Last summer I arrived at the farmer's market in Copley Square in Boston and discovered that tomato season had arrived. It was a blissful day - I love tomatoes! That night I was hosting a girls' night dinner on our roof deck and the theme of the dinner was determined - tomatoes. After searching through a few cookbooks and websites, I settled on a few recipes that utilized the amazing heirloom varieties I had picked up at the market. My favorite recipe from the night that is incredibly easy to make is the Gourmet magazine recipe for a Heirloom Tomato Tart. I have modified the recipe slightly but the basic premise remains the same - a flaky crust with a hint of parmesan and pepper containing delicious layers of tomatoes, basil, pesto and fresh mozzarella. The other favorite recipe from the evening was a variation on Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoes from Smitten Kitchen. The vinaigrette described in Smitten Kitchen's recipe is tasty, but I think the green beans and tomatoes (when fresh and in season) are equally delicious with a light coat of good olive oil, salt and pepper.
When making the Heirloom Tomato Tart, it is best to have a variety of colorful tomatoes and obviously the tart is dramatically improved when made in-season. If the tomatoes don't have flavor, the tart will be bland and you'll be disappointed. So, make this tart when tomatoes arrive at your farmer's market (ours arrived this past weekend - yeah!). One more thing... the tomatoes make the crust soggy over time so it is best to put the tart together just prior to serving and to eat it when prepared rather than saving leftovers.
Active Time: 35 min
Total Time: 1 hr
For black pepper parmesan pastry
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
3/4 lb fresh mozzarella (not unsalted), very thinly sliced
1/2 cup pesto (I cheated this time and used store bought but obviously homemade pesto is better)
2 lb mixed heirloom tomatoes, sliced 3/4 inch thick
1 cup fresh basil leaves
Special equipment: pie weights or raw rice
Blend together flour, butter, shortening, parmesan, pepper, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size lumps. Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water over and gently stir with a fork (or pulse in food processor) until incorporated.
Gently squeeze a small handful: If it doesn't hold together without falling apart, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) after each addition until incorporated, continuing to test. (Do not overwork dough, or it will become tough.)
Turn out dough onto a work surface and divide into 2 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather both portions of dough into 1 ball, then pat into a disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round and fit into a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable rim. Roll rolling pin over top of pan to trim dough flush with rim. Lightly prick tart shell all over with a fork.
Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights or rice (I use rice and save the rice for future use ina baggie in my pantry). Bake in middle of oven 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and bake until golden, about 15 minutes more. Cool in pan on a rack.Fill tart shell:
Remove side of pan and slide shell onto a platter. Arrange one third of mozzarella in bottom of shell, cover with a layer of basil and drizzle with one third of pesto (it is important that the bottom layer of the tart not be tomatoes as this results in the crust becoming soggy even faster). Arrange one third of tomato slices, overlapping, on top of cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat layering twice (or until pie/tart pan full). Obviously you have a lot of room to do as you please with the layers in the shell - I prefer more tomatoes than mozzarella and I add basil leaves (the Gourmet recipe does not). I also like to drizzle pesto over the top of the tomatoes as you can see in the photos. Tailor this step to suit your tastes.
Tart shell can be made 1 day ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.