Everyone has their favorite thing to eat this time of year, but for me, tomatoes are the quintessential summertime treat. I get a little thrill when the first red beauties hit the tables at the Greenmarket, and the sight of tomatoes ripening in our own backyard fills me with glee. There’s really nothing quite like plucking a tomato off the vine, still warm from the sun, slicing it and taking a bite.
We have been able to buy and grow some really amazing varieties of heirloom tomatoes the last few years, and I generally like to keep things really simple when serving them – a sprinkle of salt, some fresh herbs, and perhaps a drizzle of good olive oil or a crumble or grating of cheese is about as much gilding as I like to do so as not to mask their flavors.
I’ve been knocking around the idea of putting together a tomato tart in much the same style as Heidi Swanson’s gorgeous little number from a couple of years ago, and since the tomatoes are really starting to get good now, I wrote it into our meal plan for this week. While her parmesan crust sounds both easy and very tasty, my pastry skills are sorely lacking, and until someone gifts me with more counter space, or at the very least a food processor, I will go with the best quality purchased crust I can find (in this instance, two frozen prepared pie crusts from Whole Foods).
I brought the crusts and a 4 oz. round of Coach Farm goat cheese to room temperature, and rubbed the inside of a half sheet pan with a bit of olive oil. I preheated my oven to 400 degrees and spread a bit of flour onto my work surface. I turned out both crusts onto the floured surface, folded them up into a ball, and then rolled them out into a rectangle with a floured rolling pin. I sprinkled a little more flour into the sheet pan and laid the crust into the pan, pressing it lightly into the sides and corners of the pan, and pricked the bottom of the crust all over with a fork before placing it into the oven. I baked the crust for 16 minutes until it was golden, removed it from the oven and set it aside.
I laid a double layer of paper towels on a platter and cored and sliced my tomatoes – a variety of about 5 medium-sized heirlooms. I sprinkled the tomatoes with salt and let them sit for a few minutes to give up some of their juices. Going back to the crust, once it had cooled a bit, I spread 3 oz. of the goat cheese on the bottom. I sliced about a dozen basil leaves into chiffonade, mixed them with 1-2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves, and sprinkled about half of the herb mixture over the goat cheese. I then layered the tomatoes on top, crumbled the remaining goat cheese and sprinkled the rest of the fresh herbs on top.
The tang of the goat cheese was present but not overpowering, just a nice complement to the sweet and juicy tomatoes which were, as they should be, the star of the show. With a lightly dressed green salad and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc on the side, this super easy summertime meal was a real knockout.