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Lynda Balslev: A garden-fresh dinner for a summer night

 

Summer’s sultry heat invites fresh, simple meals with garden vegetables that require limited effort to prepare. This tomato tart is a light and easy dinner for a warm night that takes advantage of the season’s kaleidoscope of cherry tomatoes falling in our gardens and showcased in our markets. Its presentation is as unpretentious as could be, giving the sweet and juicy tomatoes center stage, nestled on a bed of airy puff pastry dusted with nutty cheese and plucked garden herbs.

With so few ingredients, do not skimp on their quality. This is the moment to use the freshest tomatoes available. Sprinkle that fancy sea salt you have stashed in your cabinet for special occasions. Choose a nutty aged Gruyere and splurge on Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if you can.

As for the pastry, it is here that I digress from homemade pastry and admit that I rely on a high-quality store-bought puff pastry, an otherwise time-consuming affair to make. After all, we’re talking minimal effort here on a steamy summer night. Fortunately, frozen pastry dough is available in most supermarkets. While the pastry is not cheap, I see it as a break-even when considering the cost of the ingredients and time to layer and roll my own. However, if you do have the time and inclination, I’ve provided my go-to recipe for quick puff pastry from Rose Levy Beranbaum, the diva of pastry, pies and cakes.



Cherry Tomato Tart

Active time: 15 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes, plus draining time



Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a light meal or 6 to 8 as a side dish

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, multicolored if possible, halved lengthwise

Sea salt

1 (9-by-13-inch) sheet frozen puff-pastry dough, thawed in the refrigerator

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

Place the tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow some of the juices to drain, stirring once or twice.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unroll the pastry for one large tart (or unroll and cut the dough into smaller serving squares or circles for individual servings).

Score a 3/4-inch border around the edges of the dough without piercing the bottom. Prick the dough all over with a fork, leaving the border unmarked. Transfer to the oven and bake until the pastry begins to turn golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven. If part of the dough has puffed up, gently deflate it.

Sprinkle the Parmesan, Gruyere, thyme and oregano evenly over the pastry, leaving the border clear. Arrange the tomatoes, cut sides up, over the pastry and season with freshly ground black pepper.

Return the tart to the oven and bake until the tomatoes begin to shrivel and the tart is golden brown and firm at the edges, 12 to 15 minutes more.

Remove and cool for 5 to 10 minutes. If desired, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with additional salt. Garnish with additional thyme leaves.

Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Quick Puff Pastry

Active time: 30 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time

Yield: Makes enough for 1 tart

1 1/2 cups (6.4 ounces) all-purpose flour

3/4 cup (3 ounces) cake flour

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3/4 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup ice water

1 tablespoon cold fresh lemon juice

Cover and freeze the all-purpose flour, cake flour and butter for 30 minutes.

Combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse once or twice to combine.

Add half of the frozen butter pieces and pulse until the butter is pea-sized. Add the remaining butter and pulse until pea-sized. Slowly add the water and lemon juice and pulse until the dough begins to clump together (it will be shaggy).

Transfer the dough to a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour and roll into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Fold the dough in half from the short side (it will be very crumbly) and roll again to form an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Fold in half again, then cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the freezer and roll the dough again into a rectangle. Fold into thirds, like a letter for an envelope. Roll once more and fold again into thirds. Roll out again and fold one more time. Cover and chill until use for up to 2 days (or freeze for up to one year).

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area

This tomato tart is a light and easy dinner for a warm night that takes advantage of the season's kaleidoscope of cherry tomatoes falling in our gardens and showcased in our markets.
Photo by Lynda Balslev

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