Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Green Zebra: Fig & Blue Cheese Tarts

Chicago, like New York, is the kind of town where you would really have to be unlucky to happen upon a bad meal. For the most part, everything was exceptional from farro risotto to the coffee to the pizza.

I was as excited about eating at The Green Zebra as I was about running the marathon. I made our reservation weeks in advance to ensure we got a table on a busy Friday night. The Green Zebra is a mostly vegetarian fine dining place in the middle of one of the meatiest cities in America. Chef Shawn McClain's focus on creativity ensures that even those who eat meat won't miss it at this meal. Personally I was blown away by everything brought to the table, and we ordered just about everything.
For the 1st course:
- Fig and blue cheese tarts with candied almonds
- Fresh burrata cheese with concord grapes and fava beans
- Heirloom tomato salad with fried pickles and buttermilk dressing

2nd course:
- Farro risotto with gremolata and mascarpone
- Sweet corn and pumpkin seed succotash with fennel and Thai chili
- Lobster mushroom and garlic crepe with wax beans

...and a few extras:
- Crispy soba noodles with kabocha squash and chestnuts
- Poached egg with smoked potato pureƩ
- Grilled corn elote
- Crispy chickpea fries

Wow! All of it was memorable and delicious. The first chance I got I attempted to recreate a few of my favorites. Our long-lost friend Justin Hart is back from L.A. for a visit. He came over for dinner the other night, and I made my version of two Green Zebra dishes: the fig and blue cheese tart and the mushroom crepe along with a pickled tomato salad of my own creation. The Wife made a wonderful pudding with fresh fruit.

The fig tarts were a hit, and they are so simple to make.

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups of AP flour
1/2 cup canola oil
pinch of sugar
Large pinch of salt
ice water

All ingredients save for the water go into the food processor equipped with the dough blade. Turn it on and start pouring the cold water minus the ice into the opening until the dough comes together. You will know when it happens. Wrap in plastic and stick it in the fridge for an hour or so until chilled.

For the filling:
1 box of black figs (sliced into rounds)
Maytag Blue cheese
chopped walnuts
Salt and pepper

Roll out the crust and cut out rounds with a drinking glass. Arrange three fig slices on each small round and pinch the edges of the crust up to catch the fig juices as they cook. Place into a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Remove and allow tarts to cool. Top each with crumbled blue cheese, chopped walnuts, and a drizzle of honey. Add fresh cracked black pepper and sea salt just before serving.


Michael Hughes said...

Sounds like you were inspired! Thanks again for dinner. I've been craving that burrata & the crepes.

Sarah S. said...

Chicago, hey, that's me! I've never eaten at The Green Zebra. I'm going to have to try it, sounds amazing!