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Monday, July 29, 2013

Love Apples

Pommes d' amour. Apples of love. Tomatoes. Indeed. Sometimes, I think I could dive into a drinkable sea of ripe summer tomatoes and swim through the sticky warm pulp. It's the perfect time of year for a good tomato bath. The bumper crops arrived later than usual this year because of our long wet spring. That being said, as corn trucks back into stalls at the market and plump blackberries dot almost every farm stand, tomatoes are still the jewels of summer.

A few nights ago, I threw together a heavy handed supper. While I stayed busy being busy, Michael simply peeled and sliced two enormous windowsill beefsteak tomatoes. After he topped them with small dollops of mayonnaise, we took one bite, tossed our fussy supper into the refrigerator, and ate tomatoes. Just tomatoes. Although it wasn't a new thing, it was a revelation.

Yep, it's high tide for summer tomatoes.



Raw.
I think I left the farmer's market with every known variety of heirloom tomato the market had to offer. A few of this, a few of that. A little bit of everything. I guess we could have eaten the entire basket peeled and sliced with mayonnaise, but I wanted to give them a base that didn't require forks. It's hard to swim with forks in hand.

To make life easier, I picked up a pound of fresh soft pizza dough from a local pizza joint. Without rolling it out, I pulled it by the the edges, let it dangle in the air, and allowed  gravity stretch the dough.  When it created a self imposed oblong shape, I carefully placed it onto a cornmeal dusted pizza peel and set it aside to rest. Using a very thin serrated bread knife, I sliced a variety of very ripe Black Plum, Speckled Roma, Orange Russian, White Beauty, White Peach, Green Zebra, and Cherokee Purple tomatoes.

Grilled Pizza dough can be risky business. Unless you have multiple doughs on hand, you get one shot. I fired up the grill and let the coals die down to a manageable heat level (hand over the coals for 5 seconds). After brushing the dough with olive oil, I seasoned it with salt and pepper before sliding it onto the hot grate. Moving quickly, I shifted the dough around with a metal spatula to keep the dough from sticking. When I could smell a slight char, I flipped the pizza dough, brushed it with a whisper of fresh tomato puree, and covered it with fresh mozzarella cheese. Because we have a lidless Easy Bake Oven version of a deck grill, I used our old enameled  turkey roasting pan lid to trap the heat and melt the cheese. Yeah, it was one of those skanky I-hope-nobody-is-watching moments, but it worked beautifully.
.

When the melted cheese oozed over the warm  crust, I layered the sliced tomatoes in a willy nilly pattern and scattered fresh basil over the top before seasoning them with kosher salt. While the cheese provided creaminess, the charred cracker-thin crust anchored the gushingly ripe tomatoes like crunchy delicate bruschetta. Killer.

Was it a twist on pizza Margherita or a crispy caprese salad?

Fast and fresh, it might have been a bit of both.

Cooked.
Butter. Flour. Water. Stuff.
Undeterred by my limited baking skills, I managed to pull together a savory shortbread crust for a tomato tart. After sifting 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour into a food processor, I added 1 cup ( 2 sticks) chilled cubed unsalted butter, a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, and 3/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese. I pulsed the flour and butter until it crumbed before slowly drizzling 4 tablespoons chilled water into the processor to bring the dough together.

After scraping the dough out of the processor, I shaped it into a 2 inch flat disk, covered it with plastic wrap, and slid it into the refrigerator to chill for 2 hours.

When the shortbread dough was rock hard, I turned it onto a floured cutting board and carefully rolled it into a 12 inch ragged circle, repairing cracks along the way. I carefully placed the dough over a non-stick 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom, nudged the dough into place, and pressed it into the pan. After slicing the excess dough from the rim, I brushed dijon mustard onto the base and covered it with 1 cup of finely grated fontina cheese.

I piled the sliced tomatoes into the shell, drizzled them olive oil, seasoned them with kosher salt, and slid the tart into a 350 degree oven to bake for 35 minutes, adding a sprinkling of extra cheese over the tomatoes during the last five minutes.

When the crust was golden brown, I removed the tart from the oven and released it from the pan to cool on a wire rack.

Heirloom Tomato Tart with a Parmigiano-Reggiano Shortbread Crust. We carried it to our church potluck/picnic held on the historic lawns of the Old Episcopal Burial Ground here in Lexington.

It was quickly rechristened... tomato pie. 
My father would have been proud.

Swim.




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