Weeknight Cooking

Caramelized Onion Tarts

January 29, 2014

When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when and where you want them.

Today: A savory-sweet, satisfying meal that will calm a hectic day, feed a hungry family, or freeze well for later. 

Mini Pissaladières from Food52

Shop the Story

Peel and thinly slice an onion. Throw it in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add a knob of butter, a generous splash of olive oil, and a pinch of kosher salt. Stir until the onion softens a bit over medium heat. Don’t listen to that voice telling you you shouldn’t caramelize one onion because if you’re doing one you might as well do eight. Drop in a sprig of thyme, cover. Feel extravagant. Turn the heat down as low as it will go.

Water your plants. Scrub some paint off of the kitchen wall that you’ve been staring at since your son was three years old. Sort the socks. Start re-reading the Molly Bloom chapter from “Ulysses.” Smell something sweet and beautiful. Remember the onion. Run for the onion. 

Don’t stress when you take off the lid and see that the onion has stuck and started to brown in the middle of the pot. Ignore the voice that says they’re not supposed to get brown because that’s wrong. Use a little chicken stock to dislodge the crusty bits and stir them into the soft onion jam. 

More: Decide to caramelize eight onions anyway? Here's how to make a week's worth of meals from them

Bring your daughter some warm chicken stock in bed. Place your hands on her belly and tell her you’re sending in some magic healing. Watch her drift back to sleep. Take some scraps of puff pastry out of the freezer to soften. Find some wrinkled black olives at the back of your fridge. Open a jar of anchovies; smile at them and say I’m coming back for you soon. 

Mini Pissaladières from Food52

Pick up your son from school and set him up at the kitchen table to do his homework. Feel him watching you as you assemble the mini pissaladières. Invite him over. Notice that he now asks before touching the mise en place, that he observes first to pick up on your rhythm, that he no longer tornadoes his way in.  

Step back. Watch him lovingly spiral an anchovy around each olive. Keep your hands behind your back as he sloppily folds each corner up and over the filling. Slide the tarts into the oven.  Show your son through the oven window how the caramelized onions sink down into the rising puff pastry. Whisper in his ear do you want some pissaladière for an after school snack, do you want some, you know you do, you know you do.

Laugh when he grimaces and sticks out his tongue and says that anchovies are disgusting and that now his tummy hurts, too. 

Feed your kids bland white food for their ailing tummies. Tuck them in. Pray that the virus stays out of your body. Pour some red wine. Reheat two of your precious little tarts. From up high, swirl a winding, gooey balsamic path all over everything.

Drag your cozy chair very close to the television. Prepare to enter another world. But first, savor your dinner. Savor the silence. Press play. Watch three episodes of Scandal. Fall for the president. Wake up at 3 AM all contorted in a ball in your chair. Freeze the remaining two tarts in the dark kitchen. Kiss your daughter and look for your son. Find him in your bed wrapped around a stuffed shark. Drift off holding his hand. Oversleep.

Mini Pissaladières

Makes 4

Your favorite puff pastry (rolled out to about 1/8-inch thick)
4 tablespoons caramelized onions
4 anchovy fillets packed in oil
4 salt-cured wrinkly black Greek olives
1 tablespoon thick balsamic vinegar

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photos by Phyllis Grant 

Order now

A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Stacy
  • maryanne
  • nancy@jamjnr
  • Melina Hammer
    Melina Hammer
  • mdm
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.


Stacy February 2, 2014
This looks perfectly unfussy - I love that there are only 5 ingredients, and yet it seems like such a bit of indulgence to have caramelized onions.
Also, I want to add that I always enjoy your writing. It seems so honest and clean. Thank you for continuing to post such wonderful pieces.
maryanne January 30, 2014
Such a beautifully written piece. Thanks for adding a bright spot to my day.
nancy@jamjnr January 29, 2014
Just beautiful words. Thank you.
Melina H. January 29, 2014
So beautiful, Phyllis. This is so exciting even though it's just tarts. And umami!

Thank you for sharing of yourself.
mdm January 29, 2014
Gorgeous, all of it, thanks for this!
steph January 29, 2014
love this so much
placidplaid January 29, 2014
This was a nice read until I read fall for the President. Amazing how politics creeps in every little crevice. (ugh). Now, back to my onion.
mdm January 29, 2014
(ha, the president on the TV show!)
Naz D. January 29, 2014
Phyllis - It makes me so happy to hear that I'm not the only one who wanders to the book shelf flicking through my 20yr old copy of "Ulysses" in between stirring the pot and the school run. I am determined to make one of your tarts soon. Beautiful writing as always.