Construction zone ahead


Please bear with me here.  My kitchen is a disaster:  The plumbing’s been dismantled, the dishwasher disconnected and the stove removed.  The refrigerator stands in the entry hall around the corner.

The last thing to come out of the oven before we pushed the stove into the dining room was this delightful tomato tart.

The sorry state of culinary affairs at Chez Watson is my own fault, I confess. When I decided it was time at last to replace the countertops (Home Depot was having a sale), I didn’t consider the fact that the kitchen could be out of commission for up to a month.  It wasn’t as if we were doing a wholesale remodel, I reasoned.  Only the counters were going.  Oh yes, and the old sink.

tornupkitchenLet’s just say it was a bit of a shock when the contractor told us to remove and disconnect everything before the old tile counter could be demolished.  The lesson here, of course, is never to underestimate the disruptive factor of any home remodeling project.

My kitchen has never been a showpiece.  It’s too small for more than one cook.  But it’s incredibly efficient, with a tight work triangle that means few wasted steps. I miss it.

So we’re going to be grilling and cooking on a camp stove for the next couple of weeks, not to mention washing all of the dishes by hand in plastic tubs.  Somehow this doesn’t seem like such a big deal when you’re actually camping.  At home, when you’re constantly shuttling upstairs and down to find the spices, whisks and platters stashed all over the house, it’s not so much fun.

Fortunately, we’re in the middle of summer and the produce is so good, it doesn’t require much preparation.  Still, I can’t wait to get my oven back so I can bake this tart from Nick Malgieri’s “The Modern Baker” (DK, 2008) at least one more time before tomato season is over.

While it looks elegant and tastes great, this may be the easiest tart I’ve ever made.  The filling is nothing but sharp, melted cheese, mustard, and impeccably ripe tomatoes, crowned by a shower of fresh basil.

I like it with smoky, meaty Cherokee Purple tomatoes.  Although the original recipe calls for Cantal, a French cheese that is difficult to find, Italian Fontina works beautifully and a good Gruyere will do the trick.

The real secret is the no-roll dough that Malgieri has perfected.  You make it in the food processor, then just press it into a tart tin, much like a graham cracker crust.  Buttery, flaky and light, it’s perfect for the pastry phobic among us.


Serves 8

For the crust:

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

2 tablespoons cold water

For the tart:

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

8 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, grated (about 2 cups)

2 ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces), sliced 1/4-inch thick

Freshly ground black pepper

6-8 leaves fresh basil, rolled together and sliced into thin shreds

Make the crust:

Place flour, salt, and baking powder in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Cut butter into 8-10 pieces and place in processor.  Pulse until ingredients begin to come together and small pieces of butter are still visible.  Add water and pulse a couple of times until dough begins to form clumps that look like a crumb topping.  Add another teaspoon or so of cold water if needed.  The dough should be just damp enough press together between your fingers and hold its shape.  If you mix it too long and form a ball of dough, you’ll have to roll it out like a regular pie crust.

Dump the crumbly mixture into a 10- or 11-inch diameter tart tin and distribute evenly.  Then begin pressing the crumbs into the pan with floured fingertips, spreading dough out from the center of the pan to create a thicker rim around the edge.  Press dough into the sides of the pan, making sure that it is uniform in thickness – any thin edges are liable to burn in the oven.  Press down along the top edge to make it flush with the rim of the pan.

At this point, the crust can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated until needed for up to two days.

Make the tart:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack positioned at the lowest level.  Spread mustard over bottom of tart crust and sprinkle evenly with about 2/3 of the grated cheese.  Arrange tomato slices over top of cheese, overlapping them slightly.  Season with several grinds of pepper but do not use salt, which would draw juices out of the tomatoes.  Cover tomatoes with remaining cheese.

Bake about 25 minutes, until crust browns lightly and cheese bubbles.  Place tart on wire rack to cool slightly, then remove tart from tin.  Sprinkle basil over top and serve warm.

Adapted from “The Modern Baker,” by Nick Malgieri

One thought on “Construction zone ahead”

  1. This is wonderful! Really easy to make and my family loved it. I made it for dinner, but it would be great on a brunch buffet as well.

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