I am on The Kitchn email list so that I can get inspiration for new menus. I keep cooking the same few things that are easy for me and want to add a few new things to change up the menu rotation a bit, especially as the season changes.
I saw this recipe in my inbox that morning and when I walked into Central Market later in the day the first thing I see is a big pile of Jacksonville, Texas tomatoes. So I take it as a sign that I should make the tomato tart recipe and pick out a couple of tomatoes.
I think a little more context about Jacksonville tomatoes is needed here. Jacksonville is a small town a couple of hours southeast of Dallas near where I grew up, and my parents still live in the area. Production of tomatoes earned the city the title “Tomato Capital of the World” and there is an event in June of every year called “Tomato Fest” where they boast the “World’s Largest Bowl of Salsa.” There is also the Tomato Bowl Stadium for the high school in downtown Jacksonville that was built out of red iron ore rock by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. So know you know everything I remember about Jacksonville tomatoes.
Funny thing, I am not a huge fan of tomatoes on their own, so I am not quite sure why I wanted to make this tart. I don’t really like raw tomatoes at all unless they have been marinated, like pico de gallo with lime or lemon juice, or bruschetta with balsamic vinegar or made into a smooth, not chunky, pasta sauce. Mostly, I don’t like the texture or the mushy seedy interior so you won’t ever see me eat a plain tomato slice on a sandwich or a hamburger, that is just gross to me!
But this tart was delicious. The puff pastry base was light and perfect with just enough mozzarella to hold everything together but not be overwhelming. I changed up the original recipe a bit adding onions and garlic and skipping the basil. A generous sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano on top really melted into the tomatoes in a perfect way.
I also made homemade puff pastry for the first time ever for this tart. I had not read the ingredients all the way through and only realized when I got home that the recipe called for frozen puff pastry. So I remembered that in one of my favorite baking books there was a recipe for Instant Puff Pastry made in the food processor so I whipped up a batch. It makes two portions of pastry so I still have one portion to use for something else later. (Or maybe just make another one of these tarts!)
The recipe says to let the tomatoes drain on paper towels for a full thirty minutes to make sure that your tart is not soggy. So I used that time to assemble a nice big green salad with spinach, baby spring leaf lettuce, carrots, and some leftover crumbled bacon topped with a nice balsamic vinaigrette.
It made a great meal, and even though it was like 103 degrees outside, I was able to make this tart without getting the kitchen or myself all overheated. So if you are smart and remember to buy frozen puff pastry, the whole thing goes together really fast!
Summer Tomato Cheese Tart
Adapted from Three Cheese Tomato Tart at The Kitchn
1 ripe tomato, cut into 1/8-inch slices (or as thick or thin as you like)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
( I used 1/2 recipe of Nick Malgieri’s Instant Puff Pastry, recipe follows)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
Red onion, finely sliced
Chopped basil, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°.
Lay out the tomato slices on a large sheet of paper towels. Cover with more paper towels and allow to drain for approximately 30 minutes (this is crucial to not getting a watery tart). Meanwhile, remove the sheet of puff pastry from the freezer and allow to thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Unfold the puff pastry onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, pinching to close any holes in the seams. Using a fork, prick the dough all over to prevent it from puffing up too much during baking.
Brush the tablespoon of olive oil all over the entire puff pastry. Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese and a little of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Arrange the tomato slices over the cheese. Spread out the chopped garlic and onion slices even over the tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top and garnish with freshly chopped basil if desired.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Remove the pastry from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Cool for a couple of minutes to set, then cut into squares and serve immediately.
Instant Puff Pastry
The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup cold water
- Combine flour and salt in a bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.
- Cut each stick of butter into large chunks and add to bowl. Pulse twice.
- Remove the cover and use at thin-bladed metal spatula to stir the flour and butter mixture up from the bottom of the bowl. Cover and pulse twice more.
- Add the water and pulse twice more. Repeat step 3.
- Invert the food processor bowl over a floured work surface and turn out the dough. Carefully remove the blade and transfer any dough on it to the work surface. Press the dough into a rough rectangle. (There will be largish chunks of butter remaining in the dough which is what you want. If butter is exposed in the dough as you work with it, just pinch some flour over that spot to help work it into the dough.)
- Flour the dough and press (don’t roll yet) with a rolling-pin to flatten. Move the dough, making sure there is still flour under it to prevent it from sticking, and give the dough a 90-degree turn. Press again. You are just trying to get it all together before
- Again making sure the surface and the dough are adequately floured, roll the dough into a large rectangle, making sure to use enough flour that it does not stick to the surface so that it can be folded easily.
- From the bottom edge closest to you, fold the bottom third over the middle third and the top third over the that. Press the dough a little with the rolling-pin to seal.
- You will now have a long skinny rectangle of folded dough at this point. I cut this rectangle in half to make two portions, one to use now, and one to use later.
- Wrap each portion in plastic wrap and chill for 1 1/2 hours.
- Take one portion from the fridge at a time and roll it into a rectangle again and repeat the prior folding technique until you have a long skinny rectangle once again, and add one more fold from top down to make a shorter rectangle. This gives you more flaky layers to your finished pastry. Repeat with the other half of reserved dough. Wrap the extra portion of dough in plastic wrap and store in a plastic bag. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days or freeze for later use.