Friday, July 6, 2018

Leeks and Goat Cheese Tart a la Alice Waters

My daughter gave me a copy of renowned chef Alice Waters’ autobiography for Christmas, and I just got around to reading it. 

We lived in the Bay Area for several years (and my daughter was born there, in Alta Bates Hospital), and I worked on the Berkeley campus or in the town for a part of that time. Parking was always hard to find, so often I ended up parking off campus and walking to work—a path that took me right by Chez Panisse (Water’s iconic restaurant) on Shattuck Avenue. You may be incredulous when I tell you that I read the posted menus each time I passed—and back then a three-course prix fixe dinner cost $15!

Even that was a bit steep on a starving student budget, but my husband and I managed it a couple of times, and even took our daughter there on her first birthday (we shared the pasta primavera with her).

The book held some interesting surprises. The first was that Alice and I grew up in spitting distance of each other in New Jersey, in adjacent towns. And we used to shop in the same food stores in Berkeley. I still have a poster from the restaurant hanging in my house now.

And of course I have a copy of the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook from 1982 (which was about the time I was reading all those menus). The recipes make wonderful reading, although I’ve seldom had the nerve to try them. But I was looking for something different for this week’s post and I came upon a savory tart recipe that called out to me.

One note: Alice Waters was one of the first chefs to champion locally raised and impeccably fresh foods, and the results were eye-opening back then. The recipe here asked me to make my own puff pastry, but time and hot weather and fear of disaster pushed me to use the frozen kind (I apologize, Alice!). The filling, on the other hand, more or less follows the original recipe, although I cut back on the amount of leeks.

Leek and Goat Cheese Tart a la Alice Waters

1 pound leeks, with roots and green parts removed

8 Tblsp unsalted butter

salt and pepper
1/4 pound pancetta
1 egg
1/4 cup crème fraiche or 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard (mine had gone AWOL, so I used whole-grain mustard)
Pinch of curry powder
1/4 pound goat cheese
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs


Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. 

Julienne the leeks (slice in thin strips lengthwise) and rinse them, in case there’s any grit. Drain them well.

Cook them in 6 Tblsp butter over low heat. After 10-15 minutes, season with salt and pepper, then cover and continue to cook (“sweat!”) for another 10 minutes. 

Slice (or dice) the pancetta into small pieces. Place it in a pan over low heat and render the fat (about 10-15 minutes). Pour off any fat and water in the pan.

Beat the egg lightly in a large bowl. Stir in the crème fraiche or heavy cream, the mustard, and the curry powder. Crumble in half of the cheese. When the leeks and the pancetta are cool, stir them into the mix.

Thaw the puff pastry and press it into a 9” pan (it doesn’t matter if the edges are raggedy). Place on a baking sheet. 

Fill the shell with the cool leek mixture. Crumble the remaining cheese over the top. Sprinkle with the fresh breadcrumbs. Melt the last 2 tablespoons of butter and pour it over the crumbs.

Place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees (open the oven door and let the temperature cool before putting the tart back in)  and continue to bake for another 30-40 minutes.

Serve immediately! (It was delicious!)

And on another note (if I may blow my own horn), Murder at the Mansion, the first of the Victorian Village Mysteries, released on June 26th, has already gone into its third printing! That's a first for me, and I'm so glad people are enjoying it.

for details see


  1. I remember eating at Chez Panisse. My parents discovered it and stopped there often when they knew they would be in the area. They treated me one time. It wasn't cheap, but it was good.

  2. That looks delicious! Alice Waters grew up in Chatham, didn't she? So within spitting distance of me as well! Sadly I have not been to Chez Panisse.

  3. And me! I had no idea growing up in Bernardsville, NJ so was so infamous!
    Jackie Kennedy nearby.
    Meryl Streep a high school classmate.

    This looks really tasty.

    1. I didn't know you grew up in Bernardsville! The Kennedy children used to ride my friend's horses when they were out there. Meryl Streep and I were born in the same hospital and my younger daughter was born there as well.

    2. The proverbial small world!
      What high school did you go to?

  4. I'm glad you got up the nerve to try one of the recipes & shared it with us. This looks yummy.

  5. Wow! This recipe looks great! I can’t wait to try it.