I have a confession, pie and tart crusts are my nemesis. I’ve been caught red handed, on multiple occasions, seeking the freezer section for my secret pie recipe. I’ve decided to conquer said problem, and sort out the “secret to southern tarts“. As important as the crust is, in a tomato tart, the type of tomato selected is even more important. It’s the very unique creole tomato, that will always provide a signature warm southern flavor. These tomatoes were bred to survive the high heat, humidity and strong south Louisiana sun, bringing an intense tomato flavor. So was my tart a success, failure, or ugly first attempt?
If I had to grade my first attempt at a tart, I would give myself a C- . I just barely passed, the flavor was right, texture was palatable, but I failed miserably in the looks department. I’ve tried several times to make pie crusts, with more failures than successes. It takes a certain level of finesse to make a great flaky crust. In this case I finally managed the flaky crust, with great taste coming from the rosemary, thyme and Parmesan cheese, but I never thought to check the size of my tart pan. Learn from my mistake, when you’re baking, check to make sure that your amount of dough will roll out larger than the size of your pan. Otherwise you’ll end up with a crust, with sides, that resemble the Colorado Rockies.
Enough with my crust failure, let’s talk about what makes the creole tomato special. If you’ve never had the opportunity to taste a creole heirloom your missing out. Creole tomatoes have an amazing concentrated tomato flavor, including a bright acid kick. Creole tomatoes are always a delight to find at the beginning of summer, but if you have to substitute, avoid your standard supermarket reds and look for the largest ugly heirlooms you can find. If you grow tomatoes at home, explore the creole tomato. You’ll be preserving a unique variety and your efforts will be rewarded in an authentic southern flavor.
Creole Tomato Basil Tart
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cold firm unsalted butter cubed
- 3 tablespoons fresh Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- pinch of fresh ground pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
- 5 tablespoons ice cold water
- 6 ounces fresh goat cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
- 3 – 4 fresh ripe creole tomatoes (or favorite variety) sliced
- extra virgin olive oil
- coarse sea salt
- fresh ground pepper
- balsamic vinegar (Optional)
Combine flour, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme in a large bowl and mix. Then add the cubed butter and gently cut the butter into the other ingredients until the consistency is like coarse wet sand. Then adding one tablespoon of water at a time continue to blend until the water is incorporated, it will appear loose but should hold together. Shape the dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, overnight is better.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Roll out the dough carefully, not over working the dough and place in the tart pan. Poke holes with a fork in the base of the tart. Cover the base of the tart with parchment paper and cook for 8 minutes, then remove the paper and finish the tart until gold brown. Allow the tart to cool before adding the filling.
Combine the goat cheese, with 2 table spoons of chopped basil, pepper, dash of olive oil and stir until texture is smooth. Spread the cheese mixture into the crust, then top with sliced tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil on top of the tart, and sprinkle the sea salt. Optional balsamic vinegar on the side, for added flavor to each slice.
Some tips to boosting the flavor? Try quality goat cheeses, we recommend Belle Chevre, made in Alabama, we love to support local southern food. Experiment with salts and quality olive oils, there are many varieties out there each with unique, but subtle, flavors. Also try Thai or lemon basil, instead of sweet basil, we have enjoyed the lemon basil as it brings a fresh citrus aroma. The biggest secret is to use the freshest ingredients available, and to keep the flavors simple.
We’re going to continue to revisit our friend, “The Tart”, until we find the secret to its success. Help us grow our skills by telling us your tart secrets. What’s your favorite tomato variety? How can we make this recipe, just a little bit better. Stay Hungry Y’all
-The Hungry Southerner