The funny thing about eating seasonally in the Phoenix area is that it’s all bass-ackwards from pretty much everywhere else in the country. Knowing what little I do about gardening and harvesting in Illinois, where my family is from, I realize that Midwesterners–and therefore probably other cold-climate residents–are used to tomatoes in the summer (and probably almost nothing in February). Right now in our garden, however, sits a bed of tomatoes as crowded as Wal-Mart on Black Friday.
Unlike Wal-Mart shoppers on Black Friday, we have not had to call the cops on them.
Or Disneyland on this ill-timed weekend last December:
With this tomato horde taking over our garden bed, I’m on a mission to use every single one of them–not because I’m afraid they’ll take over our entire property (well, maybe a little) but because my husband has spent so much time and devotion planting, watering, and tending to them. (I don’t even try to pretend I have anything to do with it. I seem to have the opposite of a Green Thumb–something like the Black Thumb of Death.) I do enjoy the harvest, though, and fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes are one of life’s best simple pleasures.
This week’s tomato feature is this delightful caprese tart. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect after reading through the recipe. Would it be dessert-like, with its buttery crust? Or pizza-like, with its tomato-basil-mozzarella topping? Strange as it sounds, it was exactly both of those things–in the best way possible! The crust certainly sets this apart from your typical pizza with its thick, rich texture, but the melted mozzarella, oven-softened tomatoes, and crispy baked basil identify it as definitively savory. Kind of makes your mind go in chicken-or-the-egg circles–pizza or tart? tart or pizza? It’s a mystery. A delicious mystery that you might as well just eat.
For the crust:
1/3 c. fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
4-5 Tbsp. cold water
For the filling:
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 c. ripe cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
1. Make the crust dough: in the bowl of a food processor, combine basil and garlic. Process, scraping the sides down as needed, until finely minced. Add flour and salt and process briefly to mix. Add butter pieces and pulse about 10 times, or until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs. Add 3 Tbsp. of the cold water and pulse a few times to incorporate. Add 1 more Tbsp. water and pulse again to see if the dough forms into a ball. If not, add the remaining 1Tbsp. water and pulse again until a ball forms. Remove the dough, flatten into a 5-inch disc, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
2. When you are ready to bake the tart, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface (or a greased sheet of wax paper–less messy) and roll out into a 12-inch circle. Lay the dough in a 10-inch tart pan and press it into the sides. Lay a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper loosely over the dough and fill the center with baking beads. (Rice, dry beans, or small pasta also work as baking beads.) Bake 10-12 minutes, then remove foil and beads and bake another 5 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 375.
3. Layer the bottom of the pre-baked crust with the sliced mozzarella, followed by the sliced cherry tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Top with Parmesan and fresh minced basil.
4. Bake about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Allow the tart to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
Makes 1 10-inch tart.