Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Tomato Tart

Here is something you probably don't know about me. I love tomatoes. I love anything tomatoes. I love fresh tomatoes, cooked tomatoes, tomato juice (yes that's me ordering tomato juice on the plane), tomato sauce, tomato ANYTHING! I also love tarts. The flaky crust, the surprising fillings. I have many versions for tarts. Most of them have more than one vegetable in them. I decided to make this a one veg show. It's all about the tomatoes here.

Slices of fresh tomatoes layered with bread crumbs and seasoned farmers cheese, baked in the oven till crisp to perfection.
I never buy ready made crust. Not for pies or tarts. I really like the flavor of a freshly made buttery crust. It makes a huge difference and is really easy.

I love farmers cheese because its a blank canvas. If you have never tasted farmers cheese, it's very similar to ricotta in that it's very texturized, but its thicker. If you flip a spoonful of ricotta it will fall. If you do the same with farmers cheese, it will stay. Get it? And it doesn't really have any flavor. I think that's why it has a simple name like farmers cheese. The farmer makes it, you do with it as you like.  I seasoned mine with a little salt,  pepper and garlic powder. For this dish, that's all the seasoning you need.                                                    
The only thing I would add to this is some bits of butter. Because what I didn't realize is that farmers cheese doesn't melt and get all bubbly in the oven. It just gets browned and crisp, which is great but if this bubbled, it would be all that much better. Don't you think?                                                                                            
So as you can see its a layering of tomatoes, seasoning, bread crumbs, cheese and repeat with the top layer being the cheese of course.  You can use goat cheese here instead, but I feel that it gets too salty and steals the show from the tomatoes. What you want to taste when you take a bite is fresh and juicy summery tomatoes. I love the crisp topping. It balances out all the juiciness from the tomatoes, although this recipe does call for squeezing the tomatoes a bit before slicing them, so it's not too soggy.

Summer Tomato Tart
Serves 8

For the dough:
6 cups flour
1 1/2 sticks cold butter (if you are making this with margarine, I recommend sticking them in the freezer as they don't get as hard as butter does when it comes out of the fridge. And you really want the fat to melt in the oven not on your counter)
1/4 tsp salt
6-7 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
6 medium vine ripe tomatoes.
1/2 cup farmers cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp for cheese
1/2 tsp pepper + 1/4 tsp. for cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Pre heat oven to 350.
In a bowl combine flour and salt. Cube cold butter or margarine and cut into the flour. You can this quicker with a food processor so that it pulses till its crumbly but still large bits of butter throughout, which is actually why I like to do this by hand. I can control how large my butter chunks are. Once the dough is coarsely crumbled, add the enough ice water to make a soft but sticky dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
When dough is chilled, roll between two sheets of parchment paper and apply to a greased tart pan or pie dish. Cover the dough with foil and pour a bag of dried beans on top. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard beans. Bake again uncovered for another 15 minutes. In a small bowl combine cheese with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and garlic powder. Slice the top off the tomato and gently squeeze to remove excess juice. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Layer the tart. First put slices of tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle on bread crumbs and crumble cheese. Repeat layer.Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cheese and breadcrumbs are browned.

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