5.15.15 Rhubarb Coffee Cake Muffins with Pecan Streusel

As you probably know if you read this blog, I’m a huge fan of breakfast.  And besides all of the normal breakfast foods out there, I often find myself eating other, less breakfast-appropriate foods for my morning meal. Things like leftover chili, pizza, and grilled cheese of course, but also things like cake. You may think I’m crazy when it comes to some of those things, but I know the truth. You’d like to eat cake for breakfast too.

Here’s the thing though. Getting away with eating cake for breakfast is easier than you think. I mean, sure, If you were to see someone eating a big piece of cake for breakfast, you might find it odd (although, secretly, you’d probably be jealous). But to see someone eating coffee cake for breakfast is perfectly normal. You can see the genius here. The inventor of the coffee cake was clearly some sly devil who wanted to eat cake for breakfast judgement free. I can't say I blame them.

Even better than a coffee cake are these coffee cake muffins. They’re made just like a regular coffee cake (yes, including that wonderfully addictive streusel layer in the middle), but since they’re in muffin form, they’re already perfectly portioned. When your breakfast cake craving strikes, you can just grab one and eat it, no silverware required. It’s like having your own, personal, mini coffee cake. And did I mention it’s full of rhubarb? Oh yes. Eating cake for breakfast has never been easier.

Rhubarb Coffee Cake Muffins with Pecan Streusel

makes 1 dozen

muffins:

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • ½ cup greek yogurt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups chopped rhubarb

streusel:

  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a larger bowl, beat the eggs together with the sugar, then mix in the melted butter, greek yogurt, milk, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the chopped rhubarb.

4. To make the streusel, combine the flour, pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Add the melted butter and stir until the mixture forms coarse crumbs.

5. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan, or line wells with paper muffin cups. Divide half of the batter evenly between each of the 12 cups. Top evenly with about ¾ of the streusel, followed by the remaining ½ of the batter. Top muffins with the remaining ¼ of the streusel.

6. Bake muffins at 350 degrees until puffed and golden brown on top, about 30-35 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

5.6.15 Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne

I first learned how to make lasagne when I was about 13 or 14 years old. My Italian Grandma makes the best lasagne of all time, and I had asked her to share her recipe. Of course, I’m sure she left out some little detail, because although I can make a mean lasagne, it still never tastes quite as good as hers. That’s how it goes I suppose.

The only way I can compete with Grandma’s lasagne is to make a totally different version all together. You can’t compare apples to oranges, and therefore, you can’t compare my Grandma’s traditional red sauce lasagne to this ultra cheesy vegetarian version. This way, we both win.

This spinach and mushroom variety is the result of buying far too much of both of these ingredients at last weekend’s farmer’s market. Since spinach and mushrooms just happen to be two of Forrest’s least favorite foods, I was kindof in a bind as to how we were going to consume it all. Solution? Layer said vegetables with loads of pasta, grated mozzerella, and a creamy parmesan bechamel sauce. Apparently, even Forrest’s most loathed vegetables become tolerable to him if you add enough cheese. This is good to know. I might be on to something here...

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne

serves about 6

  • 8-10 large lasagne noodles
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  • ½ pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 6-8 oz spinach, cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Cook lasagne noodles in a large pot of boiling water until just done. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

2. Put the milk and garlic cloves in a small pan and heat over medium heat until just boiling. Remove from heat and allow garlic to steep in the milk while you cook the vegetables.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, and once hot, add the onion and cook, stirring often, until onions start to caramelize and brown, about 10 minutes.

4. Add the balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper, and continue to cook, stirring, for an additional 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and cook until mushrooms are browned and softened, about 5 minutes longer. Add the spinach and cook until spinach is just wilted. Season to taste with additional salt if needed. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add the flour and whisk together until a paste is formed. Remove the garlic cloves from the warm milk, then add milk to the flour-butter mixture, whisking constantly. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to low and continue whisking until mixture thickens. Stir in the parmesan cheese until melted and combined with the sauce. Season to taste with additional salt if needed.

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

7. Pour a couple of tablespoons of the sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 9 baking dish. Use a spoon to spread it evenly along the bottom of the pan (this prevents your noodles from sticking to the bottom. Use about ⅓ of the lasagne noodles to completely cover the bottom of the pan (with a 9 x 9 pan, it’s easiest to rip them in half). Top noodles evenly with ½ of the spinach mushroom mixture, ⅓ of the remaining sauce, and ⅓ cup grated mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers one more time. Top lasagne with a layer of the remaining noodles, the remaining sauce and the remaining ⅓ cup mozzarella.

8. Bake lasagne at 350 until top is golden brown and edges are crispy, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly before slicing and serving.

4.28.15 Whipped Feta Dip with Spiced Pita Chips

Lately, due to the lovely (yet admittedly sporadic) spring weather we’ve been graced with, we’re finding ourselves eating a lot of meals outside. Whether it be picnicking, enjoying snacks and beverages on the porch, or a having a leisurely dinner on the back patio, outdoor dining is one of my favorite things. Ever. 

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When it comes to dining al fresco, I generally like to keep things simple. And while lounging on the porch with a drink in hand, no better or easier snack comes to mind than some good old dip. Dip is delicious, and I’m sorry to say there’s not nearly enough of it on this blog (I’ll be sure to remedy this, don’t worry). Besides being delicious and fun to eat, dip can also be dangerous. As in, you start snacking, and before you know it, you look down to find you’ve somehow eaten the entire bowl. Unfortunately, this is a very real danger when it comes to this whipped feta dip.

Feta cheese is whipped up with greek yogurt, lemon and chives for a bright, creamy dip that takes almost no time at all to make. I also added some additional heat and texture in the form of pine nuts toasted in a quick homemade chile oil. And finally, no dip would be complete without something fantastic to dip it in. In this case, the only real option I saw was pita chips. In particular, homemade pita chips spiced with smoked paprika and za’atar. All I can say is, this is one tasty dip.

Whipped Feta Dip with Spiced Pita Chips

  • 1 8 oz block feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives + more for serving
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp pine nuts
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Spiced Pita Chips for serving (recipe follows)

1. Combine feta, greek yogurt, 2 Tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, chives, and black pepper in a food processor. Process until a smooth consistency is achieved. Transfer dip to a serving bowl.

2. Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes in a pan over medium high heat. Stirring constantly to prevent chile flakes from burning, cook until oil is very hot and infused with the chile, about 2 minutes. Add the pine nuts, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until pine nuts are a deep golden brown. Immediately pour toasted pine nuts and chile oil atop feta dip. Top with additional chopped chives and serve with spiced pita chips for dipping.

Spiced Pita Chips

Za’atar is a middle eastern spice blend of sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, and salt that I’m pretty much obsessed with. And, as I’ve also discovered, it’s the perfect spice for seasoning pita chips. You can buy it at Penzeys, or make some of your own (2 Tbsp sumac, 1 Tbsp thyme, 1 ½ tsp white sesame seeds, ½ tsp salt).

  • 2 pita pocket breads
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp za’atar
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut the pita breads into eighths. Separate each pita triangle into two pieces (the top and bottom of the pocket) by tearing along the top edge.

3. Spread pita triangles on a baking sheet and toss evenly with the olive oil, za’atar, and smoked paprika.

4. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until pita chips are golden brown and toasty.

4.24.15 Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus with Mustard Vinaigrette

At last weekend’s farmer’s market, I managed to score a big bag full of pretty much the most beautiful little potatoes I’ve ever seen. Seriously. Multi-colored hues of purple, white, gold, red, and pink - these were not your average potatoes. With a variety of textures and colors on these little guys, I knew that roasting them was the way to go. After all, this would ensure they kept their lovely colors and cooked up the most evenly.

Also, in the name of spring, I had recently procured some asparagus. Of course, since I was already roasting my potatoes, I opted to throw my asparagus in the oven to roast along with them. This turned out to be a very good decision. When my vegetables came out of the oven all roasty and warm, I tossed them with a sweet and tangy mustard vinaigrette, which was soaked up beautifully by the warm veggies. Finished off with fresh herbs, this lovely springy side went perfectly along with some simply roasted salmon for a satisfying dinner. Oh spring, I’m so glad you’re here.

Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus with Mustard Vinaigrette

serves 3-4

I recommend using small fingerling or roasting potatoes for this. If you can find a colorful variety like I did, even better!

  • 1 lb potatoes, cleaned and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • ½ lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a bowl, toss the potatoes with 1 Tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper. Once evenly coated, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

3. Toss the asparagus with ½ Tbsp olive oil, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. After the potatoes have roasted for 20 minutes, pull the baking sheet out of the oven, give the potatoes a good stir, then add the asparagus to the baking sheet with the potatoes. Put back in the oven and roast for an additional 10 - 15 minutes, or until potatoes and asparagus are tender.

4. When vegetables are finished roasting, remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes to cool slightly.

5. In a bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the remaining 2 ½ Tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, honey, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Toss dressing with the roasted vegetables. Stir in the chopped parsley and chives. Serve immediately.

4.21.15 Ramp Focaccia Bread

Last weekend marked the beginning of outdoor farmer’s market season in Madison. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ridiculously excited. In my excitement, I managed to make it to both the downtown Dane County Farmer’s Market and the Westside Community Market before 9am. It was a glorious Saturday.

Still being quite early in the season, produce is not as abundant as it will be at the height of the season. Nonetheless, I managed to come through with some pretty awesome finds. Most importantly though, were the ramps.

Ramps, or wild leeks, are delicious, and sadly only available for a short window of time in early spring. That means, once ramps are in season, you’ve got to buy or forage as many as you can, because in just a few short weeks, they’ll be gone. Once you have some, you won’t be disappointed by the many delicious ways they can be used. Scrambled with eggs, cooked into carbonara, simmered into risotto, baked into scones - all delicious. You can make the tops into pesto, and pickle the bulbs. Or, you can do what I did and bake them into a lovely, golden, focaccia bread.

Focaccia, after all, being one of the best types of bread due to its big moist crumb, crispy golden olive oil-y edges, and the ability to add toppings. While I could have gone all out and added a myriad of other toppings to this glorious bread (herbs! parmesan cheese!), I decided in the end to exhibit some restraint and just let the ramps shine. After tasting the final result, I knew I’d made the right decision.

Ramp Focaccia Bread

serves about 12

As a math nerd, I had way too much fun developing this recipe, as it required a lot of calculations to achieve the just the right texture. I decided to start the dough with a pre-ferment (or sponge) and opted for high hydration (around 65%) in the dough, to achieve a big bubbly texture. The result is a very wet dough, which is slightly messy to work with, but the results are well worth it. Oh yes, and high hydration means no kneading, which is definitely a plus. The sponge will need to sit overnight, so plan accordingly.

sponge:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • ½ tsp active dry yeast

bread and assembly:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • cup warm water
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • 7-8 ramps, cleaned and roots cut off base of bulbs
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • flaky sea salt

1. Make the sponge. Combine all of the sponge ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix together. Mixture should look like thick pancake batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 3-4 hours (mixture should look bubbly). Place bowl in refrigerator overnight.

2. The next day, take the sponge out of the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temp for about 30 minutes.

3. Make your bread dough. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and yeast. Stir in the sponge, water, and ¼ cup olive oil. Stir until everything is mixed cohesively (dough will be very wet). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours.

4. After dough has risen for 2 hours, coat a high-sided sheet pan with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Pour dough into the pan, and use a spoon, or well oiled hands to spread dough to the edges of the pan. If you’re having trouble, let the dough rest for about 5 minutes to relax, then keep working it out to the edges of the pan. The dough’s wetness, as well as the oil coating the pan will help it to spread as well.

5. Once dough is spread out evenly in the pan, coat the surface with the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil and arrange your ramps on top. I arranged them vertically, alternating root and leaf sides up and down, so that each piece of bread would include both bulbs and leaves. Loosely cover pan with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour at room temp.

6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and sprinkle dough evenly with freshly ground black pepper and flaky sea salt.

7. Bake bread in the middle rack of the oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes, rotating pan 180 degrees halfway through baking.

8. Allow bread to cool slightly, slice into squares and enjoy

4.14.15 Pea Risotto with Crispy Prosciutto, Feta, and Mint

I think I can officially say that spring is here. Fact: There are buds on the trees and birds everywhere. Fact: Plants have started popping up in the yard and garden. Fact: It has been ridiculously nice out for multiple days in a row and I am once again able to use the porch and patio to their full extent. Conclusion: It must be spring. There’s no other explanation.

Most importantly, springy weather makes me excited for green spring vegetables. After months where the only produce in season are root vegetables and squash, green things seem particularly marvelous. Soon, we’ll be bogged down with all kinds of greens, lettuces, and asparagus, and I can hardly wait. For now though, I’ve really been thinking about peas.

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And what better way to showcase said peas than in a creamy bowl of risotto? This version in particular really lets the peas shine, incorporating them both in whole form as well as adding some extra springy greenness as a lovely, bright puree with mint and lemon. And of course, you really can’t go wrong by topping it all off with crispy prosciutto, tangy feta, and fresh mint. It’s the perfect way to celebrate spring.

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Pea Risotto with Crispy Prosciutto, Feta, and Mint

serves about 4

In a pinch, you can use thawed, frozen peas for this recipe, but if you can get your hands on some fresh shelled peas, you won’t regret it. I’ve had good luck finding them at Trader Joe’s.

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 8 oz arborio or other short grain rice
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock, heated to near-boiling
  • 2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1 ½ cups fresh peas, divided
  • 1 Tbsp (loose packed) fresh mint leaves, plus more for serving
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • crumbled feta for serving

1. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Once melted, add the onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook until soft and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the rice and stir, continuing to cook until rice is well mixed with the onions and appears slightly translucent, about 2 minutes.

3. Add the wine, and continue cooking until wine is absorbed, about 3-4 minutes.

4. Add 1 cup of stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until stock is completely absorbed. Reserving ¼ cup stock to use in step 6, repeat this process, adding about 1 cup of stock at a time, until all of the remaining stock has been incorporated. This whole process should take about 20-25 minutes.

5. While rice is cooking, crisp up your prosciutto. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium high heat and add the slices of prosciutto. Cook, flipping periodically, until crispy. Cool slightly, then crumble.

6. In a blender or food processor, combine 1 cup of the peas, mint, lemon juice, lemon zest, and ¼ cup of the warm stock. Puree until smooth.

7. When the last of the stock has been almost completely absorbed into the rice and rice is tender, stir in the pea puree, the remaining ½ cup of whole peas, and the parmesan. Continue to cook, stirring, until cheese is melted and peas are just tender, about 2 minutes.

8. Serve risotto, topping each bowl with crumbled feta, crispy prosciutto, and finely chopped mint.

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4.10.15 Lemon Almond Oat Cookies

Sometimes, you just need cookies. Because, let’s be honest, there are few occasions in life that can’t be made better with a warm batch of cookies and a tall, cold glass of milk. As you can probably guess, I get a lot of cookie cravings. Which means there’s usually a decent amount of cookie baking going on at our house. I’d say that’s definitely a good thing.

Now when it comes to specific types of cookies, you can often find me making chocolate chip, or some variation thereof. But it’s always good to change things up too. Lately, I’ve had a craving for oatmeal cookies (sans raisins of course). And not just any oatmeal cookies, but those really thin, crispy, buttery ones. The kind with so many oats in them, they cook into perfect, lacy cookie wafers. Of course, when I thought more about making said glorious oatmeal cookies, I figured adding some almonds in there for additional flavor and texture wouldn’t hurt. And a bright hit of lemon (it is spring after all) wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

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This is the kind of cookie that could make you eat an entire batch in one sitting if you’re not careful. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Lemon Almond Oat Cookies

makes 2 dozen

  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup thinly sliced almonds
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • ½ tsp vanilla

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine flour, oats, almonds, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

3. In a larger bowl, mix the butter and both sugars together until smooth. Mix in the egg, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla.

4. Stir in the flour mixture, and mix until well combined.

5. Form cookie dough into about 1” balls and drop onto greased cookie sheets (dough will be sticky - easiest to use two spoons). You should end up with about 2 dozen cookies.

6. Bake at 375 for 9-10 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown on the bottoms. Cool in pans for about 10 min, then enjoy!

4.3.15 Mushroom Mascarpone Tart with Parmesan Crust

I’ve always been a big fan of mushrooms. I love their substantial earthiness; often times, you’ll find me scrambling them up with eggs, roasting them for salads, throwing them on pizzas, and eating them on toast.  Pure deliciousness. Unfortunately, as much as I love mushrooms, Forrest can’t stand them. And no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get him to come around (trust me I’ve tried). As a result, I never seem to cook quite as many mushrooms as I’d truly like. That is, unless Forrest is out of town. Then all bets are off.

Last weekend, with Forrest away on a ski trip, and me left to my own devices, I knew that some serious mushroom cookery was about to go down. And it so did. In the form of this lovely mushroom mascarpone tart.

This is the sort of savory pie that would be right at home at brunch, or perfectly paired with a crisp salad for a light dinner. It’s creamy, mushroomy (of course), and perhaps most importantly, doesn’t skimp on the cheese. There’s even cheese in the crust. Oh yes. I have a sneaking suspicion this much cheese may even convert my mushroom-hating husband. Anyway, it’s worth a shot.

Mushroom Mascarpone Tart with Parmesan Crust

serves 6

crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 oz cold water

filling:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, finely diced
  • 12 oz cremini mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh thyme)
  • ¾ tsp salt, divided
  • ¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup grated fontina cheese, divided

1. Make the crust -  Measure the flour into a large bowl, cut the butter into small pieces, then add to the flour.

2. Using your hands, work the butter into the flour until the pieces are small (about the size of a pea) and the mixture has a grainy texture. Stir in the parmesan cheese.

3. Add the water (very cold) a little bit at a time, mixing until the dough is all incorporated into a ball. If 1 oz of water doesn’t seem to be enough, you can add a bit more, but add it a little bit at a time, and use the least amount of water possible to hold the dough together.

4. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 15-20 minutes before working with it further.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

6. Once the dough has been chilled, roll it out on a well floured surface and shape it into a greased 9-inch pie or tart pan.

7. Cover crust with aluminum foil, and add some dry beans or rice to weight it down. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and bake uncovered an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the filling. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.

8. Heat oil over medium heat in a pan. Add the onion, and cook until it begins to soften, about 3-4 minutes.

9. Add mushrooms, thyme, ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper, and continue cooking, stirring often, until mushrooms are cooked and beginning to brown.

10. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Whisk in the mascarpone cheese. Stir in the mushroom mixture and ½ cup grated fontina cheese.

11. Pour into prepared crust, top with remaining ½ cup fontina cheese, and bake at 350 degrees until filling is golden, well set, and slightly puffed in the center, about 30 minutes. Serve tart warm or at room temperature.