The other day I did The Right Thing, visited my local Greenmarket, and bought a couple of tomatoes. Heirlooms being heirlooms, and New York being New York, they set me back about $8—so I really wanted to use them in a special way. For a few days, they sat on the kitchen counter, growing dangerously sloppy and sweet. And then the weekend rolled around and I finally had time to make a tomato tart.
For years, I’d been eyeing a recipe from the Once Upon a Tart… cookbook, which has some of my favorite recipes for bean salads, cold soups, and cookies. The book sprang from the popular Soho café of the same name, and the authors/owners pay tribute to a French grandmother with a tarte aux tomates à la Provençale. A traditional French tomato tart doesn’t use custard; instead you simply brush pâte brisée with mustard, add a thin layer of grated cheese, and another of sliced tomatoes, before baking in a blistering oven. The result is light, simple, summery.
Because I can never leave well enough alone, I noodled around on the internets until I found another tomato tart, this one from David Lebovitz. His version tops the tomatoes with fresh goat cheese, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of herbes de Provence. Inspired by both tarts, I decided to go au pif and use the parts of each recipe that I liked best, as well as the ingredients I already had on hand.
This meant pre-baking my crust, draining the sliced tomatoes, using grated Gruyère, and a sprinkle of dried thyme and oregano instead of herbes de Provence. As a final flourish, I drizzled over a slow trickle of honey.
I had a little scrap of pastry dough leftover, so I rolled it out to create a mini, free-form galette. (I wanted to see if pre-baking the crust was necessary — it’s not.) Everything got popped in a very hot oven until the pastry turned golden, the tomatoes wilted and the juices began to bubble. As it turned out, my mini-galette baked up just as golden and crisp as the other, with the honey melting into a subtle sweetness that made the tomatoes taste like pure sunshine.
I loved my tomato tart but for one problem — it disappeared way too quickly. And so, a few days later, I made another — this one entirely free-form — using Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for galette dough. Because I didn’t use a tart pan, or prebake the dough, my third tart came together even more quickly than the first, which is good news if you want to eat this in a hurry (and you do! You do!).
Note: Feel free to experiment with different cheeses and herbs — fresh mint and basil would be lovely, for example. The tart tastes best warm or at room temperature, and is very transportable, as I discovered when I trundled it to Brooklyn the next day.
1 recipe pâte brisée (see below)
1-2 large ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Gruyère (or another hard cheese)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1-2 tablespoons honey
Cut the tomatoes into even slices and drain them in a colander. Prepare the tart dough (see below).
Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
When the oven is hot, remove the tart dough from the fridge, and spread a thin layer of mustard over the base of the pastry, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border around the edges. Allow the mustard to dry for a minute or two. Scatter over the cheese, half the herbs, and a grind of black pepper. Arrange the tomatoes, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle over the rest of the herbs, another grind or two of pepper, and drizzle the honey. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the tomatoes have shriveled and the pastry is golden.
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick, 115 grams) butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/4 cup ice water
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and use your hands to rub it into the flour, until you’ve broken the butter into pea-sized lumps. Using a fork, stir in 2 tablespoons of ice water. Pinch a bit of dough — it should hold together; it it doesn’t, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Lightly knead the dough until all the water has been incorporated and a dough has formed (I do this right in the mixing bowl). Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disk, and roll it between two sheets of parchment paper to roughly a 12-inch diameter. Place the dough in the fridge to rest while the oven heats.