Friday, August 31, 2012
Summer's Last Hurrah
I have wasted an hour an a half trying to come up with something interesting to say here. I've typed something and then read some gossip sites. I've deleted it, typed something else and then taken out the trash. I've stared at it, turned off the air conditioning, opened all the windows in a bid to make the still vaguely-weird-possibly-smokey smell leave my apartment. I've deleted what I've written again.
I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS. I have to work on Tuesday. This is my last actual day of vacation. The last day when everyone else is working but I'm on summer break. I need to be reading trashy novels, using up summer sale coupons that expire on the last day of August, watching HGTV and endlessly snacking. I cannot spend my time trying to find the exact right way to wax poetic on the subject of heirloom tomatoes.
And let's not even get into how the tomatoes deserve better than my paltry prose. Heirlooms are the crown jewels of summer. To heck with those perfectly round, perfectly red globes that try to convince you that they taste as good as they look (usually, with the exception of a Jersey summer tomato, they don't). Heirlooms may be lumpy and misshapen and have weird gray blemish looking cracks on them, but they are where the flavor is. One of my favorite little local farmer's markets, Sansone's, usually sets out an amazing tasting tray. There are tiny chunks of tomatoes, sweet juicy yellows, deep flavorful reds that are nearly purple, green striped tangy ones. Tomato stops being a single flavor and becomes a whole world of nuanced variety.
Heirlooms don't need recipes. Most of the time, you just drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle a little salt and you're done. But everyone once in awhile, you may find yourself with a bounty of heirlooms or you may need to whip up a vegetarian dish for a Labor Day celebration. This heirloom tomato tart will fit the bill. The tomatoes aren't cooked, so they'll still be juicy and the cheese is delicate and won't overpower the real star of the dish. So you go ahead and put together something delicious to eat for summer's last hurrah. I'll be here on the sofa reveling in my last day off.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO TART
inspired by epicurious and Food52
INGREDIENTS FOR BLACK PEPPER PARMESAN CRUST:
1 1/2 C flour
1 stick of butter (8 T) - chopped into small cubes and kept very cold
1/4 t black pepper
3 T parmesan
DIRECTIONS FOR THE CRUST:
In a food processor (I use a stand mixer because I don't have a big food processor, so you can do it in a stand mixer or by hand if you like), combine the flour and black pepper and parm. Then add the butter and mix until it's a sort of sandy consistency. Once it's reached that consistency, begin adding ice water about a tablespoon at a time. You want the dough to hold together but not get too wet. When you can form it into a ball, you're done. I shape it into a flattened disk and refrigerate it for awhile so it will be easier to work with later. I think I chilled it about a half an hour.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the dough on a well floured surface. I used a 10 1/2" pie dish for this pie. When the dough is large enough, drape it over the pie plate and press it into place. Then lay a piece of foil over it and add pie weights or dried beans or pennies to the center. You will be blind baking the pie. If you don't know what blind baking is, check out the Pie Maven's explanation. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, then remove and let cool. You're going to have a very damp filling, so if you want to try Pie Maven's tip for moisture proofing, that might be a good idea. I am definitely going to try it next summer. You just remove the pie weights and foil about 5 minutes before the end of baking and using a pastry brush, apply an egg wash to the bottom and a bit up the sides. An egg wash is simply an egg beaten with a bit of milk or water (usually around 1-2 t of the liquid per egg). Then you return the pie to the oven for the last 5 minutes of baking.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING:
heirloom tomatoes (1 used 1 1/2 large ones), sliced thinly
1 1/2 C mascarpone cheese
1/2 C grated Parmigiano Reggiano
fresh mozzarella (I used half of a small ball)
salt and pepper
1 t balsamic vinegar
DIRECTIONS FOR THE FILLING:
Slice the tomatoes around a half hour to hour in advance and set them on a rack (like you use to cool cookies). Under the rack, lay a few layers of paper towels (I usually put the paper towels and the rack all on top of a cookie sheet with an edge (sometimes called a jelly-roll pan) so that the liquid won't go anywhere). Anyway, your goal is to dry out those tomatoes a bit Feel free to remove the seeds and sprinkle them with salt before you let them sit. Then right before you use them, pat them dry.
Prepare your mascarpone. Take the cheese and mix in the parm plus some salt and pepper, a good pinch of each and some lemon. I didn't have a lemon, but I wished I did. Start with a teaspoon or so of freshly squeezed juice and then taste it. Mascarpone is creamy and delicate. You don't want to overpower it, but nor do you want it to be bland. It should taste yummy. Feel free to adjust the salt, pepper and parm as you see fit.
Slice your mozzarella very thin as well.
Time to assemble! Use around a third of the mascarpone to cover the bottom of the pie crush. Smooth it into an even layer. Lay down a layer of heirloom tomato slices, use the ugliest ones, these are getting buried. Seriously, ignore all those pictures online of beautiful tomato tarts. Real heirlooms are lumpy and bumpy and you'll be lucky if you get attractive slices at all. I used a combination of yellow and red heirlooms for mine, so my first layer was yellows. Then lay down a layer of mozzarella and drizzle over the balsamic vinegar. Then lay down a layer of red heirlooms. Then smooth down the rest of the mascarpone (I didn't quite have enough, so I increased the amount of mascarpone for this recipe so that you WILL have enough). Finally, using the prettiest tomato slices, create your top layer. Serve this soon! The sooner the better! The tomatoes will try to moisten up everything else, so just go for it. We had a lot left over, and it was fine, not too mushy and certainly not gross, but it wasn't all that pretty to look at.