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Grocery tomatoes are like child prodigies, forced into service while they’re still all-potential.

And toothy.

By comparison, homegrown tomatoes are allowed to lollygag in the sun, just growing. Getting redder and riper until they develop something akin to personality.

Most grocery tomatoes aren’t fit to top a taco, but a homegrown tomato can stand on its own. You won’t find a summertime supper at my mother’s without a plate of sliced tomatoes, simply but tastefully dressed in olive oil and vinegar and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Homegrown tomatoes are the prize of patience.

So, while the tomatoes are good and plentiful in home gardens, farmers’ markets and Topsy-Turvys┬« across the land, it makes sense to enjoy them center-stage, not just as a condiment but as part of the main event.

I love a tomato sandwich on sourdough or an Italian grilled cheese (with sliced tomato, provolone and fresh basil), but my favorite way to enjoy homegrown tomatoes is sliced, seasoned and baked on a bed of bubbling mozzarella inside a basil-garlic crust.

Think of the tart as a Pizza Margherita in her Sunday best. The rich, buttery crust, which is bright green before baking, sings with basil. The saltiness of the melted mozzarella brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes.

It’s a perfect example of how much pleasure can be reaped from humble ingredients in their prime.

Fresh Tomato Tart with Basil-Garlic Crust

Adapted from Jack Bishop’s “The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook”

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 recipe Basil-Garlic Tart Dough (recipe follows)
  • 8 ounces sliced mozzarella
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound), cored and cut crosswise into thin slices
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Prepare the dough, and press it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line the bottom of the tart shell with mozzarella. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese in a ring around the edge of the tart and a second ring in the center. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese has started to brown in spots, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes before slicing. (The tart may be covered and kept at room temperature for 6 hours.)

Basil-Garlic Tart Dough

  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8 to 10 pieces
  • 4-5 tablespoons ice water
  1. Place the basil and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor. Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until finely chopped. Add flour and salt; pulse to combine.
  2. Add butter. Pulse about 10 times, or until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.
  3. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing several times after each addition. After 4 tablespoons water have been added, process the dough for several seconds to see if the mixture forms a ball. If not, add remaining water. Process until dough forms into a ball. Remove dough from processor.
  4. Flatten the dough into a 5-inch disk. Wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be placed in a zipper-lock plastic bag and refrigerated for several days or frozen for 1 month. If frozen, defrost the dough in the refrigerator.)
  5. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Lay the dough over the tart pan, and press it into the pan. Trim the dough, and proceed with the recipe as directed.

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