There’s really not much I can say about tomatoes-in-summer that hasn’t already been said. Recently, though, I’ve become fixated on the smell of tomato leaves and stems. The prickly-vegetal scent permeates the hands of any gardener working with the plant, or any marketgoer lucky enough to find tomatoes on the vine. A few weeks ago, I stuck my nose into a glass of rosé wine, and the most startling green-tomato scent overcame me. I didn’t want to drink it—I just sat there, smelling, over and over. Seriously: essence of strawberries and tomato leaves in that glass. I won’t soon forget it.But today we’re dealing with the fruit hanging on those stems and leaves, and specifically, those big, meaty types of that fruit that, to be honest, I generally avoid. They seem like sandwich tomatoes, and I don’t need tomatoes in the summer for a sandwich, for goodness sake! We have much more important tomato work to do. For this recipe, though, you’ll need them.The other thing you’ll need is puff pastry. Puff pastry is one of those things I “leave to the professionals”, subbing in a normal pie crust if I think it’ll work out and avoiding the recipe entirely if it won’t. “Leaving it to the professionals” is a famous last phrase, though. I wanted this tart badly enough that I googled around ’til I found something called a “rough puff” pastry that’s a bit of a cheater-pastry compared to full-on, layers-upon-layers-of-butter puff pastry. Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, though. It is August. You should probably just buy a sheet of frozen puff pastry, if that’s what you want. Buying frozen puff pastry to make this tart is a much better alternative than not making this tart at all.I have a torturous relationship with the ladies of Canal House Cooking (from afar, and of which they are completely unaware, as all good unrequited loves should be). Somehow a daily photo of what they eat for lunch says more than anything I write here. I become weak in the knees (it looks SO good! why didn’t I think of having that for lunch?) and simultaneously indignant (well, if EVERYONE got to hang out in a beautiful studio/kitchen all day where your only jobs are writing books and cooking and gardening and visiting farmer’s markets, then I would eat lunch like that every day too). Anyway—this is adapted from them; as usual, it is truly near-perfect, as is, in its simplicity. You will want to add parmesan, or gruyère, or salt it before putting it in the oven. I know you guys. Just don’t. Trust me.
Adapted from Canal House Cooking, Volume No. 4
You will need
- 1-2 big, meaty, sun-ripened tomatoes
1 sheet of puff pastry
A bundle of thyme
Salt (the bigger- and flakier-grained, the better)
Fresh ground pepper
Good olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Slice the tomatoes into thin slabs through the middle. If the core is tough, remove it.
Place the sheet of puff pastry (if it was frozen, it should be defrosted first). With the tip of a knife, lightly score a border around the pastry to serve as the ‘crust’. Prick the area inside the border with the tines of a fork all over to prevent this area from puffing too much.
Starting with the largest tomato slabs, arrange the tomatoes inside the scored border. After you run out of room for full tomato slices, cut the slices in half and arrange to more or less fill the space.(Do you remember tangrams? It’s kind of like that.) Do not overlap tomato slices, or it will be too liquidy for the delicate pastry to handle without getting soggy.
(You will probably have leftover bits and pieces of tomatoes, but don’t waste them! I know from experience that one way to remedy your tomato-scrap problem is to get some goat cheese out of the fridge and eat the tomatoes with the cheese and salt and pepper, right over your cutting board.)
Strip the thyme leaves from their stems and scatter all over the tomatoes.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until tomatoes are roasted and crust is golden brown all over.
Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with salt, ground pepper, and drizzle all over with olive oil.