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Vegetables star in colorful tart

Spring has sprung and Easter is just around the corner. I was wandering the produce department and saw these beautiful multi-hued rainbow carrots. They reminded me of my favorite line from the Rankin/Bass Easter television special.

Seymour S. Sassafras says, “I deal in magic and moonbeams and pretty, pretty colors. Oh, yes, I can sell you the most perfect pink or the most blissful blue, or a simply euphoric yellow.” Do any other ’70s kids remember that? Funny what sticks with you.

Well, back to the carrots. I started pondering recipes to exploit those vibrant colors. I decided on a zesty spiral tart using ultra-thin ribbons of carrot and zucchini nestled in a savory cheesecake-like base. Easier to show than describe, sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Honestly, the best part about this tart: It’s beautiful. But make no mistake, it’s also delicious. It’s a perfect appetizer, side dish or a colorful main dish served alongside a salad.

Regarding rainbow carrots, they’re lovely but no need to purchase them unless they’re on sale. When using this spiral technique, you can use zucchini, summer squash, carrots, parsnips, eggplant, potato, sweet potato and even purple potato. If it can be peeled with a peeler, you’re in business.

In this recipe, for convenience, I used store brand flavored whipped cream cheese. The cost was only 20 cents more than plain and we don’t have to mess with it. Feel free to substitute plain cream cheese seasoned as you like. I also used an easy cracker crumb crust, but you could use your favorite pastry recipe.

The star of this dish is the spiral vegetables; they’re a real visual showstopper.

SPIRAL VEGETABLE TART

Yield: one (9-inch) tart

Servings: 8 appetizer servings

What you’ll need:

1½ cups rich buttery cracker crumbs

1/3 cup melted butter

½ cup heavy cream or half and half

1 egg

¼ teaspoon salt

1 8-ounce tub whipped cream cheese, garden vegetable flavor

1 pound (about 4 large) carrots

1 large zucchini

Drizzle of olive oil

Here’s how:

Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.

To make crust, crumble the crackers into a fine meal and blend with melted butter until all the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch tart pan, ideally with a removable bottom. Bake the tart shell for 10 minutes. Leave the oven on.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a small bowl whisk the cream, egg and salt. In another bowl, stir the cream cheese to soften. Add 4 tablespoons of the egg mixture and stir to completely combine; set aside.

Reserve the remainder of the egg mixture.

To prepare the vegetables, cut both ends off the carrot. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off the carrots and discard. Using the peeler, continue to slice long, wide, lengthwise layers from the carrots, until it’s a lovely pile of strips. Repeat with remaining carrots. Peel the zucchini in the same manner as the carrots. It’s important that the strips of vegetables be similar in width. I sliced some of the zucchini in half to match the carrot.

When you have your vegetables sliced, place them in a big bowl and toss with a drizzle of olive oil.

Microwave the vegetables for two minutes to soften. This is the secret to making this technique work. You are now a keeper of the secret. Shhhh.

To assemble the tart, using an offset spatula or back of a spoon, carefully spread the cream cheese mixture on the bottom of the tart shell. There will be some rogue crumbs, don’t worry. The spiral will cover a multitude of sins.

Roll a strip of zucchini into a tight spiral, followed by a strip of carrot. Continue adding slices, alternating colors, forming a tight spiral. When this becomes too big to hold in your hand, you can carefully place it in the center of the tart.

Continue arranging alternating layers of vegetables around the spiral until you reach the outer edge of the crust. Spoon the remaining egg mixture over the spiral, encouraging the mixture to sink in between the layers of vegetables.

Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Test for temperature of 140 F to ensure the egg has cooked. Cool and serve.

It’s a little difficult to slice; a serrated knife helped.

There’s a bit of effort required to make this spiral tart, but it’s such a showstopper it’s definitely worth doing. Be sure to save a carrot for the Easter bunny.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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