Over the past week, a pile of tomatoes accumulated on our kitchen counter. They were tasty and ripe, but a lot of them were also ugly. Some of them had split, while others had fallen victim to tiny predators, which took bites out of each tomato and moved on to the next. I didn’t have quite enough tomatoes to justify a canning session, but I had to use the tomatoes before they went bad. I’d just cut off the parts that had already been compromised. I needed a recipe for a pile of tomatoes, something other than marinara sauce.
Regular readers may recall that I fell in love with the concept behind the cookery school at Ballymaloe, an Irish estate. Ballymaloe focuses on using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. Studying at the school is not in my budget, but buying Darina Allen’s cookbook was, as I described in April. Since I got the book, I’ve used it as much for tips on breaking down whole chickens as I have for the recipes, but a recipe for tomato and pecorino tarte tatin caught my attention as I contemplated my pile of ugly tomatoes. I ended up using Allen’s idea–baked tomato in a nice crust–rather than the recipe, so what I present here is my adaption, a right-side-up pie rather than an upside-down tarte tatin. This tart makes a rich side dish with a light dinner but can also be an appetizer on its own or a tasty leftovers breakfast. And you can make it without heating up your house if you use your toaster oven.
Filling Ingredients for an 8-inch cast iron pan
- 1/4 sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- about 5-6 cups peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes, preferably a mix of paste and slicing tomatoes; okay to use cherries too, but they’re a lot harder to peel!
- 1 teaspoon salt
- optional: 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (okay to use the yellow onion, but then your pie won’t be quite as pretty)
- tiny bit of olive oil
- 2-3 slicing tomatoes, sliced thinly
- 1 1/2 ounces manchego or other sweet, hard cheese, like a dry, aged cheddar
- several fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
- 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into bits
- optional but really tasty!: handful or two of toasted pine nuts
- 1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
- flour for rolling
Begin by sauteing the chopped onion in the olive oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed non-reactive pot (e.g. aluminum-bottomed stainless steel) while you prep the chopped tomatoes. When the onions just barely start to caramelize, add the chopped tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Cook uncovered over low heat, simmering until the tomato and onion mixture is reduced to about 1/3 or even 1/4 of its original volume. The consistency should be like jam, close to tomato paste.
Meanwhile, roast the thinly sliced red onion with a little oil in your 8-inch cast iron pan for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees F. Set aside the roasted, now caramelized onions. We’re going to need the pan.
You can make the pie crust while the tomato jam cooks down and the red onions roast. Put the flour mixed with with salt and leavening and cold, cut butter in a medium-sized bowl. Cut the butter into the flour, using a pastry cutter or fork. Once you’ve cut in the butter, creating a mealy mixture, mix in the toasted pine nuts, breaking them with the pastry cutter. Now stir in the yogurt, just until you’ve formed the dough. Do not overwork pastry dough! Wrap the dough and chill for a few minutes. When the tomato jam is ready, flour a clean surface and roll out about 2/3 of the dough and use it to line your 8-inch cast iron pan. (Save the rest of the dough, well wrapped, in the refrigerator. We’re going to use it for sweet apple turnovers!) Pre-bake the crust at about 375 degrees F for 15 minutes, covering the crust loosely with aluminum foil to keep it from over-browning in the toaster oven.
Now let’s fill! Using a fine grater or even a microplane, grate a thin layer of cheese over the baked crust. Spoon on about 1/2 of the tomato jam. Add a the slices from one tomato and a little more cheese. Put on a little more tomato jam, add more slices, and then sprinkle on the roasted onions. Add more tomato slices, the basil, a little more jam, and the rest of the cheese. Bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, covering loosely with foil to avoid over-browning the crust. Let cool briefly and then slice and serve.
Would you like to make a 10-inch tart instead? Simply prepare 50% more of all of the filling ingredients and use all of the pastry dough.
Do you have a favorite savory vegetable pie that you make or had somewhere? What do you do with your ugly tomatoes?
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