Although fun and life-giving and joyful and love-filled right now, if I had to choose a single word to describe life these past two weeks (and thank goodness I don’t have to choose just one word – a world where you use only one word when you could spout off a string of five to ten would be a sad world indeed, far too Hemingway-ian for the verbose among us), it would be chaotic.
Totally chaotic. Connecting with old friends and nabbing as much quality time with family as possible on top of working on a dissertation on top of that ultimate relaxing free time activity of, ahem, starting a business, turns out not to be a recipe for order and quiet. We did expect this, but you never fully appreciate these things until you’re in the middle of them.
But I love it! We love it! We love everyone here. So far so amazing. We even had a chance to ride around on The Lake and under the Aerial Lift Bridge on a decommissioned coast guard cutter owned by friends of friends, all in the name of settling in. That’s pretty darn cool.
On the other hand, the state of our floors, the haphazard strategy for storing our winter coats (a giant pile), the utter lack of furniture in some of our rooms, and so on, leaves, ummmmm, something to be desired. I won’t make you sit through pictures of that. Also, my usual bizarre photographic memory of what is in our fridge and what we need, well, I seem to have misplaced it. Three days in a row I have made a trip to the food coop or the farmer’s market and three days in a row I have stood in front of piles of produce and freezers of meats and drawn a total blank. I looked for my mental file entitled “what’s for dinner?” and all I saw was a void. Maybe we’re transitioning to a different filing system that I need to be trained in. I’d better talk with my internal secretary.
Two nights ago when I actually did manage to gather my wits enough to make a dinner that I had planned, it turned out to be a bit of a flop. A pretty edible flop, on the whole, but far floppier than I had expected from the particular recipe I used, a recipe that I’d had my sights on for two whole years as something quite possibly genius, something that needed to happen while tomato season still persists.
Now that fall has come and sideswiped us (in the best possible way), sending us scurrying for socks, scarves, and corduroy jackets, I knew I’d also have to scurry if I finally wanted to make this tart, before missing the tomato season as I had the previous two years. This tart relies heavily on the quality of the tomatoes. (And yes, I know I said it was a flop, but stick with me, because we’re going to fix that.) Much has been written of heirloom tomatoes. How, so like fairytale creatures, their awkward misshapen forms hide sweet gemlike interiors. With heirloom tomatoes, you’ll often find that the uglier they are, the better they are, and you don’t want to do too much to them.
That, I figured, is why this tart was sure to be genius. Rather than the standard baked tomato tarts, quiche-like with soft rounds of tomato that take on the character of tomato sauce through the baking, this tart keeps the tomatoes raw, simply layering them, tile like, over a creamy base of mascarpone. Fresh, ripe tomatoes and mascarpone cheese? How could you go wrong? But somehow I did.
I’m not sure exactly what the problem was, but I’ll take some blame. Perhaps I screwed something up. I have to admit that the excitement of biting into the tart was followed by a puzzled half frown. It wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t great like I had expected. The crust was a bit tough – so embarrassing, I haven’t made a tough crust in a loong while, but maybe I’m backsliding. And the combination of mascarpone and tomatoes mostly felt heavy. Almost a thud of a filling. It made me think of a bagel with cream cheese and tomato doing its best to put on the ritz but not quite pulling it off. It was lacking some pizzaz that even the basil oil couldn’t quite restore to it.
But all is not lost! All is never lost. I’m convinced a take two is all that it will take to make a dreamy end of summer tart. A take two done with a little more care on my part (keep that water for the crust icy cold! Don’t overwork the dough!) and a few flavor tweaks to suit my particular tastes and freshen them further – ie. the addition of lemon zest and some crumbled chevre, two of my go-to not very creative but always incredibly delicious additions to recipes. So, this idea is what I will share with you because I feel like, amidst chaos, one really does deserve a very good tart.
Heirloom tomato tart (makes one 10 or 11inch tart) (inspired by this tomato and mascarpone tart)
- 1 cup plus 3 Tbs. all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 6 Tbs. good butter (European style cultured butter will give you the best results), cold, cut into pieces
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- about 2 Tbs. ice cold water
- In a smallish mixing bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Working quickly, rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until you have a mixture with pea-sized butter lumps. Make a well and add in the egg and water. Stir together until it forms a messy dough in a bunch of clumps, adding a tiny bit more water if it seems too dry. Scoop the clumps together and press it into a ball. Flatten into a thick disk, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough out into a circle about 1 inch larger in diameter than your tart pan. Gently transfer the crust to the tart pan and press it in. Either trim the excess crust or fold any overhanging edges back inward and press them into the crust, reinforcing it and making it thicker. Put the tart shell back into the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Prick the tart shell all over with a fork, then line it with foil or parchment paper or aluminum foil (cover the sides and edges too) and fill the bottom with beans or other weights to weight it down. Place it on a rimmed baking sheet to prevent drips, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven, remove the weights and lining and return the crust to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, until nicely golden brown. Remove the crust from the oven and allow to cool completely.
- 4 oz. mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
- 8 oz. chevre or other soft goat cheese, at room temperature
- 2 Tbs. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 packed cup of fresh basil
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- a large pinch of salt
- 1 small garlic clove
- about 2 heirloom tomatoes cut into slices
- Blend together the mascarpone, chevre, lemon juice, and lemon zest (either in a blender or by hand with a wooden spoon). Set aside.
- In a blender or food processor, whir together the basil, olive oil, garlic, and a large pinch of salt until blended.
- When the tart crust has cooled to room temperature, spread the cheese mixture in the bottom. Layer tomato slices over it, then drizzle with the basil oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature with a nice green salad. I would recommend that you do not serve the tart chilled. If you refrigerate the tart, be sure to let it come back to room temperature before serving.