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Delicious Vitamins: Caramelized Onion and Sunflower Seed Tart

Posted Apr 27 2009 11:32pm

With deep appreciation to my wonderful readers for all your welcoming comments regarding the first "Delicious Vitamins" post, I am eager to continue our culinary vitamin series.

Without delay, let us introduce Thiamine, also known as Vitamin B1!

Thiamine, while seemingly a quiet, unassuming vitamin - found in a variety of foods rather than possessing a singular distinguishing champion in the produce department - is in fact essential to whole-body functioning. A lack of thiamine will negatively impact the nervous system, the muscles, and the heart. To put it in most scientific and distinguished terms: "A thiamine deficiency is Not Good."

While severe thiamine deficits are less common amongst those able to consume a varied diet, a mild shortage can still cause stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, and difficulties sleeping.

Thiamine busies itself all throughout our body, ensuring proper nerve conduction (making sure I promptly released the scalding saucepan handle I grabbed in haste this evening), keeping our immune systems functioning vigorously (so that perhaps I might not catch every cold my pediatric patients so kindly bestow upon me), and enabling genetic material to pass along to new cells as they divide and develop (keeping me, well, me ). Thiamine also carries out its essential functions in a very helpful manner - as a "helper" coenzyme molecule, assisting our bodies in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein.

Because thiamine doesn't predominate sweepingly in one particular food, it gives us all the more reason to tantalize our taste buds with an array of flavors! Thiamine is quite soundly present in watermelon, green peas, potatoes, black beans, pork products, salmon, and peanuts, but, surprisingly, it shines in the inconspicuous little sunflower seed...

Sunflower seeds contain 0.41 milligrams of Thiamine in just two tablespoons, and, as the recommended daily intake of Thiamine is 1.5 milligrams for women and 1.7 milligrams for men, a sprinkling of sunflower seeds puts one well on their way to a solid day of thiamine. It bears keeping in mind, too, that thiamine is a water-soluble vitamin, which means, for our purposes, that it is not long stored in the body, and requires continual replenishing.

Whenever I'm in Israel I quickly slip into the habit of nibbling sunflower seeds, happily partaking in what surely seems to be the nation's universal between-meals snack, but back in the States I often lose track of the lilliputian seeds, so tenaciously encased in their salted shells... until, that is, they happen to lend a bit of crunch, concentrated nutty flavor, and thiamine to the slightly rustic, whole wheat crust for a creamy, savory tart...

*It is sheer coincidence that both of my first two Vitamin posts contain recipes infused with caramelized onions, but I do confess to be a bit obsessed with caramelized onions of late...

Caramelized Onion Tart with a Whole Wheat Sunflower Seed Crust

For the dough:
1 envelope quick-rising yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 cup plus 1/4 cup white flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 T butter or light vegan margarine
4 T toasted sunflower seeds

For the filling:
3 large onions, thinly sliced
1 T butter or light vegan margarine
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup 1% milk
1 1/4 cup low fat sour cream
1 tsp salt
1 T flour
1 pinch of nutmeg

~ To make the dough, stir the yeast and sugar into the warm water, and let the mixture sit aside for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to proof and puff up.
~ Meanwhile, pulse the whole wheat flour, 1/8 cup white flour, butter or vegan marg, and salt in a food processor until the butter or marg has been cut into the flour.
~ With the processor running, pour in the yeast and water mixture and keep processing just until a sticky, wet dough forms.
~ Add another 1/8 cup white flour, and blend in the food processor until the dough gathers together into a ball.
~ If the dough still seems wet (it will remain a sticky dough, which is OK, you just don't want a gooey, soggy dough), add the remaining 1/8 cup white flour and processes again for another 30 seconds or so until the dough ball forms again.
~ Sprinkle a bit more flour into a glass bowl, scrape the dough into the bowl, and gently turn the dough until it is fully covered in a dusting of flour. Cover the bowl, and set it aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size - around 45 minutes.
~ Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and make the filling.
~ To make the filling, cook the onions in the butter or vegan marg over medium heat for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally - until the onions are golden brown and deeply caramelized.
~ In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sour cream, salt, flour, and nutmeg.
~ Returning to the dough, when it has doubled in size, very gently punch down the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.
~ Sprinkle a dusting of flour and the 4 T sunflower seeds into the bottom of a 10" pie pan.
~ After the dough has rested, turn the dough into the pie pan, and gently begin to stretch the dough to fill the pie pan. When the dough is nearly the size of the bottom of the pie pan, turn the dough over to coat the second side with sunflower seeds.
~ Using your fingers, press the dough up the sides of the pie pan.
~ Bake the tart crust dough in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
~ When the tart crust emerges from the oven, gently pat down any air bubbles that have risen.
~ Fold the caramelized onions into the egg and milk mixture, and pour the resulting filling into the prebaked crust.
~ Bake the tart for 35 to 40 minutes - until the filling is set and the top of the filling is golden.
~ Serve warm or cool...

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