Until four years ago, I didn’t like tomatoes.
OK, “didn’t like” doesn’t even begin to cover it. More like hated. Despised. Couldn’t even begin to understand the appeal of. In salsa or tomato sauce, they were fine, but a slice of tomato on a sandwich or in a salad? Nasty, nasty stuff.
Then, one summer in San Francisco, I got goaded into trying an heirloom tomato salad. And almost immediately, the clouds parted, the sun shone down, and I realized: Oh. THAT’S what tomatoes are supposed to taste like.
You still won’t find me popping a cherry tomato in my mouth (too oozy), and I usually get sick of tomatoes on sandwiches about 1/3 of the way through. But by and large, I’ve seen the light, and so when my good friends asked if we wanted to split a flat of gorgeous local tomatoes, I suddenly found myself with several pounds of fruit in my kitchen, waiting to be made delicious.
The me of four years ago finds this all very amusing.
So for the next week or so, it’s going to be a tomatopalooza in my kitchen, and I started off with this tomato and mozzarella tart. The night I made this was one of those nights, when Pete was working late and the couch was so comfortable and all I really wanted to do was slice up some cheese and sausage and call it dinner. But four pounds of tomatoes do not let themselves be ignored so easily, and the basil plant needed to be pruned, and oh hey, is that some extra mozzarella in the cheese drawer?
This tart crust was a first-time experiment that turned out delicious, and the rest of the recipe is simple — just slice, layer, bake, and eat. A good tomato season staple, for sure, and almost as easy as the non-dinner I would have made otherwise.
Tomato and Mozzarella Tart with Cornmeal Parmesan Crust
For the crust:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1/4 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. grated parmesan
1/2 t. salt
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
2 Tablespoons-ish of cold water
For the filling:
6 medium tomatoes, sliced
2-3 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
a few basil leaves, slivered
salt and pepper
thyme (fresh or dried)
1. Slice the tomatoes, place them on a layer of paper towels, salt them, cover with another layer of paper towels, and let drain until you’re ready to use them.
2. Preheat the oven to 350.
3. Make the crust dough: Combine the flours, cornmeal, parmesan, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 20ish times, until the mixture looks and feels sandy. With the food processor running, slowly add cold water until the dough comes together (you should be able to pinch it and have it hold shape). Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a disc, wrap it up, and toss it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
4. Pat the cold tart dough into the bottom and up the sides of a tart pan (I think a pie plate would work fine). Poke a few holes in the bottom with a fork, cover with tinfoil, add pie weights/beans/something to weigh down the edges, and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust looks mostly baked. Remove foil and weights.
5. Arrange a single layer of tomato slices on top of the crust, and top with sliced mozzarella. Sprinkle basil slivers, thyme, salt, and pepper on top. Add additional layers of tomato, mozzarella, basil, and seasoning until you’ve used everything up.
6. Bake until the tomatoes are soft and the cheese melty, about 25 minutes.