As summer comes to a close, I can’t help but want to eat tomatoes, corn and all sorts of seasonal food right now. Usually I get really excited about the fall and the food (soups, stews, roasted butternut squash, root veggies, etc.), but this year I’m holding onto summer with my foodie claws.
We went to visit my family a while back, and my parent’s neighbors had a cocktail party. The couple was French – in fact, the woman hadn’t spoken English in 5 years. Regardless, she had made a big tomato tart for the occasion. It looked gorgeous, and she explained to me in a heavy French accent that it was tomatoes, caramelized onions, and mustard. The only problem was that the tomatoes had given up so much moisture they were soggy and sliding off of the tart base, which was made with phyllo dough.
I tucked the idea into the back of my brain, and finally had an occasion to make these: relatives visiting! My Aunt Mojra and cousin Gillian (with her three adorable children in tow) came to stay for a few days, and I thought this would be a nice snack/appetizer to make. Mojra and Gillian are vegetarians, so I also wanted it to be a veggie dish.
Perfect timing. Can we just talk about how GORGEOUS tomatoes are right now? I almost fainted at the farmer’s market. I would suggest you make this soon, if you’re wanting to enjoy summer foods for a few more weeks.
A few notes about how I approached this dish.
1. I didn’t like the slimy texture of the French lady’s tart, and I was positive it was because the tomatoes hadn’t been salted. When you slice tomatoes and sprinkle salt on them, it forces them to give up their juices. In turn, you can pat them dry (firmly), and it will keep the dough from getting soggy.
2. I wanted a layer of “something” to protect the crust from the tomato, in case my salting trick didn’t work. I thought about butter, even mayonnaise, but I settled on cheese (sharp cheddar to be exact). It paid off – the crust was crispy and light.
3. Lastly, I didn’t want to cut the tart into pieces. I wanted them to be individual bites – hence the round shape. For presentation purposes, I mounded the caramelized red onion on top of the tomato; I thought between the flavor and the appearance of the tart, we had ourselves a winner.
FRENCH TOMATO TARTS
I would suggest using your favorite tomato, but please not Romas. I love Roma tomatoes when they are a component of a dish, but not the star. You can use whatever color you like best (yellow, red, purple, green), as long as they are ripe. Store your tomatoes stem end down – that will help prevent moisture from accumulating at the stem and keep them from going bad faster.
Makes 15 tarts.
In advance, you’ll want to make some Caramelized Red Onions. I really prefer the taste of caramelized red onion, but you can use whatever onion you like best. It only takes one big red onion for this recipe.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Slice into 1/2 inch slices:
Place a layer of paper towels down onto a plate and put the tomato slices onto the paper towels. Sprinkle each tomato slice with a pinch of kosher salt. Allow them to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. You will notice that the tomatoes will give up their moisture and soak the paper towels through – good! Take another paper towel and firmly press the top of each tomato slice, removing all excess moisture.
Now that you’ve salted your tomatoes and caramelized your onions, you’ll need to cut the pastry rounds.
Using a biscuit cutter (or a glass as a guide), cut out 15 rounds from:
2 store bought pre-made pie crusts (Pillsbury’s are great)
Lay the pie crust rounds out onto a cookie sheet – there’s no need to butter it. Sprinkle each pie crust with a tablespoon of:
sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
On top of the cheese layer, add a tomato slice. Sprinkle each tomato slice with:
a pinch fresh thyme, chopped
Once your Caramelized Red Onions are ready, mix them in a bowl with:
1 tbsp. dijon mustard (honey dijon is also nice here)
Mound 2 tbsp. of the caramelized onion/mustard mixture onto the top of each tart. The finished product will look like this:
Let cool for 5-10 minutes, and serve! These are also good at room temperature, so you can probably make them in advance.
I was so proud of them! Crispy, savory and full of tomato flavor. Hurray for summertime!