Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Tart for all Season - a Last Hurrah to Summer

I hate soggy bottoms! Referring of course to pie crusts. How many mouthwatering, luscious looking tarts have disappointed with a bottom crust that is limp and undercooked.

Labor Day weekend - inspired to take something different to an informal gathering I did a pantry and fridge raid and determined I had all the ingredients to improvise on a rustic tomato tart.  So away with soggy bottoms and in with a tart shell that can be filled with sweet or savory; that travels well; and keeps for several days in an airtight container. To really impress - I've given it an Italian name!

  Torta Rustica di Pomodoro
(Rustic tomato tart)
and to show just how versatile is this tart shell , the dessert option is 
Torta di Lampone e del Limone
(Lemon and raspberry tart)

For the tart shell pre-heat oven to 450F. You will need either pie weights or a cup or more of dried beans, and tinfoil.
  • 1 package Sarah Lee Puff pastry  - you'll have some left over so wrap tightly, label and freeze.
  • Thaw the pastry in the refrigerator until it is pliable but not soft. 
  • Spread one of the two sheets on a floured work surface and roll it lightly until it measures about 12 " square.  Take 1/3 of the remaining sheet, roll it to 12" long and cut it into 4 equal lengthwise strips. Place the large square on a baking sheet or perforated pizza tray. (I like to use the perforated tray because it really allows for the bottom to get crisp.)
  • Dampen with a brush or your fingers dipped in cold water one edge of the large sheet, do the same to one side of one of the strips.  Place the strip, damp side down on the large sheet. Repeat with the 3 other strips.  Use a fork to press the outer edges of the two pieces of pastry together. Lightly prick the center of  the pastry  square with the fork.  
  • If the oven is at temperature pop the tray in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  (If not to temperature put the tray and pastry into the fridge while you wait. )
  • At 10 minutes, remove the pastry from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 425F . Place a square of foil in the center of the tart, fill it with pie weights or dried beans, return to the oven and bake a further 10 minutes.  At 10 minutes remove from oven, reduce temperature to 375F and carefully lift foil and weights from the tart. Return the tart to the oven and bake a further 10 minutes.  So that's 30 minutes total baking time - your tart shell should feel crisp to touch and be a golden brown.
  • At this point you can cool it on a rack that allows for airflow and use it cold . To store it, wrap in foil when absolutely cold and keep in an airtight container.

Filling - for the Torta Rustica di Pomadoro
  • 1 cup thinly sliced sweet red onion
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb (onion and fennel amounts can be more - you want to end up with a full cup cooked)
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2  tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil gently in a large skillet - add the onions and fennel, toss to mix well and coat with oil, season with Maldon Sea Salt and cracked black pepper.  Cook slowly over low heat , stir frequently. You want the onions to cook without browning - this will take about 20 minutes. Once onions are soft (taste one)  add the balsamic and sugar to the pan. Stir to coat and cook until liquid evaporates and the onions take on a dark color. Set aside to cool.

  • One dry pint (around 10 oz) of baby heirloom tomatoes cut in half
  • 6 dried black mission figs quartered
  • Around 1/4 cup of fresh mixed herbs (basil, oregano, marjoram, tarragon, parsley - mix or choose whatever summer herb you have available) torn or roughly chopped
  • 3 oz soft goat cheese
  • Maldon Salt and cracked pepper
  • Around 4 tablespoons olive oil
Mix all of the above in a large bowl and let stand an hour or more.

To Assemble the Tart

To cook or not to cook - you have options!  For a cooked tart pre-heat oven to 350F. Lay a strip of foil along each of the raised sides of the tart shell ( this is to stop the exposed edges from getting too brown). Spread the caramelized onion over the bottom of the shell. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out tomato/fig mixture and mound into the shell. Top with the crumbled goat cheese. Drizzle a little of the oil remaining from the marinating tomatoes over all. Either bake for 30 minutes and serve hot or warm or serve as a  fresh tart - just spread the onion mixture on the base, top with the uncooked tomatoes, sprinkle with the cheese, drizzle with extra olive oil.  Either way - I guarantee you the bottom won't be soggy!  best way to cut this into serving squares is with a pizza cutter.

For the Torta di lampone e del limone  

Spread the bottom of the cold tart shell with  softened mascarpone cheese. Follow with a layer of lemon curd. Pile raspberries on top.  Change it out - you can use different jams, cream cheese , blueberries, stawberries or a mixture of berries.

1 comment:

  1. Oh yummy! Need something to wow the in-laws to be tomorrow - the raspberry and lemon tart will do it.
    Liz in Seattle


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