Wednesday, August 26, 2009

your crack-addicted pet monkey could make this tart

For weeks it's been tomatoes this, blight that. I've read articles about tomato blight, heard blight gossip and conjecture from gardening friends, and spent many a sleepless night in terror of impending tomato doom. But it all culminated rather dramatically this past weekend at the farmers market, where I overheard actual farmers who grow actual tomatoes for an actual living saying they were "ripping everything up" and that it might be "the last week for tomatoes." In a frenzy of paranoia and greed, I ran from vendor to vendor buying tomatoes.

Lots of tomatoes. It's called hoarding; I'm not proud. But winter's closing in (it may be August where you live, but in Vermont it's dipping into the 40s this week), and I'm not going gentle into that good night without first gorging on tomatoes.

Usually my tomato feeding starts in late July with sun golds, peaks with heirlooms in August, and ends with fried green tomatoes in the fall. This year, all bets are off. From now until they're gone, it's tomatoes for every meal (in part because I've spent our entire food budget on them; sorry, honey). I've been slicing and eating them with a little olive oil and balsamic, putting them in salads, biting into them like apples, popping little ones in my mouth as if they were candy. And tonight I actually turned on my oven for the first time in months and cooked.

I was scared the first time I attempted this Tomato–Goat Cheese Tart with Herbed Crust. Specifically, I was afraid of the crust. I don't get along well with dough (or batter, for that matter). Dough is fussy and particular, and I'm not good at following recipes, which seems to be the first rule of baking: Follow the recipe. Exactly. But I've made this tart several times, failed to followed the recipe exactly (usually inadvertently), and the crust has been tasty every time. What I'm trying to say is that if I can make this crust, you can make this crust. In fact, this crust is so easy, if you actually know something about baking, you could probably make a Tomato–Goat Cheese Tart with Herbed Crust while drunk. In the dark. With both arms tied behind your back. For example, if an intruder cut the electricity to your house, broke in, tied you up, and forced you to drink an entire bottle of pink wine, you could still bake this tart. Think about this when you're awake at 3 a.m. fretting over tomato blight.

Tomato–Goat Cheese Tart with Herbed Crust
Adapted from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen

For the crust
1¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
½–1 teaspoon minced, fresh herb [not that kind of herb; I'm thinking rosemary, though tonight I used basil, and oregano and thyme would also be nice]
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
4–5 tablespoons water

For the filling
6–8 ounces fresh goat cheese [tonight I used Doe’s Leap; the last time I made this tart we lived in DC and I used Pipe Dreams, which I think you can find all over the East Coast, but any fresh, soft goat cheese will do]
3 medium tomatoes (~1¼ pounds), cored, sliced about ¼–½ inch thick, and blotted dry with paper towels
1 tablespoon evoo

For the crust
1. Don't be scared!

2. Place the flour, salt, and herb in a food processor and pulse several times to combine.

3. Add the butter and pulse until you have pea-sized crumbs, about ten 1-second pulses.

4. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse briefly after each addition. After you've added 4 tablespoons of water, process the dough for several seconds to see if it will come together. Chances are, it will not. Don't be scared! Add the remaining tablespoon of water and process just until the dough comes together in a rough ball. This ball might be very rough. In fact it may not be a ball at all, and some bits may not be incorporated. Don't be scared! But don't overprocess the dough! Or your crust won't be flaky (and that's fine too; the first time I made this crust I was determined to get a ball, goddammit, which involved adding extra water and processing the hell out of that dough, and it was still good, or as the hippies say, "It's all good, man," to which I reply, "Put down the hookah and take a bath").

5. Transfer the dough to your counter and knead it briefly to form a smooth ball (this recipe is obsessed with balls!). Flatten the dough into a 5-inch disk (the first time I made this, I took out my measuring tape to make sure my overprocessed disk of dough was five inches; don't bother), and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour, up to two days.

6. Make sure one of the racks is in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375˚.

7. Unwrap the chilled dough and on a lightly floured surface roll the dough into a circle that is a couple of inches larger than your tart pan. The original recipe calls for a 10-inch tart pan and a 12-inch circle of dough. I use an 11-inch pan and roll my dough into a spastic amoeba that in some spots is 13ish inches, in others not so much, and tell myself that if it doesn't work out, we'll just eat the filling.

8. Lay your amoeba over your 10- or 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (why the bottom needs to be removable, I don't know) and tuck it into the bottom and sides of the pan. If it's short in places, tear dough from other spots and smush it into places where you're short. It's an amoeba. You can't hurt it. Run the rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to trim the excess dough, if there is any excess dough; I've usually used mine to patch my amoeba. Prick the bottom of the tart shell all over with a fork. Or forget to do so until the tart is filled and in the oven, then yell, "F*ck f*ck f*ck" over and over until your husband runs into the room and asks, "What's wrong?" Tell him you ruined dinner. He'll be so excited to discover you did not!

For the filling and baking
1. Scatter the goat cheese evenly across the bottom of the tart shell. If you're using a 10-inch pan, use 6 ounces of cheese. If your pan is larger, like mine, or you're really into cheese, use closer to 8 ounces.

2. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese in two rings—one around the outer edge and another in the center, slightly overlapping the tomato slices as you go. Drizzle the tomatoes with the oil and sprinkle with s&p.

3. Bake until the edges of the crust pull away from the sides of the pan and are golden brown, 40–50 minutes. Cool the tart on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes, or wait longer and eat it later, at room temperature.

4.5 out of 5 entree stars
["I found it very ... I thought it was ... it had nice flavor, it was cooked perfectly, the crust was deliciously flaky. A nice summer meal."]


  1. I have to admit, I am a little less afraid of crust now...thank you for the encouragement :) Your tart looks really delicious!

  2. "Tart" is one of those menu words that grabs my attention anytime I see it, like "bacon," or "smoked," or "cake." My little saliva-makers at the back of my mouth (and kind of under my ears) are firing, just looking at these pics.

  3. Come to my house, we are blight free and my garden is BURSTING with tomatoes! For real, we are gone this weekend and that shizz is so ripe it's falling off the vines!!