Love in the Time of Coriander

Thoughts on food & more.

Friday, August 05, 2005

I'm a sucker for tarts

Friends called at the last minute yesterday, visiting from Seattle and wondered about our plans. "Come on over!" I said and promised a meal. I knew I wanted to cook an I'll-miss-you-sweetie meal for E before he embarked on a camping trip this weekend. Suddenly, with more people to cook for, the plans came together. I was justified to spend hours in the kitchen putting something delicious together.

I eyed a recipe from the most recent issue of Bon Appetit: an oven-dried tomato, goat cheese, and black olive tart. The contents of it looked right up my alley but I was wary of the puff pastry crust. I must say that I'm not a huge fan of puff pastry for savory tarts. They seem like an unnecessarily greasy shortcut to other, more appropriate crusts. I spent time looking around and finally found a black pepper and parmesan crust that seemed a good match for the tart. I also found this on as part of an heirloom tomato tart recipe. The following two recipes, with my edits, are exerpted from the magazine.

Here's what I put together:

Crust Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Filling Ingredients:
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 medium tomatoes or large romas, cored, halved crosswise, seeded
2 small garlic cloves, thinly slivered
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme, divided
1 cup coarsely grated skim-milk mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup soft fresh goat cheese (about 4 ounces)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Making the tomatoes
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil; brush foil with 1 tablespoon oil. Place tomato halves, cut side up, on baking sheet. Sprinkle garlic and 1 tablespoon thyme over tomatoes; drizzle remaining 1/4 cup oil over. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake until tomatoes begin to shrink and are slightly dried but still soft, at least and an hour and up to 2 hours. Cool tomatoes on sheet. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store in single layer in covered container in refrigerator.)

Making the tart crust
Blend together flour, butter, shortening, parmesan, pepper, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size lumps. Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water over and gently stir with a fork (or pulse in food processor) until incorporated. Gently squeeze a small handful: If it doesn't hold together without falling apart, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) after each addition until incorporated, continuing to test. (Do not overwork dough, or it will become tough.)

Turn out dough onto a work surface and divide into 2 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather both portions of dough into 1 ball, then pat into a disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round and fit into a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable rim. Roll rolling pin over top of pan to trim dough flush with rim. Lightly prick tart shell all over with a fork. Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights, rice, or dried beans. Bake in middle of oven 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and bake until golden, about 15 minutes more. Cool in pan on a rack.

Making the filling:
Meanwhile, using fork, mash mozzarella cheese, goat cheese, and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme together in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add eggs and milk and stir until mixture is well blended. Spread cheese filling evenly in crust. Arrange tomato halves in filling, cut side up. Place olives between tomatoes. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese evenly over top.

Bake until filling is puffed and set, about 35 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Push up pan bottom, releasing sides. Serve tart warm. Makes 6 servings.

The tart was an incredible hit! The oven-dried tomatoes are what make it out-of-this-world. You might be able to get away with using sun-dried tomatoes, but I can't imagine that the taste won't be compromised. The way this recipe is written, though labor intensive, ensures that you'll lock in all the flavor of fresh, delicious tomatoes. If the task of cooking tomatoes for two hours doesn't appeal, though, make sure to use Romas or other non-watery varieties of tomatoes and shave an hour or so off the end of the cooking time. I cranked up the heat a little and took out the tomatoes around the 1 hour and 15 minute-mark, and they were still quite incredible. If you do this, however, you'll just have to watch them to make sure you don't burn them.

Also, I amended the original recipe a bit because I didn't have whipping cream or whole-milk mozzarella, which is what the recipe calls for. What I used, whole milk and skim-milk mozzarella, worked out incredibly well and didn't pose a problem for the texture or the taste of the tart. Last but certainly not least, the original recipe says that it offers 6-8 servings, but our dinner party of 4 devoured the whole thing. Yup, what can I say? It was that bad-ass.

And guess what? I got so busy with the serving and eating the tart that I forgot to take a photo. Sorry, folks!


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