These days I’m pretty much always thinking about cooking – what to make next, what are we in the mood for, what new skill should I attempt, can I make that restaurant dish at home? After a deluge of inspiration - the Heirloom Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Basil from Williams-Sonoma, which was preceded in my Pinterest feed by this beautiful pin of Tomatoes on Garlic Toast. Then, the current issue of Bon Appétit which features a beautiful dish by Yotam Ottolenghi, and finally my brand new copy of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook arrived. I’ll give you one guess on the image gracing the cover: Tomato Scallion Shortcakes with Whipped Goat Cheese (pg. 65).
I decided to take this deluge of brightly colored tomato-based photos as a sign. Perhaps I should get with the program and make something that highlights the beautiful tomatoes in season right at this very moment? Worse culinary ideas have happened and with all those experts to guide me I couldn’t make too big a mess.
I knew I wanted this recipe to be a light and summery tart, featuring tomatoes (and cheese). I referred to both the W-S recipe and to the crust from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook recipe for Wild Mushroom Tart (pg. 95), but then went on to make something new – partially out of necessity (like when the pantry is missing cornmeal and uncooked polenta is substituted) and partially to satisfy my own taste.
The ‘fanciness’ of the presentation is deceptive, so I hope you won’t be intimidated like I was when I first saw W-S’s tart. But, if you’re a perfectionist or feeling stressed here’s a tip: after the tomatoes are sliced practice layering on the cutting board or a piece of foil before trying to arrange them on the tart. It helped my confidence and reassured me that even if I didn’t make a precise, mathematically balanced kaleidoscope of slices it would still look lovely. And, in the end, I think it did, so there’s that.
I hope you try this soon while the tomatoes in the farmers market (or grocery store) are still amazing – I’d love to see your results!
Farmers Market Tomato and Ricotta Tart (serves 6-8)
Tart Shell Ingredients:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup polenta or finely ground cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced in small cubes
1 tablespoon room temperature butter
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
2 1/2 ounces plain goat cheese, softened
1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 pint small-medium heirloom, grape or cherry tomatoes, washed and dried
In a medium bowl mix together flour, polenta or cornmeal, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork work the diced butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is in very small pieces and the mixture is just starting to come together. Add the egg and mix in with a fork until the dough forms a rough ball. The mixture will be fairly dry, resembling shortbread.
Turn the dough into an ungreased 9” tart pan with a removable bottom and using the floured, flat side of a measuring cup press into the bottom and along the sides of the pan in an even layer. Even the edges with a butter knife, or by flattening with the measuring cup.
Place the unbaked tart shell in the freezer for 20-30 minutes until the dough is firm to the touch. While tart shell is chilling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the shell from freezer and place on a baking sheet. Using a brush or clean hands, spread the room temperature butter on a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to cover the tart shell with some overhang. Smooth the buttered side of the foil along the bottom of the tart shell and up the sides.
Bake the foil covered tart shell for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the foil from the shell and using a fork, prick the bottom of the shell – this will allow any air to release. Replace the uncovered tart shell in the oven and bake for an additional 5 to 8 minutes until it is lightly golden and crisp. Set tart shell aside on a baking rack and allow to cool completely.
While the tart shell is cooling, assemble the ricotta filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta and softened goat cheese until smooth, then stir in the finely grated parmesan, kosher salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. Cut the tomatoes – a serrated knife will work best – into 1/4 to 1/8” slices.
Once the tart shell is completely cooled, spoon the ricotta mixture into the shell and smooth with a spatula or knife. Layer the sliced tomatoes on top of the cheese in any pattern or arrangement you like – this is a moment to be creative! Sprinkle with a few fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper.
Serve just as it is or with a spoonful of pesto sauce.
Small Kitchen Friendly:
Yes, definitely. I used one medium bowl (used twice and washed between the dough and filling steps), one 9” tart pan, one baking sheet, a pastry cutter, one medium cutting board, one serrated knife, a microplane grater, a rubber spatula, and measuring cups and spoons. A butter knife and a dinner fork round out the tools.
Mike and I had this on sunny, August Sunday afternoon and were really happy with the taste of these classic flavor combinations presented in a slightly different format. Mike particularly liked the flavor and texture of the polenta/cornmeal crust as a contrast to the creaminess of the cheese filling. And, since I had a little pesto in the freezer from a few weeks ago I defrosted it and we drizzled a little on top – yum. A success I’d say, since we’re already brainstorming variations with other seasonal vegetables. I foresee something involving caramelized onions in our future…