Red Pepper and Onion Tarts with Dates and Fried Cheese

Ana Sortun sometimes uses halloumi, a slightly sweet cow’s milk cheese from Cyprus, instead of Greek Kasseri. Alternatively, you can sprinkle crumbled feta over the pita tarts. For round tarts, use a biscuit cutter to stamp out circles from the pitas, before spreading them with the onion-pepper mixture.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 medium red bell peppers
2 Medjool dates, pitted and sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
2 large pocketless pita breads, lightly toasted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 pound Kasseri cheese, sliced 1/4-inch thick and cut into sixteen 1/2-by-2-inch rectangles
  1. In a deep, medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onions and cook over high heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 30 minutes; add a little water to the pan if the onions seem dry. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, roast the bell peppers directly over a gas flame or under the broiler until soft and charred all over. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic; let stand for 15 minutes. Peel, core and seed the peppers and cut them into 1/2-inch strips. In a bowl, toss the peppers, dates, sesame and poppy seeds with 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the onions on the pitas and top with the red pepper mixture. Quarter the pitas and arrange on a platter.
  4. Dredge the cheese in the flour and shake off any excess. In a medium nonstick skillet or grill pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Fry the cheese over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden, 4 minutes. Top each tart with 2 pieces of fried cheese and serve.

Serves 8.

Recipe by Ana Sortun, Food & Wine magazine, August 2002

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