During our stay in Paris this summer, I made many trips to Quatrehomme, a celebrated cheese shop right around the corner from our rented apartment. After choosing my cheeses, I’d pause at the small counter of take out foods where savory tarts and a good selection of hams and sausages are displayed. One day I bought a slice of a beautiful tomato and goat cheese tart and took it home for lunch. One bite and I was smitten.
The tart with its golden puff pastry crust and its beautiful baked filling of alternating slices of tomatoes, zucchini, and goat cheese was delectable—practically addictive. I bought many more slices over the next few weeks, each time prodding the sales staff to tell me how this tart was made. Finally, one of the young vendeuses shared the recipe explaining that there was a layer of ‘pistou” (Provencal pesto) beneath the cheese and vegetables.
Back in New England, I devoted several cooking sessions to reproducing this Parisian special and came up with a close copy. Purchased puff pastry worked fine for the crust, and a simple pistou of basil, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil took just minutes to assemble. I omitted the zucchini, using only tomatoes and a log of chèvre for my version. Offer this tart, which can be served warm or at room temperature, as a first course or use it as an anchor along with a mixed greens salad for a summer lunch or light supper.
Tomato and Chèvre Tart
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, about 9 inches square and 1/8 in thick (See note.)
1 cup roughly torn basil leaves plus extra sprigs for the garnish
2 tsp coarsely chopped garlic
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese preferably Parmigiano Reggiano plus 1 1/2 tbsp for sprinkling on top of the tart
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb small tomatoes (about 2 inches in diameter) or plum tomatoes
8-oz log of chèvre, well chilled
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.Arrange a rack at the lowest position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Have ready a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
2. Roll the puff pastry sheet into a thin 10 1/2 inch square and carefully drape over the rolling pin and place in the tart pan. Press the dough against the bottom and up the sides. Trim the overhanging dough to 1/2 to 3/4 inches. Fold overhanging dough in and press to form double thick sides. Prick the bottom all over with the tines of a fork. Place the tart shell, uncovered, in the freezer for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile prepare the pistou. Place the basil and garlic in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulsing until mixture is coarsely chopped. Add 3/4 cup of the Parmesan, and pulse until combined. With machine running, add the olive oil in a thin stream until the mixture is a smooth thick paste.
4. Remove the tart shell from the freezer and spread the pistou in a thin layer over the bottom. Cut the tomatoes crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Carefully using a sharp knife or clean dental floss, cut the chèvre log into 1/4 inch thick slices and then halve each of the slices. Don’t worry if the cheese slices seem to break a little; you can easily reshape them into half moons.
5. Starting at the outside edge of the tart shell, slightly overlap and alternate the tomato and chèvre slices, arranging them in concentric circles over the pistou. (Save any extra tomatoes and cheese for a salad.) Salt and pepper the filling, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake until the crust is golden and the filling is hot and bubbling gently, 25-30 minutes.
6. Remove the tart from the oven and cool15 to 20 minutes. Remove the sides of the tart pan. Garnish the center of the tart with basil sprigs and cut into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature. (The tart can rest at room temperature for up to 2 hours.) Serves 6 to 8.
Note: A 17.3 ounce package of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry contains two 9-inch square sheets. Defrost the puff pastry in the package overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour. The dough should still be very well chilled before you roll it out.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2013
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