Summer showstopper: tomato, herb and cheese tart

The recipe today is not my original creation, but one I have altered slightly for my largest tart pan. I’ve been in love with this recipe since 1993 when it appeared in Bon Appetite Magazine as the first course in a French themed dinner party feature. This one recipe includes 4 of my favorite ingredients all in one recipe – fresh herbs, fresh tomatoes, Gruyère cheese and butter. The tomatoes are just coming into season in my area and these are in indeed local – from my patio!

My daughter just plucked these tomatoes – our first of the season (her first home-grown ‘maters in her life) a few days ago. They turned out to be just barely under-ripe so we had to wait an excruciating 2 more days to use (eat) them. Of course I already knew I had to make “the tart” – I had been fantasizing about it since the day we stuck those plants in their pots over 6 weeks ago. It is my traditional “first tomato” recipe – well after slicing into one of the beauties to selfishly (and secretly) build and devour a BLT – with a slather of mayo on toasted bread. Yum.

This ‘pie’ looks and smells so lovely – like summer in a tart pan. The tender crusts presents a buttery stage for the tomatoes, herbs and cheese to shine. The original recipe makes a slightly larger tart but since my largest pan with a removable bottom is 12 inches in diameter I adjusted the recipe. Usually I still have a little dough left over. This is a delicious chef’s (or chef’s helper) treat – roll out the dough thin, sprinkle with fresh Parmesan, cut into strips, bake and voilà, delicious “straws”.

You can also make this tart into individual sized portions with small tart pans and  the recipe can easily be doubled if you need tarts for a crowd. I love this as a first course with a glass of pinot noir or cool Prosecco.  Add a side salad and you’ ve got a nice light lunch. The tart keeps very well refrigerated for a day or two after baking… if any lasts that long!

Herbs from my garden (patio pots) as well the tomatoes. The crust is simple to make and I am not showing a step by step on it, but the recipe is below.

Drain the tomato slices on paper towels.

Oregano, basil and thyme washed, dried and minced.

Slice the cheese fairly thin but more importantly in an even thickness. I like Gruyère but Emmenthal is very good too.

Roll out the dough quickly and use a light touch.

With an especially buttery dough, like this recipe, I find it easier to use the rolling pin to assist in moving the rolled out dough to the pan.

remove the excess dough from around the edge of the crust and prick the bottom and sides with a fork (or use foil with pie weights). Freeze for 15 minutes before pre-baking.

Layer the cheese slices first in the cooled crust.

Next, add the drained tomato slices, overlapping a little.

Here come the herbs! Sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese on top and a few cracks of fresh pepper add zing.

Out of the oven posing with it’s “name sake” recipe from Bon Appetite, circa 1993. Relatively few – but exceedingly fresh – ingredients and a quick-to-put-together butter crust make this a summer showstopper.

Tomato, Herb & Cheese Tart

  • 1 recipe crust (see below)
  • 3-4 ripe tomatoes, cut into ¼” slices
  • 6 ounces Emmenthal or Gruyère cheese, sliced thin
  • 1 tbl. minced fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried
  • 1 tbl. minced fresh basil or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 tbl. minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
  • 3 tbl. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out crust on a lightly floured surface to approx. 12-inch diameter and turn into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim edges. Freeze for 15 minutes.

Line crust with foil and use pie weights to hold the crust down while it bakes OR simply prick all around with a fork. Bake until crust is set, about 15 minutes. Cool on rack.

Cut each tomato slice in half and place on paper towels to drain 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Top crust with Emmenthal or Gruyère cheese. Arrange tomatoes on atop cheese overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with herbs and then the Parmesan cheese. Season with a couple of cracks of pepper if you wish.

Bake until cheese melts and tomatoes are softened, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly, remove tart pan sides. Cut into slices and serve.

Crust

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 6 oz. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 3-4 tbl. ice water

Combine flour and salt in a medium-mixing bowl. Cut in butter with a fork or pastry bender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add enough water by tablespoons for moist clumps to form. Gather into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes.

Farmers market pick: savory stuffed patty pan squash

Do you like farmer’s markets? I love farmers markets. Within 20 miles of my home there are 8, yes 8, farmers markets going on during the week. Very nice for our little ‘burg. Some are relatively small and simple and some are bigger with a festival atmosphere and extras like craft vendors, live music and food trucks. I love them so much that dear Hubby has put my wallet on ‘farmers market lock-down’ and I now stick to a budget of less than $15. Well, unless we’re having a meal there or we’re having guests and I’m cooking.

The farmers market is made for browsers like me. I tend to walk around a lot before I make any purchases and this can drive those who are not browsers (like Hubby) crazy. He’s not a browser, but a git-r-done type person. It can also unnerve some of the farmers and vendors, I realized recently. I see them look at me as I pass by their stall for the third or fourth time and I can tell they are thinking, “You again…what are you up to? Just go ahead and buy something already!”

To each their own, but I like “look’ in” as my Daddy would say. It’s relaxing to me and with the variety of colors, textures and smells, my creative juices begin to flow. I am formulating a plan in my noggin. What looks great? What may be out of season and NOT available soon? What is reasonably priced? How can I combine this vegetable with some other ingredient I have a hankering to cook this weekend? Hum. At this point Hubby has taken our girl over to get lemonade or an Italian ice and left me to decide my final purchases. Smart, smart Hubby.

Thus, I come home with a bunch of patty pan squash, among other things. Over the last several weeks I had seen them at every farmers market. They are so cute with bright yellow scalloped bases splashed with dark green splotches – they can even sport hats! “They’d make the perfect vessel for something delicious”, I thought.

As it so happens, I also stopped that day by a favorite vendor, Mibek Farms, and discovered garlic sausages for sale. My brain clicked into high gear and after one mediocre attempt, the Savory Stuffed Patty Pan Squash recipe was given the thumbs up by Hubby (and me). This recipe uses a combination of fresh herbs I had available, but feel free to try your own preferred mixture and if you can’t find garlic sausage use your favorite fresh, uncured sausage.

See you at the farmers market!

Use a sharp knife to remove the top at an angle. Trim excess pulp and remove any large seeds.

Scoop pulp out of the squash. I use the knife to neatly loosen it all the way around and a spoon to remove the center. It should pop out, but don’t break through to the bottom.

Chop the pulp. Again, remove any excessively large seeds.

Brown the sausage and then drain on paper towels. You’ll use this saute pan to…

…saute the onions. No need to use a clean pan. Try to scrape up any leftover sausage bits.

Meanwhile, par boil the patty pan squash. If you have big ones, drop the bottoms in first and allow to cook about 2 minutes, then drop in the tops and remove all after another minute. The small patty squash should par boil about 1 minute for the bottoms plus 30 seconds or so for the tops.

Drain the squash in a colander. I pour some ice and water over them to stop the cooking process.

Add the cooked rice, drained sausage, herbs, chopped squash pulp and a few cracks of pepper to the sauteed onions.

Stir in the tomato paste and chopped tomato until just mixed.

Place half the filling mixture in the baking dish and place the patty pan bottoms on top. Sprinkle some salt inside the squash bottoms and spoon in the filling.

Place the tops on the squash and cover the baking dish with foil (or a cover if you have one). Out of the oven in about 45 minutes.

Savory Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

  • 4-5 large or 8-10 small patty pan squash, cleaned with pulp scooped out and chopped (save tops)
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 ¼ cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2/3 cup sweet onion, small chop
  • 2-3 links garlic sausage (or your favorite fresh sausage, not breakfast sausage) casings removed
  • ½ tsp. + extra salt
  • ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 tsp. herbs de Provence
  • ½ tsp. powdered thyme
  • 1 tbl. grape oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tbl. tomato paste
  • 1 small tomato, small chop
  • Fresh ground pepper

Cook the rice in the vegetable stock and olive oil. Heat the grape oil in a large sauté pan and brown the sausage and drain on paper towels. Do not clean the pan but sauté the onions in the pan for about 3-4 minutes, scraping up the bits stuck in the pan. Remove form heat and set aside.

In a large pot heat water and add a few dashes of salt. When near boiling drop squash bottoms in salted water and allow to par boil about 2 minutes for the large patty pan and 1 minute for the small size. Add the tops and cook all another 1 minute. Drain all the squash in a colander and cool with water and/or ice to stop any further cooking.

Add the sausage, rice, and herbs to the onions and stir. Stir in the tomato paste, shopped tomato and a few cracks of fresh pepper and salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9 x 13 oven-proof baking dish spread about half the filling. Place the patty pan bottoms on the filling and lightly sprinkle the interiors with salt. Spoon filling into each patty and place tops on each squash. Cover the baking dish with a cover or foil and bake for about 35 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove foil and bake another 5-10 minutes.