I had a friend in town this week and just when we were at the point in the conversation when we’d usually pick a place to meet for lunch, something terrible happened. Caught up in a moment where I forgot that I am me and not, say, Ina Garten, I suggested he come over and I’d make lunch for us instead. I realized I’d lost my ever-loving mind. Sure, I’d like to be the kind of person who makes “just lunch, nothing fancy!” for friends on a whim but I am not. I don’t really do “whim” cooking, as a website with nearly 918 intricately detailed recipes in its archives might evidence. Plus, I had so many recipes I was overdue to test out — a lemonade, a salad, a tart and I’d been promising my son I’d make chocolate pudding for weeks, not to mention the daily grind of breakfast, lunchbox and dinner — that I felt like I had no time to cook anything extra.
And then, thank goodness, I realized how ridiculous that was. What could be more delicious for lunch than a salad, a tart, lemonade and chocolate pudding that I’d made enough of to ensure the kid wouldn’t be left out? What, you say? It might be a flop? My friend might push his food around his plate, hoping I wouldn’t notice or, worse, eat something he hated so not to hurt my feelings? Guys, I am 38 years old, by any standards (unfortunately, most days) a grown-up, and I decided that it was time, once and for all, to boldly embrace Julia Child’s best cooking rule: never apologize.
I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make… Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes. (My Life in France)
It turns out, not apologizing is amazingly freeing. If you go into the kitchen knowing that you have no intentions of showing anything more than a shruggie over what comes out, you might just cook. And so I made that tomato tart I’d been thinking about for a while — a mash-up between this pretty thing from Saveur and this one I saw on TV many years ago with a mashed roasted garlic base. And of course, while I was quietly worried about how it turned out, I also suspected that really, truly, how bad can mashed roasted garlic, parmesan cheese, blistered cherry tomatoes, capers, olive oil, chives, parsley and oregano baked onto a buttery puffed pastry base taste?
Spoiler: not bad at all. Kind of amazing, actually. So good that the first thing I did after lunch was go back to the market to buy stuff to make it again because, la la la, tomato season isn’t over yet so let’s make the most of it. I declare this a Pumpkin Spice-Free Zone, at least until the last week of September. Deal?
One year ago: Fudgy Chocolate Sheet Cake
Two years ago: Crackly Banana Bread
Three years ago: Apple and Honey Challah
Four years ago: Linguine with Tomato-Almond Pesto
Five years ago: Nectarine Galette and Cornbread Salad
Six years ago: Bourbon Peach Hand Pies, Raspberry Breakfast Bars
Seven years ago: Hoisin Barbecue Sauce and Lemon Layer Cake
Herbed Tomato and Roasted Garlic Tart
Adapted from Saveur
At the beginning of tomato season, they’re so precious to me, anything more than a few flakes of sea salt on top of a fresh slice seems disrespectful. As the season goes on, however, I begin adding ingredients and near the end, it gets to a point where they’re downright busy, as they are here, with garlic, capers, olive oil, pepper flakes and three herbs. I have no regrets. This is a wonderful lunch or dinner tart with a salad and/or soup on the side. The steps will feel a little fussy — par- and then pre-baking the crust, pre-broiling the tomatoes — but try to resist skipping steps. None are particularly hard and the result is the rare unsoggy and deeply flavored tomato tart, the kind I’ll be missing all winter.
Serves 6 (lunch-sized portion) to 8 (appetizer-sized portion). You could double this recipe and bake it in a 13″x18″ rimmed pan.
1 small head garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus an extra drizzle for the garlic
1 9″x13″ sheet frozen puffed pastry*, thawed in fridge for several hours
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed, if salted (or 1 to 2 anchovies, finely chopped)
1 1/2 pounds (about 4 cups) small cherry or grape tomatoes, the sweetest you can find
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
Roast garlic: Heat oven to 350°F. Cut head of garlic in half crosswise; drizzle cut ends with a few drops of olive oil, then wrap in tightly foil and bake, directly on oven rack, for 45 minutes, until garlic cloves are completely soft. Set aside. [Note: Heads of garlic can also be roasted whole, but I find it easier to remove the cloves without getting any stuck in the skin when it’s halved. Garlic can be roasted up to two days in advance; just keep in the fridge until needed. It will smell exactly like a toasted everything bagel.]
Prepare crust: Increase oven temperature to 375°F. 9″x13″-inch baking sheet (or quarter-sheet pan) with parchment paper. Fit pastry sheet into pan, pressing it against the bottom and sides. Trim pastry hanging over sides of pan, if there is any. Prick bottom of pastry all over with a fork. Lay parchment paper over crust and fill with pie weights, which can be storebought, or you can use dried beans, rice or even pennies. Bake until edges of tart are golden, 25 minutes. Carefully remove weights and parchment. If any parts have bubbled up, poke them with a knife point and they should deflate.
Squeeze roasted garlic cloves out into a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Spread over baked par-baked crust with a knife, as if you were buttering bread. Sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper. Return to oven bake until tart shell is golden all over, 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside on a cooling rack.
Heat broiler. In a large bowl, mix tomatoes, capers, olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and broil, shaking pan once or twice, until tomatoes are blistered and have begun to release their juices, 12 to 14 minutes. This may seem a pesky step but getting the juiciness out of the tomatoes will keep the tart crust from getting soggy.
Increase oven heat to 425°F. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomato mixture to the prepared tart shell; distribute tomatoes evenly, in one layer. Sprinkle with the three herbs. Return the tart to the oven and bake it until hot, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before cutting into it.
Tart can be served hot or closer to room temperature. Store leftovers in fridge. Reheat in 325°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
* My favorite frozen puffed pastry is DuFour — definitely not cheap, but absolutely delicious, made only with butter, flour, salt and a little lemon juice. 1 14-ounce package unfolds to just about 9″x13″, which means I just pressed/stretched it a tiny bit with my fingertips to fit it in the pan — no rolling required (yay). You can also reuse the parchment it comes wrapped into line your crust as you par-bake it.