They say admitting there’s a problem is the first step. So I’m admitting. I’m admitting BIG TIME. I am…a hoarder and an addict. I can’t help it and I can’t stop. You’re thinking shoes, right? I mean, look at the name I chose for my business and online yammering. But you’d be wrong. Sure, I have a lot of shoes. Actually, I had a lot of shoes a few years ago. When I decided to switch coasts I converted much of my sole assets to road trip cash.
Fine Italian leather isn’t the problem. Tomatoes are. And sometimes peaches….and plums….and figs…and… I could go on, but basically the point is I’m a summertime produce junky. I’ve tried to avert my eyes and drive past the enticement of handwritten “farm stand” signs. I’ve attempted to over-schedule myself on farmers market days, just to avoid dealers. Yet somehow I still find them. Doesn’t matter that I have a counter full at home, or a wallet that’s empty. The minute I spy those crimson or yellow or orange or green orbs of juicy goodness calling saucily from folding tables and wooden crates, I’m a goner.
Of all the farm stand temptations, tomatoes are the worst. Ripe summer tomatoes are the sluts of summer produce. I mean, just look at them. Sitting there all voluptuous, brazenly daring you to come over and give a little squeeze. They have no shame, the licentious love apples. They don’t care if I’m perilously close to overdosing from tomato gluttony, or my last dollar budgeted for such things was spent last week. They practically throw themselves at me, exploiting my want. And I want so bad. Jonesing for a caprese, a BLT, or just a fat slab sprinkled with salt is like breathing to me.
Rehab or intervention is pointless, so don’t even try. The only thing to do is jam as many of them into my mouth in as many ways possible, until the brief season of my mania has passed. So if you see me off in a corner, seeds and juices dribbling down my chin and telltale leaves of basil scattered about, don’t look away. It will be over soon. In the meantime….buddy, can you spare a beefsteak?
A thick BLT. A stylish caprese salad. Just a sprinkle of some great flakey salt. I’ve done them all and love them all. But since I’ve amassed a rather embarrassing mess of ‘maters on my counter, I thought I’d better come up with a few new variations to keep it interesting. My first recipe is a variation of tomato pie, this time with a hash brown crust. Hey Tamaytah Pie is named for my dad, who used the term as a cheeky endearment for his wife and daughter. It works equally well as a name for this hearty summer pie, and I think he would have loved this dish.
My second recipe Tomato Tarte Tartin is a quick and really easy take on the traditional tart, substituting phyllo dough for puff pastry, and letting the oven do all the work.
Makes one 8 1/2-inch springform pie
For the Crust:
- 4 cups frozen hash browns, thawed and squeezed dry (do this well, it helps make a crisp crust.)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the Filling:
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 heaping cup grated sharp cheddar
- 1 cup sautéed onions (large onion coarsely chopped, 1 T each butter and olive oil, a tiny pinch sugar, fat pinch salt, and a few grinds of pepper)
- 1 tablespoon pesto
- 1 pound tomatoes – assorted types and sizes, whatever your favorite
- 1-2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons dry unseasoned breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper
- Some grated parmesan for sprinkling on finished pie
Preheat the oven to 425F. Oil an 8 1/2″ springform pan. Once the hash browns are squeezed dry, toss with salt, pepper and olive oil. Add the potato mixture to the springform, covering the bottom evenly. Using a flat bottom measuring cup or glass, press the potatoes into an even layer, and up the sides about 1/2 inch. Bake for about 25 minutes until the edges are light golden brown.
While the crust is baking, cut the tomatoes into thick slices, about 1/2″. Lay them out on a double thickness of paper towels and sprinkle with about a teaspoon salt. Let sit for about 25-30 minutes, or for as long as the crust is baking.
Mix together the cheeses, pesto and sautéed onions. When the crust is browned, turn the oven down to 350F and let the crust cool 5 minutes. Blot the tomatoes with another paper towel. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the crust, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
Arrange the tomato slices over the top of the pie, covering the surface (you and squish them a little to fit. Sprinkle the top of the pie with a pinch of salt, pepper, and sugar. Dot with 1-2 tablespoons of butter.
Bake at 350F for 25 minutes. Remove the outer edge of the springform, turn oven up to 375F and bake another 20 minutes. Remove pie from oven, sprinkle over a little grated parmesan. Let cool to room temperature and serve.
This one is more suggestion than exact amounts. I have these ridiculously cute mini springform pans, about 4″ in diameter. They are perfect for individual tartlets, and so the amounts I’m describing are for one of those. I got the pans on Amazon, but no reason you have to run out and get some. This works really well with a bigger pan too, 8.5″ or 10″ or whatever you have. Just adjust the amounts accordingly – about 3x for the 8.5″, 4x for the 10″.
Per 4″ mini tart
- Handful of cherry tomatoes, or a variety of small tomatoes. You’ll need enough to fit in one layer in the pan, squeezed together a little so there aren’t big spaces in between. A variety of bigger and smaller tomatoes works particularly well here.
- 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- A pinch salt & a few grind pepper
- Small splash of balsamic vinegar.
- 1 tablespoon dry unseasoned bread crumbs
- 5 sheets phyllo dough, cut to a square about an inch larger than the size of your pan (if you are making a bigger tart, use bigger piece of phyllo, not 3x the number of sheets)
- 3-4 teaspoons grated parmesan
- Olive oil spray, or a small dish of olive oil for brushing the dough
- A few leaves of basil for garnishing
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toss the tomatoes with the sugar, honey, salt, pepper, oil and balsamic. Generously oil the pan. Lay the tomatoes in the pan, in a single layer, carefully fitting them in so there is little empty space. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and a little of the parmesan.
Take one sheet of phyllo, spray or brush with oil and sprinkle a little of the parmesan over. Top with next sheet of phyllo and repeat. Keep going until you get to the last sheet. Don’t spray that one yet. Take the stack of prepared phyllo and place on top of the tomatoes, tucking in the edges around the tomatoes. Spray with a little oil.
Since every springform pan I’ve ever met leaks, wrap the pan with a little foil. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes (more time for larger pans.) Check at about 15 minutes, and if the phyllo is getting too dark, cover with a piece of foil.
Remove from oven and carefully remove sides of pan. Invert a plate onto the tart, and slide a spatula under it. Now carefully flip it over, and remove bottom of pan. Do this over a plate or paper towel, since there’s bound to be some liquid. Let cool to room temperature, tear over a few basil leaves and serve.
[BTW – this technique works really well with fruit too. Just substitute halved small plums for tomatoes, honey and chopped nuts for the oil and cheese on the dough, and swap out the vinegar and salt and pepper, and add in a little more sugar, some cinnamon and butter.]
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