If you’re lucky enough to spend a little summertime in Europe, and particularly in France, you might see quite a stunning visual array of savory tarts, quiche, pizza, pissaladiére, Flammkuchen, Zwiebelkuchen, and many other pastries in bakeries, cafes, and restaurants. The pastry or crust fillings may include a little bacon or anchovy here and there, but often as not vegetables and/or cheese are the superstars. Baked before the day gets hot or in a blissful outdoor oven, these tasty light meals are the perfect hot weather treats served warm or at room temperature on their own or with a crisp green salad on the side. A little white wine? But of course.
Here in the states, we’re typically more into pizza across the board (a few quiches, too, I’ll admit) but lately I’ve been spying — and maybe you have, too –quite a few Tomato Pies showing up here, there, and everywhere while the ruby red tomatoes are coming in hot and heavy. (I will have to make one as they feature tomatoes and mayo–one of my warm weather favorite combos.) My tomatoes here in Colorado are still just barely ripening — and they’re all of the cherry or grape variety given our short growing season. But a slew of sweet Camparis on my counter found me searching for a French-style tomato tart I remembered seeing somewhere. But where? A little google mining brought me to Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa website and a reminder about Anna’s Tomato Tart, which is in Ina’s COOKING FOR JEFFREY book — right on my own shelf! Now I didn’t particularly want a tomato-ONLY tart, but rather had in mind something with a sort Provençal feel that included olives, fennel, mushrooms, peppers, and more. Anna’s tart would definitely serve as my springboard. Scroll down to read up on the late cook-caterer-writer, Anna Pump and her great store on Long Island– Loaves and Fishes. Links to other savory tart recipes included there, too.
A quick pass over my fresh vegetables and a look into the fridge told me I had everything I needed –and more — to bake up my very own version of a veggie and cheese tart for late July in Colorado Springs. In fact, there were zucchini and eggplant I wanted to add but simply had no room for. (Another time!) For fun, I thought I’d call it Summer Vegetable Tart. That said everything and was, after all, in English for good measure. Now all I had to do was get up bright and perky-early to get it done in time for our lunchtime Pinochle game. Did I do it? Just barely! Lord. Do get started a few hours before you need your tart — or make the dough and bake it a day before for a head start. It must be chilled and then baked 3 times, making the recipe not difficult, but time and labor-intensive when you add on slicing the veggies (cooking some), grating the cheese, and making the sauce.
Here are a few photos to give you the idea of the process and why you need to plan ahead:
The last thing I’ll share is what husband Dave offered after lunch. “You can make me that tart any time you want.” He wanted it again for dinner. Luckily there were a couple of pieces left. My card player friend, Jeanne, who is also an accomplished baker, said, “I can’t wait for that recipe.” (Here it is.) By the way, I’m glad the lunch was great because Jeanne and I didn’t win the game!
Filling without being heavy, the contrast of the bright, acidic tomatoes and the salty cheese topped with briny olives, fennel-y fennel, garlicky herbs, and meaty mushrooms with sweet peppers made the whole deal work as if they’d all been together in the pan a hundred times before. And perhaps they had. There’ll be a dance worth tasting when you try this:
Summer Vegetable Tart
Crust (recipe below):
- 6 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard for brushing on the crust before adding vegetables
- 1 cup parsley leaves
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
- 3 large plump garlic cloves, sliced
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt-I use Morton’s
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4- ounces sliced button mushrooms, lightly sautéed or grilled
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced thinly, lightly sautéed or grilled
- ½ large yellow bell pepper, sliced thinly –lightly sautéed or grilled
- 1- pound fresh ripe medium-sized tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
- ¼ cup sliced kalamata olives–added after 20 minutes of baking
- 2 thinly sliced green onions–added after 20 minutes of baking
- 1 pound piece of Gruyère, grated (about ¾-pound of cheese after grating/without rind.)
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese–approx. 1 ½ ounces
- BAKE THE DOUGH for the crust: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll the chilled dough out on a well-floured counter until it’s 11”x 7”. Gently roll the dough back onto the rolling pin and roll it back out onto the lined sheet pan. If it’s a bit too big, trim a little off; it doesn’t have to fit perfectly. There’s no need to pinch or flute the edges. Place another half sheet on top of the dough and bake for 15 minutes on a middle rack. (Alternately, line with foil and fill with dry beans before baking.) Remove the pans from the oven and take the top pan off. Using a fork, pierce the pastry all over (maybe 30 times) to keep it from puffing up. Bake another 8 minutes or until light brown, checking and piercing again any spots that puff up. Cool on rack 15 minutes. Brush all over with the 6 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
- MAKE THE SAUCE IN THE FOOD PROCESSOR: Add all of the sauce ingredients (parsley – red pepper) except the olive oil to the work bowl fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until minced. With machine running, pour in the olive oil slowly until well-combined. (Alternately, chop finely on the board with a chef’s knife and whisk together in a large measuring cup.)
- ADD THE VEGETABLES except the olives and green onions to a large bowl and drizzle the sauce over them. Gently combine.
- SPRINKLE THE DIJON-COVERED CRUST WITH all the grated Gruyère except for ½ cup, which you’ll reserve for a topping. Sprinkle the Gruyère with the ½ cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Layer the sauced vegetables evenly over the cheese, carefully first straining out extra liquid from the bowl if necessary. Add any extra garlic and herb mixture over the vegetables. Make sure the vegetables are distributed evenly across the tart, not leaving all the peppers in one place, for instance. Sprinkle with the reserved ½ cup of grated Gruyère and the other 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- BAKE the tart for 20 minutes at 375 degrees F on the center rack. Remove tart from the oven and sprinkle evenly with reserved sliced Kalamata olives and green onions. Return the oven and bake another 10 minutes or until crust is crispy and toppings are bubbly. If fat from sauce and cheese has escaped into the pan, gently tip the pan with one hand, and carefully soak it up with a wad of paper towels in the other hand. Cool for a few minutes before cutting and serving hot, warm, or at room temperature. Best the day it's made, you can wrap tart leftovers tightly, store in the refrigerator, and serve cold within a day. Do not freeze.
Hint: Only make this in summer when the both the vegetables and the herbs are abundant, delicious, and easily found at good prices. If you’re not growing herbs at your house, try the farmer’s market for the best deals or ask friends for garden extras. Herbs can be dried in the microwave or frozen for stock or soup.
Loaves and Fishes Cookbook (Anna Pump) The Tomato Tart was originally published here, as I understand it, and baked to exhaustion by the cooks at Anna’s store. I have two of Anna’s books, but not this one — more’s the pity.
Loaves & Fishes Foodstore (Website w/ menus)
Cooking for Jeffrey (Ina Garten) This is a steal right now on amazon.
BBC Good Food Provençal Tart Recipe (Tony Tobin)
CHANGE IT UP: While I like this tart as is, it could — as I said earlier — include cooked zucchini, eggplant, asparagus, green beans, and more. The vegetables cannot be piled up, but must instead just be layered and overlapping a little, not a lot. So if you use all of the veggies I do and then add zucchini or eggplant, you’ll need to cut down on the tomatoes. The cheeses could include a bit of gorgonzola or other grateable cheeses such as Pecorino Romano. A small amount of Cheddar would work, but I wouldn’t use a lot; the tart would be full of grease as Cheddar is so high in fat. You could try it with store-bought or homemade puff pastry — a favorite tart base. Check out the “Simple Provençal Vegetable Tart” above for ideas on how to use puff pastry here. Need some meat? A little ham or cooked bacon tucked in here or there could be added if you like. Not too much, though. The veggies are IT here.
CUTTING FOOD COSTS/AVOIDING WASTE FOR THIS DISH: While not terribly inexpensive to make, the Gruyère is the dearest ingredient. Get yours at COSTCO or a similar store where it comes in a one-pound package. Since there’s no meat involved and you’re getting at least six servings, it still seems like a decent value. Make it only in mid to late summer when tomatoes are luscious and cheap; luckily that’s at the same time every year. This dish won’t keep more than a day and it’s not freezable. Bake this when you can use it all for family or guests and eat leftovers for breakfast or lunch the next day. Take it to a potluck or cookout for an appetizer and it’ll disappear quickly. I haven’t tried it, but my guess is you could halve this recipe without much trouble. You could still use a half sheet pan or, if you have one, a 1/4 sheet pan. Just make sure there’s a rim on the pan as there can be some excess fat pooling after baking.
LIFE GOES ON:
Seems it’s often too cold or too hot for a convertible in Colorado, but the other day we went out to brunch in the Beetle with the top down (look closely in the mirror) and were really comfy.
Thanks for keeping me company in the kitchen when it’s cool enough to bake in the summer and please do…
Get yourself all tarted up,