melissa’s Produce. They talked about the three stages of culinary creativity, and how to tap into your uniqueness to start cooking in a way that expresses who you are. According to them, this frees you up so you can connect with others and please them (and yourself) through your food.
Learning this culinary process comes in 3 stages:
Stage 1: Mastery – a cook copies the masters-their dishes, their techniques, their seasoning-to develop a knowledge and skill base.
Stage 2: Alchemy – a cook integrates and applies new knowledge and experience, converting ingredients and classic dishes into something fresh. This is where you learn about what Karen calls the Flavor equation:
FLAVOR = Taste + Mouthfeel + Aroma + The X Factor (physical, emotional, mental or spiritual)
Stage 3: Creativity – a cook connects and combines elements into a new creation. Page teaches you how to take a look at the cooking techniques you know, and the dishes you love, to play with different combinations and create dishes without recipes, using your informed imagination.
I decided to put what I learned to the test. Karen says the secret to creating something unique is to turn inward. Your inner senses are unique to only you. To start, she suggests to write down 5-10 dishes you loved as a child with a few notes about them. This will help you understand your own palate.
After I wrote my favorites I decided to create a recipe from The X factors by combining a comfort food (grilled cheese & tomato soup) with a forbidden food (Pop Tart). What makes Pop Tarts a forbidden food you ask? If your mom read Adelle Davis’ book Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit, you would know that anything processed was tabu.
I thought about what flavors went together based on pop tarts, grilled cheese, and tomato soup. Next, I picked out which combinations I wanted to use that would work together and turn them into something else. Thus the Tomato & Cheese Pop Tart was born. Playing with combinations and understand flavor pairings is one of the secrets to creating a delicious new recipe.
“Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought” – Albert Einstein.
This is just one of the many things I learned in this book. I could go on and on about the wealth of information in Kitchen Creativity. I really do encourage you to add it to your cookbook library.
Today Recipe: Tomato and Cheese Pop Tarts
I originally wanted to use phyllo dough for the crust, but they were out at the store, so I made my own. I took a basic pie crust recipe and added sun dried tomatoes and cheddar cheese which actually worked really well. I was worried that the cheese would melt out of the dough but it didn’t!
Process the crust in a food processor. It will appear lumpy but should hold together. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough to approximately 16″ x 16″.
Cut the corners edges to square it off. I baked the scraps and used them for crackers. Thanks to Susan Herrmann Loomis for teaching me never to waste pastry!
Add the chopped tomatoes, grilled shallots and sprinkle with oregano.
Add the cheese and brush the edges with egg and fold over and seal by pressing a fork around the edges.
Place 2 on a sheet and brush with egg and bake.
When they are golden brown pull them out.
Tomato and Cheese Pop Tarts
Ingredients for the filling
- 1 tablespoon olive oil extra virgin
- 3-4 shallots thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
- 2 roma tomatoes chopped
Ingredients for the crust
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter cut into cubes and chilled
- 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
- 3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes finely diced
- 1/4-1/2 cup ice water depends on temperature
- 1 egg lightly beaten
Heat a skillet over medium heat; add the olive oil. After the oil heats up, add the shallots. Reduce the heat to low and let the shallots caramelize for about 5 minutes, stirring often. After they’re caramelized, let the shallots cool in the pan.
To make the pastry, add the flour and salt into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse four times. Add the butter, and pulse four more times. Add the cheese and sun-dried tomatoes and pulse four more times. Add 1/4 cup ice water and pulse another four times. If it is very dry, add 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time. The dough will be lumpy.
Turn the contents of the food processor bowl out onto a clean counter and press it together into a ball, working it as little as possible to get it to stick together. Add a little extra water, if necessary. Once you have a cohesive ball, flatten it into a disc, about 5″ in diameter. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a half hour.
When the dough is done chilling, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Generously dust a large clean surface with flour then place the chilled dough on the flour. Roll the dough out to a 16-inch square. Cut the square into 4 quarters, forming 8 x 8-inch squares. Note: Save the scraps and bake after the pop tarts for crackers for about 15 minutes.
Place 1/4 of the tomatoes, shallots, and cheddar onto one side of each square, making sure there’s about a 1-inch border on the 3 closest edges. Sprinkle oregano on tomato mixture.
Brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash, and then fold the pastry dough over the tomato mixture. Trim the edges if necessary and seal the edges all the way around with a fork. Move the tarts to the baking sheets and brush the tops with more egg wash. Repeat with the remaining three squares of pastry. Place 2 tarts per baking sheet.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then rotate and turn the baking sheets 180˚. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes on the baking pan, then move each tart with a large spatula, to a wire cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature alongside a simple green salad.
I can’t wait to start using the Kitchen Creativity method for more recipes. The possibilities are endless.
…and then, she paused for thought.