They’re here! They’re here! They’re really, truly here! And as we learned last summer, they don’t need much dressing up. A sprinkle of salt, a drizzle of olive oil, maybe a leaf of basil, and done! Summer perfection.
But wait! What if we cushioned these tomatoes in flaky, rich pastry? What if we baked them whole in the oven for close to two hours? What if that crust formed into thick, dense pillows around each tomato as it baked? What if we garnished them with flaky salt and shredded basil? Is this a world that actually exists!?
I saw this recipe in Food and Wine several months ago, looooong before tomato season and before the snarky wine article that almost made me cancel my gift subscription. The simplicity stuck in my craw, though, and as soon as I saw the vivid display of tomatoes at Blackberry Meadows Farm’s Farmers @ Firehouse table last weekend, it immediately sprang to mind.
I was initially concerned, based on a previous tomato tart experience that did not warrant a blog post (quite the opposite), that the juice from the tomatoes would make the tart ridiculously soggy and unappetizing. And indeed, during the first hour of baking, I watched juice ooze from the tomatoes and fill the tart shell with liquid. But during the second hour, either the tart shell absorbed that juice or it steamed off, and as the finished tart cooled, any remaining standing liquid disappeared. But never fear: the tomatoes were still bursting with juice – so be careful how you spear them!
P.S. This dish is also delicious as breakfast, with or without a fried egg on top.
Cherry Tomato Tart
Adapted, barely, from Food & Wine*
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Big pinch of salt
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup cold heavy cream**
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, rinsed, dried and tops removed
Shredded basil leaves
Sea salt, to garnish
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse together flour and salt. Add cubed butter to the bowl. Pulse for one second 10-15 times, or until the mixture has the consistency of a coarse meal with no large butter chunks. Pour the cream into the bowl and pulse in one-second bursts until the mixture comes together.
Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead 3-4 times, just until the full amount stays together. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten the ball into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Once dough is fully chilled, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out to a 13-14 inch round. Transfer the dough to the tart pan. Press the dough into the corners of the pan. Fold excess dough inside to make a double-thick crust layer around the pan, then cut any excess down. Press the dough into the edges of the pan; crust to extend about 1/4 inch above the sides of the pan. Mound the tomatoes in the pan, making sure that the bottom of the tart is as fully covered as you can. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake, in the center of the oven, for one hour and 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
Cool before serving to avoid hot tomato juice geysers. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and shredded basil before serving. Delicious warm or at room temperature.
*It’s difficult to adapt a recipe with only five ingredients, though I did omit buttering the tart pan. I think that a tart crust with 15 ounces of butterfat probably doesn’t need any more grease, and I was right: the tart came out of the oven sitting in a pool of butter.
**I think I may have accidentally used a cup of heavy cream instead of 1/2 cup. The computer with the recipe was upstairs and I was running back and forth, making three recipes at once. So your mileage may vary because I am as flaky as this crust. But if the dough seems dry, add more cream; this dough was the easiest-to-work-with pastry I have ever handled.
***From my two pints of cherry tomatoes, I got one full layer of tart coverage and a few stragglers in a second layer. If you want to add an extra pint, I think the crust can handle it.