I, Tomato Hoarder

10 Sep

ImageRight around the end of August every year, I start getting a little crazy. Not in the seasonal-light-disorder-panic kind of way, but in the “ohmuhgod, all these delicious tomatoes are here for but a fortnight x 3! (or so)” kind of way. The red and yellow and green and purple of it is blinding. It’s all I can see. If I were in a roller derby and the prize were tomatoes? I would knock down everyone in my way. Which would be all the peoples. It’s kind of bad news. Which is probably why my dad sends me back with bags of them, myriad friends leave gifts of garden tomatoes on my stoop,and  my local veg guy with all the good Jersey ones sees me coming and clears a path. I just came home with a few pints of eensie, indescribably sweet yellow ones from him and ate half of them in a sitting. Feed the beast and the beast will leave you alone.

This year, with our weird, warm East Coast winter and dry as crackers summer, it was quite possibly the best in memory for ‘matoes. And so I’ve been using them every chance I get. Simple stuff, but I’m fairly certain I’ve eaten a tomato at least every day since early August. Not bad. And I even shared them sometimes. One week, I made tomato and cheddar and mayo sandwiches for my co-workers at the wine shop I write for, and another I made tomato-saffron-orange marmalade and gave it away to anyone I thought who might dig it.

But now it’s mid-September and my dad informed me a few days ago that his garden is all done. On my kitchen sill today sat 6 heirlooms from a friend who texted with a tomato SOS over-abundance (thank you, Mary Kay), a pile of chubby red grape tomatoes that I grew in pots in the few dollops of sun I get in my yard, and the rest of the little Jersey yellows I got for a song down the street. Tonight, I thought, tomato pie seemed in order.

ImageKnowing Heidi Swanson is a wiz with making really fresh ingredients stand-out, I found two great recipes on 101 Cookbooks, but as I read them through and thought about the other ingredients I had and might want to use, I wound up morphing them into something slightly different. The one I was leaning toward most heavily – an uncooked tomato tart in a crunchy parmesan crust – sounded great, but I took the advice of one of her readers and gently heated the slices, as well as a bunch of the yellows, with a little olive oil, butter, and garlic, and then let the juices run off so the tart wouldn’t get soggy. Also, I didn’t really have enough parmesan, but I did have cheddar. I made the butter-flour crust with cheddar subbed for parmesan, baked it as Swanson suggested (with a few extra minutes added for my oven), and lined the bottom with the rest of my cheddar to keep the drained tomatoes from doing any leaky damage (another one of Swanson’s awesome suggestions). This, by the way, tastes like the most delicious Cheez-It ever.

There’s an onion tart recipe that I make often for parties from French Tarts: 50 Savory and Sweet Recipes (great book) and I was craving some caramelized Vidalias, so they became the base with a little anchovy paste and fresh thyme mixed in. The layering was as such: onions, yellows, reds arranged as concentrically as I could manage. A salad on the side rounded the whole meal out. And while I’m inconsolably bummed that my tomato feasting and hoarding is pretty much at an end, this was a pretty good savory note to go out on. Also, I think my friends and family might stop avoiding me now that they’re safe from being knocked to the ground by my alter roller-skating ego, Early Riot Grrrrl.

Last Tomato Tart

Filling:
6 medium tomatoes, slice about a quarter inch
½ pint of yellow cherries, cut in half
1 large, or 2 small, garlic cloves, cut in half and slivered
1 Vidalia onion, sliced thin
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 TBS olive oil
1 ½ TBS unsalted butter
Kosher salt

Crust:
1 1/4 cups white flour
1 tsp kosher salt
3 TBS ice water
½ cup cold, unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar, plus ¼ cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and cheddar, and pulse until the texture is grainy. Add in the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until mixture can be pinched with your fingers and won’t fall apart. Immediately press into a tart dish (removable sides are best so you can see the pretty ridged pattern when all is said and cooked), line with wax paper or aluminum foil, fill with pie weights, rice, or beans, and bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven, take out weights and liner, and then put back in and bake for another 15 minutes or until deep golden in color. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of cheddar.

ImageMeanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter in a medium-sized pan. Add in onions and cook until caramelized, stirring and turning over occasionally; about 15 minutes. Add in 1 teaspoon anchovy paste, chopped thyme, and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook for one more minute.

In another medium-sized pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and the rest of the butter over medium heat. Add in garlic and let cook until fragrant, about a minute. Place the sliced tomatoes in the pan in one layer, gently salt, and cook for about 1 minute. Remove from pan and place in a colander set over a place (to catch the juice). Repeat until all tomatoes are cooked.

To assemble the tart, evenly spread the onions on the bottom, followed by the yellow tomatoes, then the slices formed in a concentric circle. Be fancy and garnish with a few sprigs of thyme. Eat and be happy.

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