One is sweet, not cloyingly so, but in an elegant understated way. She was introduced to me only recently. The other is the salty kind, not too bitingly so, but in an interesting-personality kind of way. She has always been a favorite of mine.
No, I’m not talking about two loose women who like to wear sexy clothes. I’m talking about two tomato tarts, one sweet, the other savory. What, you don’t refer to food as he/she? Trust me, if you’re making tomato tarts, all of a sudden they’re she!
It’s hard to believe, by the way, that they both use the same main ingredient. The end results are startlingly different in taste. Which shows that you should look at tomatoes in an entirely different way, with more respect, much more, for their versatility.
(Sweet) Tomato Tarte Tatin
It shouldn’t be a surprise that tomatoes make good desserts. After all, technically they are fruits, berries even. This recipe comes from Bon Appétit Magazine. I just added cinnamon and used cherry tomatoes.
1 3/4 pounds plum tomatoes (8 large)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed, corners cut off to make very rough 9- to 10-inch round
Lightly sweetened whipped cream
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring large saucepan of water to boil. Cut shallow X in bottom of each tomato. Add 4 tomatoes to boiling water. Blanch tomatoes just until skins at X begin to peel back, 15 to 30 seconds. Using slotted spoon, transfer blanched tomatoes to bowl of ice water to cool quickly. Repeat with remaining tomatoes. Peel tomatoes. Cut out cores, halve lengthwise, and remove seeds. (I used cherry tomatoes, so I skipped this step altogether.)
2. Spread butter over bottom of 9 1/2-inch-diameter, 2- to 3-inch-deep ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron). Sprinkle 3/4 cup sugar over butter. Arrange tomato halves, rounded side down and close together, in concentric circles in skillet to fill completely.
3. Place skillet over medium heat. Cook until sugar and butter are reduced to thickly bubbling, deep amber syrup (about 1/4 inch deep in bottom of skillet), moving tomatoes occasionally to prevent burning, about 25 minutes. (I also added a cinnamon stick.) Remove skillet from heat. Immediately drizzle vanilla over tomatoes. Top with pastry round. Using knife, tuck in edges of pastry. Cut 2 or 3 small slits in pastry. Place skillet in oven and bake tart until pastry is deep golden brown, about 24 minutes. (I made smaller tarts, so I cut my puff pastry to fit the small pans. They needed barely 20 minutes in the oven.)
4. Cool tart in skillet 10 minutes. Cut around sides of skillet to loosen pastry. Place large platter over skillet. Using oven mitts as aid, hold skillet and platter firmly together and invert, allowing tart to settle onto platter. Carefully lift off skillet. Rearrange any tomato halves that may have become dislodged.
5. Serve tart warm or at room temperature with whipped cream. (Or vanilla ice cream. Perfect for a day like today. We’re having summer all over again!)
(Savory) Tomato Bacon Tart
This recipe should be a good idea for those of you who grow a garden. I’m assuming that many of you will be left with green or under ripe tomatoes by the end of the growing season. They are perfect to use in this tart.
The pastry crust
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
2 sticks cold butter
1/2 cup cold milk
1. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Using a fork or a pastry blender, cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (Very coarse crumbs. I like to see a few chunks of butter in mine. I think it makes for flakier crust.)
2. Sprinkle cold milk one tablespoon at a time. Toss and mix with a fork, until dough is just moist enough to form a ball when pressed together.
3. Divide dough into two portions. Shape each into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. This recipe makes enough crust for 8-9 tarts (4.5 inches). You can halve the recipe, if you prefer. I like to make extra pastry, and freeze the extra.
2 medium-size green or under ripe tomatoes or several small ones, sliced thinly
1/2 small onion, diced
5 slices of bacon, fried until crisp, then crumbled
1 cup shredded cheese (I used smoked gouda)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp half & half
Fresh herbs (chives, parsley, thyme), chopped finely
Making the tarts
1. Pre-heat oven to 375° F.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut pastry to fit your tart pans. Try not to stretch pastry because it’ll cause it to shrink in the oven. Work quickly to avoid pastry to become sticky. If it does, return it to the refrigerator. I like to refrigerate my lined tart pans, too, prior to baking. Cold pastry creates flaky crust.
3. Poke pastry several times with a fork, then bake for 10 minutes, or until pastry is set (partially cooked) but not brown. If it bubbles over, just push it down with a spatula.
4. Put a layer of bacon on the bottom of the crust, then the tomatoes, then onion. Mix beaten eggs with half & half and pour it over to reach just below the top of the tarts. Sprinkle the grated cheese, and fresh herbs.
5. Return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and the centers of the tarts have puffed up.
6. This is a recipe for 4 (4.5 inches) tarts.
The Tomato Debate
I once was caught between two people arguing about how to best enjoy fresh tomatoes, with salt or sugar. I was a green tomato then, with very little experience in gardening and cooking, so I couldn’t offer any help with the debate. If only I knew what I know now about tomatoes, I could have achieved world peace. Not really, but maybe I could have prevented an awkward dinner.
Professor Dan always invited his graduate students to an end-of-semester dinner at his house. As a way of recognizing their hard work, I suppose. After all, graduate school was very demanding and rigorous. I wasn’t a graduate student, but I was a guest of one of his invitees.
Sitting across from me were two impressive graduate students. Hiromi was from Japan, and Jin Nie was from China. As far as I could tell, they were friends and had no prior animosity toward one another, at least before the dinner.
I had no idea how the debate started. As I recall, there weren’t even tomatoes on the dinner menu. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the one who brought up the subject of tomatoes, even though I remember now that I was starting to grow a garden at the time. At any rate, I refuse any degree of responsibility and deny any level of culpability. The only thing I was guilty of was the inability to moderate the debate so it would end in an amicable way.
So, anyway, according to Hiromi, a little salt would bring out the true flavor of tomatoes. She was adamant and was noticeably shocked to hear a disagreement coming from Jin Nie, who happened to think that Hiromi needed to think outside the box and give tomatoes laced with sugar a try, before declaring salt to be the best substance to accompany tomatoes.
Then, they both turned to me and asked me to make the final call. Salt or sugar? Jin Nie looked at me with her eyes wide open, imploring, so I said sugar. Now Hiromi screeched her voice a little, threw her hands in the air, and said,”What?! That’s the strangest thing I’ve ever heard in my life!” She made me feel I was being preposterous. Yes, I started to feel it. It was ridiculous to eat tomatoes with sugar, so I said salt.
Now, they both looked at me with obvious exasperation. I looked at Hiromi, then at Jin Nie, and I made the final call. “I eat my tomatoes with both salt and sugar, really,” I said, very unconvincingly. They looked at me for a second, didn’t offer any more words, then went back to their dinner. Thankfully, next to me sat Kathy, who was now just inquiring what was my major. But the scene in front of me continued in awkward silence, and there was nothing I could say to remedy the situation.
Of course you all know, as I now know, that tomatoes taste great with either salt or sugar, but really the best with both salt and sugar. What, you’ve never enjoyed tomatoes that way, splashed with a little bit of cream? Well, you need to give it a try, because that, ladies and gentlemen, is truly the best way to enjoy a fresh tomato!