Tomato, Basil and Two-Cheese Tart.
Nothing says summer like home-grown, vine-ripened tomatoes. What better way to show off perfect tomatoes than by baking the vegetables with garlic, basil, olives and cheese in a flaky crust? There are two keys to success for this simple yet elegant summer pleaser. First, the dough should be rolled very thin so that it bakes quickly. Second, bake the tart at a low temperature for a long time to crisp the pastry and dry the tomato filling so that the pastry doesn’t get soggy. Once mastered, this tart can be jazzed up with different cheeses or garnished with anchovies, capers, cornichons or a couple of lavender blossoms.
Flaky Pastry for Tart Crust makes two 8-inch tarts
The key to handling this dough is to keep it cold at each stage. At any time that the dough feels soft or sticky, put it back in the refrigerator to “chill out.”
2 8-inch tart pans with removable bottoms
6 ounces all purpose flour
4 ounces cold butter, diced
1 teaspoon salt
2 ounces ice cold water
8 ripe plum or heirloom tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
20 basil leaves
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
12 pitted olives, sliced into quarters
1. Pour the flour onto a countertop or marble. Stir the salt into the flour. Toss the diced butter with the flour. Using a pastry scraper or two dull knives, chop the butter with the flour until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal.
2. Make a well in the flour mixture and and pour in the water. Compress into a pile; with the heal of your hand, work the ingredients into a smooth dough.
3. Form the dough into a 1-inch-thick disk, about four inches in diameter. Wrap the dough and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When ready to roll, sprinkle flour on the work surface and on the rolling pin.
4. Cut the dough in half; roll each half into circles 8 inches in diameter and ¼-inch thick. Chill the dough again for 10 minutes. With the rolling pin, roll the dough to 9 inches in diameter.
5. Roll each disk of dough onto the rolling pin, place the tart shell in front of you, and unroll the pastry onto the tart shell. Press the dough into the baking shell, trim the edges and refrigerate the lined tart shells.
6. Choose a selection of heirloom tomatoes. Cut into thick slices. Chop three garlic cloves and the basil.
7. In the bowl, toss together: chopped basil, chopped garlic, tomato slices, salt and pepper, olive oil, sherry vinegar, pepper flakes and olives.
8. Sprinkle one-fourth of the parmesan and one-fourth of the mozzarella on the bottom of each uncooked pastry. Arrange eight basil leaves on top of each tart. Chop remaining basil.
9. Arrange tomatoes in each tart shell, overlapping each slice to form an outside circle, then fill in the middle with more slices. Top with the remaining cheeses. Bake at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes until tomatoes are soft, the cheese is melted and the crust is cooked through.
Brian Patterson in an instructor in the Professional Culinary Arts Program at L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda (www.lacademie.com).