It is hard to say goodbye to summer. On September 1st, the sky turned gray as if by command, the temperature dropped twenty degrees, Pumpkin Spice Lattes showed up at Starbucks, and photos of friends’ children in their stiff new school clothes took over my Facebook and Instagram feeds. Fall didn’t arrive gracefully this year– it descended. And I was not prepared. I feel like we haven’t had enough warm days. We only took our little boat out *one* time. I’m not ready to put away my white sweater, or my cute skirts, or my sandals. I’m not ready for stew!* But how does one lady rail against a season? I actually like autumn– the leaves, the cinnamon, the cozy sweaters and football games and comfortable sleeping weather. Rather than fight, I am choosing to celebrate the last few weeks of what is technically summer. I’m eating local berries or stone fruit every day. I’m stubbornly still wearing those cute skirts, with a cardigan now. And I am meal planning to make the most of local produce, with a focus on tomatoes. A very long lead up to say: this stunning, simple tomato tart is perhaps my favorite way to highlight and celebrate the glorious variety of late summer tomatoes.
It looks pretty fancy. That’s the ace in your pocket: it can be presented to a table at a family brunch or weekend gathering and I guarantee you will get some “ooh”s and “aah”s. Someone might clap! It smells good, like basil, garlic and warm tomatoes– and just wait until they get a bite. If you want to add a flourish or two, this pretty tomato tart is unbelievably easy to modify. You can use any kind of slicing tomatoes for the base, any kind of pesto for the sauce. You can make or buy the pastry. You can add other vegetables: onions, peppers, zucchini, etc. You can add meat: prosciutto, dry salame, rotisserie chicken or sliced ham. But I like this tart best as simple as this: buttery crust; perfectly ripe tomatoes; pungent, bright green, garlicky pesto; and supple fresh mozzarella. I could eat it every day in September, and I promise I will make a few more tarts before the tomatoes are done for the year. It is almost as good for brunch or lunch the next day, assuming you have any left over, and can be served cold or room temperature, much like good pizza.
Before we welcome bright blue autumn skies, put aside our cold brew in favor of spiced lattes, and tromp out into the orchards for
pictures apples, let’s hang on to the last of summer with a sunny meal (or two) of tomato tart.
Late Summer Tomato Tart (serves 4-8)
- 1 9″ pie crust (my favorite is linked here, just leave out the sugar– makes enough for 2 tarts)
- 1 lb. ripe tomatoes, cored, halved and sliced thinly
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1/4 c. pesto of your choice
- 1 T. olive oil (optional)
- 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, shredded or torn into small pieces
- 1 c. Sungold (or other cherry) tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out the pie crust until it looks larger than a 10″ fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, like this one. Lay the pastry over the pan and press it down so it covers the entire base and goes up the sides. If you are short in some areas, break off pieces from other areas and patch. Using a rolling pin or sharp knife, go around the top of the pan and cut off any extra dough. Bake the crust for 10 mins. and remove from the oven. It’s okay if the dough shrinks down the sides slightly– I like to call this charm. Personality. You can see in the picture above the slightly uneven edges, but the tart tastes so good I don’t worry about perfection.
Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Remember the pan is hot, and work carefully so you don’t get burned. Lay the sliced tomatoes in concentric circles until they cover the base nearly completely. Overlapping is fine, if necessary. Salt the tomatoes very conservatively. Distribute the cheese in an even layer over the sliced tomatoes. Mix the pesto and olive oil together to make the sauce pourable (though you don’t want it to be too liquid, so skip the extra oil if your pesto is already quite runny), then dot the tart with pesto. Place the Sungolds around the top. Here is what the tart looks like before baking:
Bake for 30-40 mins., until the crust is golden brown around the edges, the cheese is melted and golden, and the tomatoes are softened. Carefully remove the sides of the tart pan, cut with a sharp knife or pizza wheel, and serve immediately. Leftover tart will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
*Actually… since last week… I decided I am, in fact, ready for stew.