By Vallery Lomas, The New York Times
This spring, as shoppers searched shelves for yeast and flour, heirloom tomatoes were just beginning their journey. Their seeds were buried and reliably took root. With water, sunlight and good soil, the plants bore fruit, offering a timely reminder to us all on the importance of nourishment and care.
Heirloom tomatoes illustrate a connection to the past, and there’s comfort in how they stand the test of time. The prized seeds are passed down from season to season, generation to generation. Farmers harvest them from the juiciest, sweetest and most vibrant tomatoes, then save and plant the seeds the next year once the weather is warm. Gardeners and shoppers who revere them know that their season is worth the wait. There are thousands of varieties, from the roundish and slightly peppery Brandywines to the stately, bi-colored Gold Medals — all unlike those cookie cutter-like hybrids that are bred to be “tough enough” for a long, bumpy journey.
The joy of this tomato pie is in how it leans on those misshapen heirloom varieties, which are — like many of us — fragile and prone to bruising. But don’t judge heirlooms on external characteristics. Inside, there’s robust flavor and sweetness to be savored.
Whether you’re a first-time baker or a serious hobbyist, this heirloom tomato tart is a delight to make, with some reliable shortcuts. Store-bought pesto and pie dough can make preparing this dish especially simple. The dough may need some rolling out to fit in the pan, but leaning your weight into a rolling pin to expand the dough can be a cathartic release at the end of a hectic day.
Tomato slices, sweet and juicy, abound throughout the tart, suspended in an airy egg custard that’s speckled with fragrant basil and fresh oregano. While in the oven, that custard — just eggs whisked with cream — bakes up, rising to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the tomatoes. (Use an assortment of heirloom styles to make this dish even more intriguing.) Melted mozzarella melds everything together, and those trusty tomatoes keep the filling bright and juicy.
Life is uncertain enough. Dinner doesn’t have to be.
RECIPE: Heirloom Tomato Tart
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 1 1/2 hours
- Dough for a 9-inch single crust pie, or use store-bought, rolled into an 11-inch round (see note)
- 1 1/2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes (about 4 medium)
- 1/4 cup store-bought pesto
- 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella (about 3 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
- 3 large eggs
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Fit the rolled-out dough into a 9-inch tart pan, allowing the edges to rise about 1/4 inch above the rim of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork.
2. Line the dough with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes until beginning to brown at the edges. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
3. Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices. Place in a colander to drain excess tomato liquid for 20 minutes.
4. Spread 1/4 cup pesto in an even layer over the parbaked tart crust. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the pesto. Sprinkle the fresh basil and oregano over the cheese.
5. In a medium bowl, prepare the custard: Whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper until combined.
6. Place the sliced tomatoes evenly over the cheese and herbs in overlapping concentric circles.
7. Pour the custard evenly over the tomato slices. Swirl the pan to evenly distribute the liquid. Bake until the filling is set and won’t jiggle when shaken, about 35 minutes.
8. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving warm. This tart can also be served at room temperature.
TIP: Packaged pie dough is an excellent shortcut for weeknight meals, and the tart crust can be parbaked a day in advance.
And to Drink …
The richness of eggs, cream and cheese, the sharp, herbal flavors of pesto, and the juicy, acidic qualities of fresh tomatoes form a combination that calls for an incisive white or rosé. The options seem endless. The universe of Italian white wines offers many fitting choices, as does the world of Provençal-style rosés. Those are the obvious selections. An aligoté from Burgundy would be brilliant. So would a pinot blanc from Germany or Austria, where it might also be called weissburgunder or a silvaner. You could try a riesling as well, dry or sweet, or a sauvignon blanc. Many dry sparkling wines would go with this tart. If you really wanted a red, I would opt for dry, lively and thirst-quenching, with good acidity and no apparent tannins, like an inexpensive barbera.
— Eric Asimov