This has been a wonderful summer. And now it is the middle of August. The mornings are getting cooler and the sun rises later. In the evening the light has a golden tinge which signals the coming Autumn. An even surer sign of summer’s end is the sound of children waiting for the school bus. Their laughter is such a pleasant sound to wake to although I am sure they would rather not be headed back!
My tomato plants are sagging under the weight of ripening red orbs and I have eaten tomato sandwiches for lunch and dinner with an undiminished joy. But, as the summer harvest continues, even the biggest fan of tomato sandwiches has to start thinking of something else.
One of the first things that comes to my mind is a tomato tart. Layers of luscious deep red tomatoes resting on a bed of cheese and a flaky buttery pastry, doesn’t that sound good? Too bad it is so hard to achieve. No matter how long I salt my tomatoes in an effort to remove some of the water, my tarts always end up slightly mushy and the intense flavor of a fresh tomato gets lost. This year, my year of pastry, I decided I would get it right.
I had two problems to solve: how to make a decent tart base and how to capture the flavor of a ripe summer tomato fresh off the vine.
Pastry first. Did I mention the genius pastry recipe from Laura Cole in Alaska? This recipe is a gift that keeps on giving! In the past I have had issues with the pastry shrinking so that the sides disappeared when I baked it. But this time, it worked. The first time I did it.
I made the pastry using Laura’s recipe (you can find it here). When it had rested in the refrigerator for an hour, I rolled it out and fitted it into the tart pan. Because the pastry is so easy to work with I only had to roll it out once to get it right. (That unquestionably has something to do with my success.) Then it goes back into the frig to chill for at least an hour. When it is time to bake it, use a fork to poke holes all over the bottom, line it with some foil or parchment paper and fill the foil with dried beans or rice.
Cook it for ten minutes, remove the foil and cook it for a further 10-15 minutes until it is just starting to brown. Eureka! The edges stand tall in the tart pan and I can see that they have separated from the mold enough that it will be easy to remove them from the tart pan when I am finished.
On to problem number two: how to capture the flavor of a ripe summer tomato fresh off the vine. It turns out I have already solved that problem. Instead of using uncooked tomatoes in my tart, I turn to the flavor bombs I created with I dried some of my harvest in the oven. This is easy to do although it does require some thinking ahead. You can find the recipe for slow roasted tomatoes here. And, as with so many things, if you don’t want to do this step yourself, you can use good quality sun-dried tomatoes from the store.
I take some mustard, creme fraiche (or sour cream) and thyme and mix them together in a bowl
and then spread a thin layer over the bottom of the tart. Goat cheese is crumbled over this
and then the oven-dried tomatoes are layered on top.
This goes in the oven and is baked until the tomatoes are lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Pure yumminess! The tomato flavor comes through with all its richness, the cheese adds a picant bite and the pastry is buttery and flakey. Finish it with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves and enjoy summer on a plate.
You can serve this hot or at room temperature. It makes a great side dish, light lunch or appetizer!
- ½ recipe Laura Cole’s Pastry
- ¼ cup crème fraiche
- 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves chopped and divided
- ¾ cup goat cheese crumbled
- 3 cups slow-roasted tomatoes
Baking the tart shell
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a cookie sheet in the oven as it heats
- Roll out the pastry about ½” thick. Place it in the tart pan and press it lightly with your fingers along the edge of the tin to make it even with the top. Prick the tart all over with a fork. Line the tart with foil or parchment paper and fill it with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Bake the tart for ten minutes. Remove the foil and beans and continue baking until tart shell is just starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Remove and cool.
Making the tart
- Preheat the oven to 350
- Mix together crème fraiche, mustard and ½ tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves. Spread carefully on the bottom of the cooled tart base. Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese on top. Drain the slow-roasted tomatoes if they have been stored in oil. Place the tomatoes in a decorative pattern on top of the goat cheese.
- Bake the tart until are just starting to brown, about 20-25 minutes. Remove and cool slightly before removing the tart from the tin.
- Sprinkle with remaining thyme leaves and serve warm or at room temperature.