One bite of the flaky piecrust infused with herbs and cheeses and topped deliciously with ripe heirloom tomatoes will send your taste buds to that delicious culinary hiding place in your brain. You know where I mean, and you know that you don’t visit that place as often as you like, or need, or crave. Once you learn the art of the tart in this Tomato Cheese Tart recipe, you’ve got the master key.
Recently, I discovered a stack of heirloom tomatoes at my local produce market; I was startled by the spectrum of colors and perfectly wrinkled outer skins. I felt them for firmness and was pleased to find them at the perfect peak of ripeness, and not yet on the downslide. I bagged them up with a carton of red and yellow cherry tomatoes and raced home.
Tarts are high on my list, especially the savory type like this Tomato Cheese Tart. I have a stack of fluted tart pans with removable bottoms in varying sizes and shapes. I’ve written about them before, and I have a very popular Crawfish and Asparagus Tart and another Duck Egg and Squash Blossom Tart in my cookbook Acadiana Table: Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from the Heart of Louisiana. I like tarts for several reasons: they’re tasty, they’re beautiful, they’re easy, and they’re foolproof. Well, almost.
Once you have selected quality ingredients, there is only one mistake that can ruin this Tomato Cheese Tart recipe–a soggy tart. That’s right; there is nothing worse than slicing into a watery, runny, filling and a limp, gooey crust. The reason this happens is twofold–excess moisture leaching from the sliced tomatoes and a piecrust that has not been pre-baked for maximum crispness. So, follow my instructions carefully and take the extra effort to eliminate this hazard.
So, let’s talk about crust. If you follow my blog, you know I’ll take a shortcut in a New York minute. This includes using store-bought piecrust. Oh, I will readily admit that there is no store-bought pie dough as good as a homemade crust, so if you’re a scratch baker, please knock yourself out on an ultra-flaky, leaf-lard crust. I can promise you the outcome of this recipe will only be better. But for the pastry-challenged cooks like me, I head straight to my neighborhood supermarket.
Depending on where you shop, there are lots of choices: Marie Callender’s, Trader Joe’s, Mrs. Smith’s, and a bevy of others. For simplicity sake, I’m using good ol’ Pillsbury. A trusted brand, this is a highly rated pie dough that doesn’t crack like others I’ve tried, plus, it is refrigerated, not frozen.
One key to working with ready-made piecrust is that many of them are frozen, and you must plan for the time it takes (an hour or more) for the crust to defrost and come to room temperature. Trying to work with frozen dough (yes, I’ve done it) results in broken shards of pastry that once completely thawed, has to be formed into a ball and rolled out –not a timesaver. Other than that, store-bought crust works beautifully in recipes like this one.
There are a couple of ways to go: pre-formed piecrust in the aluminum pie tins, and the rolled pie dough in the package. I use the already formed piecrust when I can transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie pan, or I am baking right in the accompanied pie tin. If I need to top a pastry (like a pot pie) with crust, or I need a different size diameter, I will use the rolled dough like in this recipe.
Find a source for ripe heirloom tomatoes, Louisiana Creole tomatoes, or better yet, grow your own and make this Tomato Cheese Tart and discover the bright flavors of summer in the South.
- 1 9-inch piecrust, the packaged, refrigerated rolled dough such as Pillsbury
- 1 large red heirloom tomato
- 1 large yellow heirloom tomato
- Sea salt
- 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese
- ½ cup grated Gouda cheese
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup diced green onion tops
- ½ cup baby arugula
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 large egg
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
- 3 stalks green onion, steamed in the microwave and drained
- ½ cup red and yellow cherry tomatoes, sliced
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- Preheat your oven to 375ºF.
- Remove the piecrust from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Carefully remove the piecrust from the package and onto a work surface dusted with flour. Sprinkle the top with flour and begin rolling out the dough into a larger circle. Using a tape measure, roll it to 10.5-inch round. This diameter will give you enough excess to build the edges along the rim of the tart pan. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom coated with non-stick spray, place the piecrust and press it into the flute edges. Remove any excess dough to form a clean edge. If you have any gaps in the piecrust, repair it by using excess dough pressed into the crust with your warm hands. Using a fork, prick the piecrust all over the bottom and the sides. Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights (or dried beans or raw rice). Bake in the oven until brown around the edges, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the foil and pie weights.
- Slice the heirloom tomatoes into ¼-inch-thick rounds and place on a paper towel-lined tray. Sprinkle with salt and place another sheet of paper towel on top. Place a tray or cutting board on top to add weight and draw out the excess moisture in the tomatoes.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the ricotta, Romano, and Gouda cheeses, and stir to combine. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, green onion tops, arugula, garlic, and the egg. Stir the egg into the mixture and combine. Season with salt and coarsely ground black pepper.
- Into the piecrust, add the filling, making sure to spread it evenly to the edges. Lay the sliced red onions over the filling and press down. Place the heirloom tomato slices on top arranging them in alternating colors. Arrange the stalks of green onion into the mixture and fill in the gaps with cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Cut 2-inch wide strips of aluminum foil to line the edges of the piecrust to prevent overcooking. Lower the oven temperature to 350ºF and bake until the filling sets and the edges of the pastry begin to brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Pop the bottom of the tart pan from the fluted metal ring by placing it over a can of vegetables. Slide the tart off the bottom and onto a cake stand or platter and slice. Grind black pepper over the top and sprinkle with fresh basil leaves. Serve at room temperature with a side salad and glass of wine.
YOUR SEAT AT THE TABLE: If you like this Southern cooking story and recipe then accept my personal invitation to subscribe by entering your email at the bottom or top right of this page. It’s quick, painless, and FREE. You will receive an email alert and be the first to see when new Southern cooking stories and recipes are added. Thanks, George.