Wednesday, September 21, 2011

French Tomato Tart

My husband calls our neighborhood our very own little "hippie commune".  Between the first four houses on our street (ours is the third), we've got just about everything one would need to feed her family.  All we need are some cows and pigs and we're set.  Off the top of my head I can think of fresh chicken eggs, figs, corn, tomatoes (oh so many tomatoes), green beans, herbs, melons, peppers, grapefruits, oranges and tangerines, lemons, peaches, and apples.  I brought a bag of tomatoes over to my neighbors' house yesterday and in return their lovely daughter brought me a dozen eggs later that evening.  I feel like this is what a neighborhood should be and I feel so blessed that I get to live here.

But for as many tomatoes as I have given away, I still have so many of them that I'm running out of ideas.  And, frankly, I'm getting tired of eating them.  My excitement on tasting the first ripe from the vine fruit has turned into, "Okay, what can I do with these tomatoes tonight? (Insert sigh here)".  My last resort is to can them for a later use, which I think will be happening shortly.  Any more tomatoes and I think I may turn into one. 

In my quest for creative tomato recipes, I happened upon this one for a french tomato tart that sounded like something I should try.  Think of it as sort of a french version of a pizza.  That's what the hubby called it and what it smelled like too.  But it's definitely more sophisticated.  The key here was that it was simple- few ingredients and as fresh as can be.  There are a few tweaks that I would add now that I've made it once, but it was a nice change from the tomato salads we've been having every night.  And it's really pretty.

French Tomato Tart
From David Lebovitz's blog, The Sweet Life in Paris

This is one of those recipes that you can really make your own.  Don't have a 9 inch tart pan?  Make it free form on the baking sheet and just fold the sides over the tomatoes a bit.  Don't have the cheese I used?  No problem, use what ever good-melting cheese you like (in fact the original recipe called for goat cheese, which I didn't have but would have liked to try).  Don't like thyme?  Use any other herb you have and like- go italian and use basil and fresh mozzarella, or try tarragon or chives.  It's really quite versatile.

For the tart crust:
Okay, I confess, I didn't make my own crust.  I've found an excellent one in the Trader Joe's freezer that is all-natural and has no crazy sounding ingredients.  But if you'd like to make your own, click HERE for the link to the one in the original recipe.

For the filling:
dijon mustard (regular or whole grain)  I used the whole grain, but think the plain dijon would actually be more to my taste
2 large tomatoes, sliced
a couple tablespoons fresh thyme, stripped from the stems
about 1/2 cup thinly sliced parrano cheese (a parmesean gruyere blend from Italy which I've found in the gourmet cheese section of several major grocery stores)

If making your own crust, follow the directions given following the link above and then roll it out to about a 12 inch circle.  Lay the dough into the over the tart pan and press into the bottom and the sides.  Remove any excess by running the rolling pin across the top and pinching off the dough.

Now here's where I would make changes from the recipe that I followed.  The crust, when finished, was way too soggy for my taste.  I would blind bake the crust first, which the original didn't call for.  So if, like me, you don't like soggy bottoms, prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork, then bake it in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden.  Then let cool.  If you want to take your chances, go for it and just lay the ingredients over the unbaked crust.

Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Spread a thin but even layer of the mustard over the bottom of the crust.  Lay the tomatoes over the mustard, slightly overlapping them.  Drizzle the top with a bit of olive oil and then sprinkle the thyme over.  Be generous with the herbs, please.  The flavor is wonderful.  Lay the cheese over the tomatoes and then sprinkle again with a bit more thyme.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes are tender and the cheese is nicely browned.

The tart would be a nice main course for lunch with a salad or served alongside roasted chicken for a filling dinner.

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