Alsatian Onion Tart (Zwiebelkuchen)

An onion tart with three slices cut

I worked briefly for a hot-shot, marketing executive, Bob G, who would, on occasion, call me out for misusing a word.  He’d say something like, “I don’t think you understand what that word means,” or “You’re not using that word correctly.” Because he sat in the C-suites, had a Marketing degree from some prestigious college, was a man (I’m loath to admit that affected me), and was older, I bit my tongue and deferred to him while stewing inside.

One of those words was “ruminate.”  We were discussing the best marketing methods for attracting potential customers to the very-large, very-expensive custom trade show booth I was having built.  We were spit-balling. I had some ideas; he voiced his own thoughts.  He brought up Danica Patrick more than once. I wanted time to consider these options while also mulling over grander schemes we hadn’t yet fathomed so, I said, “Give me the weekend to ruminate on it.”  Bob replied, “I don’t think you understand what that word means.”  Granted, using the word, “ruminate,” was perhaps hyperbole on my part.  One ruminates about the meaning of life, a recent breakup, or how to stop global warming, but, from my perspective, using the word “ruminate” meant, “let me give this topic careful consideration over the weekend, reflecting on our conversation thus far, and remaining receptive to other ideas that may bubble up.”  In other words, let me chew on it a bit.  Bob seemed rather smug for calling me out.  The Oxford Dictionary defines “ruminate” as “to think deeply about something.” So, what do you think, was it perhaps Bob who did not fully understand the meaning of the word?

During another meeting, coincidentally while discussing the same very-large, very-expensive trade show booth, I mentioned that the attached meeting room would be enclosed by frosted plexiglass windows, providing plenty of light for conducting business while simultaneously blocking the proceedings from any passerby.  Bob asked me, “Are they opaque?” I answered, “No, it’s frosted plexiglass.  The windows are semi-opaque.” Bob responded, “They need to be opaque, so no one can see who is in the meeting.”  My response was, “They won’t be able to see in.  They will possibly see blurred movement behind the frosted plexiglass.”  “So, it’s opaque.” “No, it’s semi-opaque.” We probably went back and forth with variations of the same question/answer process four or five times, Bob getting more emphatic that frosted plexiglass was opaque until I finally said, “let me bring you a material sample,” as a way to end the conversation. As someone who has worn nylons, stockings, and tights, I, and other women my age, am very well versed in the difference between opaque and semi-opaque.  Semi-Opaque:  not fully clear or transparent. Thus, the frosted windows were semi-opaque. 

Bob wasn’t a bad guy.  I’m unclear why he felt it was acceptable to question my intellectual acuity and English vocabulary comprehension. In other words, I’ve ruminated on the opacity of his rationale.  I doubt he would similarly question a peer, particularly a male peer.   In hindsight, I wish I had the confidence each time he questioned my “understanding” of a word to say, “Really?  Let’s look it up together!”

This recipe for Alsatian Onion Tart is adapted from the tart Andre Soltner served at Lutèce in NY. Baking the tart on a pre-heated sheet pan helps ensure a crisp bottom crust.

Alsatian Onion Tart (Zwiebelkuchen)

This is a savory tart from the Alsace Lorraine region of France. It's richer than your standard quiche; I’d expect nothing less from my Alsatian heritage. Use regular white or yellow onions – not sweet. The long, slow sautéing of the onions already sweetens them up. To gild the lily, cubed bacon can be sprinkled over the tart before baking.


  • 1 9” tart crust (homemade pâte brisée or pre-made refrigerated shell)
  • 2 yellow or white onions cut lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (with mandolin, if possible)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup grated Muenster cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Place a sheet pan on the lowest rack of the oven. Line a 9” tart pan with crust and dock. Freeze for 30 minutes.
  2. Sauté onions in a large skillet over medium-high heat with butter and salt, scraping up the browned bits occasionally, until onions are golden and tender, 20-30 minutes Set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, line tart shell with parchment paper and fill with rice, beans, or pie weights. Place tart pan on top of sheet pan and blind bake for 12 minutes. Remove parchment and rice, beans, or weights and bake another 10 minutes until sides of tart are beginning to color and bottom looks cooked. Remove from oven.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together egg, heavy cream, Muenster cheese, thyme, nutmeg, and pepper. Add egg mixture to cooled onion mixture, scraping up any remaining brown bits from bottom of pan. Pour onion mixture into tart shell and spread evenly.
  5. Bake 30–35 minutes on the sheet pan until filling is golden brown and set. If the edges of the crust brown too quickly, cover edges with foil. Cool 10 minutes and serve hot.


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