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It’s All About the Tomatoes

The tomatoes are at their best right now. I’m dreading the day, and I know it will be sooner than I’d like it to be, when the tomatoes are done for the year. It will be a sad day.

In the meantime, just as Howard is obsessed with daily ears of corn, I feel the same about tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, or regular old Jet Star tomatoes, they are all so good right now.

There are so many different ways to eat them. Plain old sliced tomatoes, tomatoes with spiced salt, with fresh mozzarella in a Salad Caprese. This week I was on a tomato tart kick. I made two different tarts and have a third planned for tomorrow.

Tart #1

The first tart was adapted from a recipe from David Lebowitz’s website. An unbaked pastry crust is slathered with a mixture of Dijon and seeded mustards. Sliced tomatoes are layered on top, then sprinkled with slivered basil, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and topped with slices of fresh goat cheese. The tart is baked until the cheese on top is starting to brown. The sharp mustard flavor is a nice counterpoint to the sweet tomatoes and the tangy goat cheese. This tart was a hit.

French Tomato Mustard Tart
Adapted from this recipe from David Lebovitz
Serves 4 to 6

Tart crust:

  • 1½ cups flour
  • 4½ oz unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2-3 Tbsp cold water

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp whole-grain (seeded) mustard
2-3 large tomatoes, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp slivered basil (or other fresh herbs)
3 oz fresh goat cheese, sliced into 6 or 7 rounds

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter, and using a pastry cutter or your hands, rub the butter into the flour until it has the texture of cornmeal. Whisk the egg with 2 Tbsp of water. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture then stir in the egg mixture with a fork, until the dough holds together. If it doesn’t come together, add the extra tablespoon of water.

On a floured surface, roll the tart dough into a 12-inch round. Fit the pastry into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Fold the edges over to reinforce the sides of the tart. Run the rolling pin across the top of the pastry to make it flush with the top of the pan. Place the tart pan on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. (The parchment will make it easier to lift the warm tart pan off the baking sheet later.)

Whisk together the two mustards in a small bowl. Spread on the base of the pastry crust. Layer the tomatoes on top of the mustard. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs, then drizzle with the olive oil Finally, arrange goat cheese rounds on top of the tomatoes.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the dough is cooked and the cheese is browned. Tomatoes should be tender.

Tart #2

The second tart recipe came from my sister Jane. The crust for this tart is made from several sheets of phyllo dough brushed with garlicky butter and stacked. The crust is topped with a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. Next come the sliced tomatoes and topped with a generous sprinkle of crumbled feta cheese. After baking, the tart gets sprinkled with slivered basil.

This tart wasn’t as good as the other, but has possibilities. For one thing, my phyllo sheets were sort of small, maybe 8½ x 11. I have a feeling that I should have used two slightly overlapped sheets for each layer to make a bigger tart. I can see puff pastry working as another option. Also, I used fresh mozzarella, and I think that was a mistake. I can’t believe I’m saying this but supermarket mozzarella would have been sturdier and might not have tasted as watery. All the flavors should work together, so I think I need to give it another chance with these adjustments.

Tomato Phyllo Tart
Serves 4

¼ cup butter, melted
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 sheets of phyllo dough
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tomatoes, sliced
4 oz feta cheese, crumbed
¼ cup slivered basil leaves

Lightly oil a large baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 375F.

Combine the butter and garlic. Place 1 phyllo sheet on the pan. Brush with butter mixture. Repeat with the remaining phyllo sheets and butter mixture.

Sprinkle phyllo with mozzarella to within 2 inches of the edges. Top with sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with feta. Roll phyllo edges to form rim. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until phyllo is crisp and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with basil just before serving.

Tart #3

Finally, I’m planning to make this Spicy Tomato Pie for lunch tomorrow.

How many more delicious tomato dishes can I make before the season’s over? If you have any suggestions, send them my way!

Summer Wind Down

I can’t believe it’s already after Labor Day and summer is unofficially over.  Next week it will be officially over with the arrival of the Autumn Equinox.

Howard will continue to eat corn until the last sweet ear.  We also starting cutting kernels off of cobs and freezing for the winter. This Sunday’s Globe magazine has some amazing-looking corn soup recipes, so I see one of those in our future eating.

I can tell the days for summer tomatoes are numbered, but I’m making the most of them. I made two tasty tomato dishes this week, both worthy of sharing.

First was a spicy tomato pie.  It made a great lunch, both fresh out of the oven, and reheated at work.  The pie sandwiches fresh tomatoes between a peppery biscuit dough.  The tomatoes are covered with grated cheese and a spicy mayonnaise.  Howard found it a little too spicy, but I loved it!  I used a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, so my pie only had two layers of tomatoes.  If I had used a regular pie pan, which would have been deeper, I could have had more layers.

Spicy Tomato Pie
Adapted from The Good Cook’s Book Of Tomatoes by Michele Anna Jordan
Serves 6-8

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt plus more for sprinkling the tomatoes
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup milk
3 or 4 medium ripe tomatoes, seeded and sliced
A generous handful of cilantro, chopped coarsely
2 – 4 oz grated smoked cheddar cheese
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp chopped chipotle in adobo sauce
Juice from ½ lime

To make the biscuit crust: Mix together the flour, pepper, salt and baking powder.  With your fingers, quickly work the butter into the flour until it is the consistency of coarse-grain sand.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the milk into the well.  Using a fork, mix quickly, until the dough comes together.  It will be soft and sticky.  Turn onto a WELL-floured surface.  Knead the dough for about 30 seconds. Then let it rest for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the dough in half.  Roll our one half to fit the bottom of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Line the pan with the dough.

Cover the pie dough in the pan with a layer of tomato slices.  Sprinkle with a little kosher salt, and some chopped cilantro.  Repeat with another layer.  Top the tomatoes with the grated cheese.  Thin the mayonnaise with the lime juice and whisk in the chopped chipotle.  Spread the mayonnaise mixture over the surface of the pie.

Roll out the other half of the dough and place over the top of the pie, pinching the edges of the top and bottom crust to seal.  Cut some slits to allow the steam to escape.  If you want to, brush the surface with cream or an egg wash.

Bake until the pie is hot all the way through and the crust is golden, about 25 minutes.  Let the pie rest for 15 minutes before serving. Loosen the edges of the tart pan and remove the outside piece (leaving the pie on the base). Cut into wedges to serve.

I also went to a potluck dinner this week, hosted by Teresa from Farm Share Stories Farm Share Stories .  She invited the food bloggers who participated in the Loving Local blogathon a few weeks ago to her home.  My contribution to the bountiful table of good food was a new bread salad I concocted.  The salad was a sort of deconstructed pesto bread salad, with a vivid green basil dressing.  I have a new batch of croutons waiting to be made into this salad again for dinner tonight.  This time I’m going to try adding a clove of garlic to the dressing to make it more pesto-y.

Deconstructed Pesto Bread Salad
Serves 6-8

For Basil Dressing:
½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For Salad:
4 – 5 cups homemade croutons, ¾ to 1-inch cubes
2 large tomatoes, diced
½ cup diced red onion
½ cup pine nuts, toasted

To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in the blender and puree until smooth.

To make the salad, place croutons and remaining ingredients in a very large bowl. Toss gently to combine. Add the dressing and toss to coat all ingredients well.

Let the salad sit about 10 minutes before serving so the bread can soften up a bit.

You can prepare the ingredients up to a day ahead of time.  Don’t combine the ingredients more than an hour before serving because the salad will get too soggy.  Leftovers don’t keep that well.