Saturday, July 23, 2011

Inspiration from Pop! - Goat Cheese Tart with Olives

I don’t blog much about restaurants here, mostly because I simply don’t consider myself enough of an authority to give an edifying review. Also, all things considered, Laurent and I don’t eat out all that much, just the two of us. We splurge every now and then to celebrate something big: a publication, a successful milestone (although, even for anniversaries, we tend to stay in and cook up our own feast). The rest of the time, when we eat out, it’s usually circumstantial. Sometimes it’s because we’ve both been too busy to cook that day, in which case we step out to one of the many casual places in our area. Most often, it’s because we have to be somewhere right after or before dinner (a movie, or a show), and it’s more convenient to eat in the neighbourhood.

Even then, we tend to return to the same places. And since today’s recipe is inspired by a restaurant, I thought I might as well mention the places we like to go. Around our place, we’ll go for sushi at Atami, a burger or onion soup at McCarold’s, or lemongrass chicken at Le Camélia. If it’s a nice day and we’re in the mood for really good Vietnamese food, we’ll walk all the way to Hoai Huong.

If we have to be downtown (for a movie or an opera), then it’s often Kazu. Yes, we’re part of those crazy people who wait in line on the sidewalk for thirty minutes to an hour (if we can, we try to show up half an hour before they open, since we know we’re going to have to wait at least that long anyway). And yes, we can feel the contempt in passers-by’s eyes, and we hear them whisper “What the hell, that’s just nuts!”, and on some days, when it’s cold or raining, we even start to feel a little ridiculous. But after we finally get a seat at the counter and take that first bite of okonomiyaki or 48-hour-pork, our faith is re-established, and we know without a doubt that this place is worth it. On days when time is too much of a factor, we’ll turn to Ba Le (they’re often out of their delicious homemade bread for their bahn mi sandwiches, but their pho is one of the best I’ve had) or the spiciness of Cuisine Szechuan.

When we have to be near the Plateau, usually to see a play at the Théâtre de Quat’ Sous, we experiment a bit more. Sometimes, out of nostalgia (I used to live in that area), we’ll grab a Portuguese chicken sandwich at Rôtisserie Coco Rico. We’ve tried out Big In Japan, but were disappointed. Recently, we’ve been going to Pop!, the wine bar affiliated with Laloux. We started going there because they used to offer a post-show menu deal, making it the ideal post-show destination (and for nights when we go to Espace Go, Leméac still offers a late night two-course meal at $25 – a real steal!). The deal is now gone, but we keep going back, because the food remains very affordable… and very good. Not to mention, we discovered a few very good wines.

The last time we were there, I had one of their “tartes salées” (savoury tarts), which are basically pizzas (in fact, I just saw that, amusingly, their online menu now refers to them as pizzas). The Marrakesh tart really blew my mind. Topped with goat cheese, olives, honey, and mint, it was both refreshing and hearty. It was so good I took the time to discern every ingredient (which wasn’t too difficult), and jotted them down when I got home, so I could try to recreate the dish. And I did.

I hesitated before posting this, wondering if it was ethically acceptable to copy a restaurant dish (just like I never post someone else’s published recipe if I haven’t adapted it). Normally, I would have tweaked it, but it seemed so perfect as it was, I didn’t feel the need to change anything. But it’s not like I asked for the recipe, and my result is certainly not exactly the same as the original: I’m pretty sure I used too many olives (we were really hungry when I made this), I may have missed a “secret ingredient” or two, and the crust is definitely not as good. But it’s still a decent effort, and I really wanted to share it with you. So, in homage to Pop!, here’s my version of their Marrakesh tart.

You can use any kind of pizza dough you like, although a thicker crust is preferable. I used Marcy Goldman’s Best Pizza Dough Ever, but was pressed for time, so I cut a few corners. It’s a good dough for thicker-crust pizzas. It yields enough dough to make 6 small tarts, but you can freeze any excess dough for future use.

Goat Cheese Tart with Olives
Inspired by the kitchen of Pop! Bar à vin

Yields two individual tarts

Pizza dough (adapted from Marcy Goldman’s A Passion for Baking)
1 3/4 cups warm water
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups olive oil
5 to 6 cups bread flour

150g (5 oz) soft, fresh goat cheese
1/2 cup green olives, pitted and sliced (preferrably spicy)
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1 tbsp coriander seeds
One handful of fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Honey, for drizzling
Cracked black pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together the water and flour. Stir in the salt, sugar, olive oil, and half the flour. Switch to kneading by hand (or use a stand mixer with a dough hook) and gradually add the rest of the flour, until you obtain a smooth, soft, elastic dough (about 15 minutes of kneading by hand). Spray the bowl and dough with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 60 minutes.

Gently deflate the dough and cut off one third. Wrap the remaining two-thirds of dough tightly in plastic and freeze for future use. Divide the rest of your dough in two. Take one portion, place it on a lightly floured surface, pat it down with your fingers, and stretch it into a 23 cm (9 inch) disk. Fold the edges under, to make a thicker crust. Repeat with the second portion. Place a few pie weights (or dried beans) over the centers of the tarts, to prevent them from rising too much (Marcy suggests putting the toppings at this point, but I fear this could lead to a soggy dough; and in this case, the toppings really need to be added post-baking). Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 to 60 minutes, until puffy.

Preheat oven to 240ºC (475ºF). Remove the weights from the dough. If the tarts have risen too much in the center, press them down lightly with your fingers. Place on baking sheets or pizza rounds, and bake for 15-20 minutes, until well browned.

While the tarts are baking, place the coriander seeds in a skillet over high heat, and toast, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant, about 1 minute or 2.

Whisk the goat cheese until smooth and creamy.

When the tarts are baked, garnish them with dollops of cheese, then sprinkle them with sliced olives, coriander seeds, mint leaves, and thyme. Drizzle with honey and season with pepper to taste. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.


  1. I'm relatively new here, so I enjoy posts that allow me to get to know you better. I enjoyed the time I spent here and couldn't help but think how much fun it would be to have you as a guest at the dinner table. I hope you have a wonderful evening. Blessings...Mary

  2. Lots of great places mentioned here, I used to live a block away from Hoai Huong, went there a lot! This recipe is very intriguing indeed looking at the main flavors. As long as you give due credit any interpretation of a recipe is a compliment.