I am not a very spontaneous person.
But sometimes seeds are planted. Ideas can lodge themselves in the throat like a sliver of popcorn and remain there until you spend every ounce of your energy bringing the Thing into reality. This is what happened to me a couple of nights ago.
I haven’t been sleeping. But in between my typical dream vignettes of loosing my teeth and my being roused at 4am by a phone call and trying to speak into the end of my stick deodorant on my nightstand (I am an extremely heavy sleeper) – I saw it. A tomato tart.
So this was my thought process for the remainder of Tuesday:
4:13 AM. must. tart. make. Good night, Gillette Clear-Gel.
5:00 AM. I have to make a tomato tart. But It cant be too complicated or fatty because it’s fairly obvious I’m not leaving this #&(& bed to go jogging.
8:50AM I don’t have the faintest clue how to make a tomato tart.
8:50:30AM Like that’s ever stopped me before. I’ll figure it out. It’s only a difficult seasonal vegetable fruit baked into, say, homemade pie dough which is totally easy.
8:51 I don’t know what is more annoying about myself, my snobbery, my arrogance or my sarcasm. It’s a frikkin wonder I’m single.
9:10 Tomato Tart:
+ Easy Leftovers
+ Uses the fresh veggies I bought at Findlay Market Saurday
+ Can eat at 3am.
-No idea how to make it and don’t trust the recipes I have
- Pie crust is annoying
- Might take a while. And I would like to get up and run in the morning
- Can eat at 3am
9:45 Tomatoes are really watery.
10:30 I have all of this cheese, too.
11:12 I am really interested in knowing how cheese and tomatoes over a crust is fundamentally different from “pizza.”
11:12:30 I’m not judging, I’m just saying.
12:15 Wait. What if I ROASTED the tomatoes?
12:45 You’ve just added an hour to this dish. You’re not running tomorrow.
1:30 If I am going to roast tomatoes I need Thyme. Yes, I really am that insufferable.
2:15 Wait a second. Think about what you have. Roasted Tomatoes, shitake mushrooms , carmelized onions, parm.
And this, friends, is where everything came together. I had a tart where all of the key ingredients contained the elusive “Umami” taste, that unctuous, savory sensation that, like porn, is difficult to explain but very easy to sense and understand. If done correctly, this tart would have multiple complimentary levels of rich, intense flavor, and without the use of salt or seasoning.
The timing here would be tricky. I tried to keep things as streamlined as possible, but the key point to this entire endeavor is to develop maximum flavor in as many ingredients as possible. Onions needed to be brown and gooey. The mushrooms needed to taste like, well, you know. And the tomatoes had to be strong, bold, and meaty… so there were a few steps.
Otherwise, I like the way it turned out. So:
For the crust
Scoop of Flour (about a cup)
stick of butter (into cold little pieces)
pinch of salt (kosher)
spritz of water (About 1/4 cup)
For the filling
3 large, in-season tomatoes purchased from your local farmers market
1 large handful of fresh shitake mushrooms, divested of their stems and cut into strips
2 medium yellow onions, julienned (or cut into rings)
1/2 cup good quality Parmesan cheese
5 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
preheat oven to 450
Make your pie crust. Pulse the butter, flour and salt in your food processor (or just do it with your fingertips) until the mixture resembles loose cornmeal but holds together when you squeeze a ball of it. Add the water, pulse a few more times until it comes together into a loose mass. Work the mass into a ball, and allow to rest in the fridge for an hour.
Core and quarter your tomatoes, and place them in a large roasting pan along with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and the thyme sprigs. Place in your oven, which should now be preheated. Stir every fifteen minutes.
Place the onions in a skillet on your stovetop (yes, I know, a lot of heat. Sack up, the tart is worth it.) with a glug of olive oil and pinch of salt. Simmer on low heat until browned.
After 45 minutes, toss the mushrooms in olive oil, set them on a pan or in a small baking vessel, and place in the oven under the tomatoes. Give them a stir once or twice. Do not burn.
Okay, once everything is roasted, turn the oven down to 400. Remove the stuff from the oven, and turn the heat off on your smoldering onions. Remove ball of dough from the fridge, and let it set on the counter for about five minutes (just to soften it a bit, so that less rolling is required to shape it)
Place dough on a large piece of parchment paper on your counter, drizzled with a bit of flour Roll the softened dough into a disk a few inches wider than your nine-inch/one inch deep ceramic tart pan you bought at Ikea but never use. A regular pie pan is obviously fine here, too. Once the dough is the right size, flip it into the pan, and shape it to the sides, if need be. Poke several holes in the bottom of the pan to allow heat to escape.
Bake the crust for fifteen minutes. Remove, and allow to cool for another fifteen.
Mix together the tomatoes, onions and mushrooms. Pour into the tart pan and top with the parm. Place in the oven for another fifteen minutes or until the cheese has melted and darkened nicely. Remove from oven, allow to cool/set for 20 minutes or so, cut, plate and eat. MMMM.
So this recipe could be completely wrong, but it is the product of a days obsession. Honestly, it worked.