Friday, August 27, 2010

Tomato tart with smoked mozzarella and prosciutto

Peter made his annual tomato tart last night. It is so good I just had to invite him to post this guest recipe.
This is one of my favorite recipes to make when our homegrown plum tomatoes and basil are reaching bumper crop abundance, and I wait all year for the arrival of August to make it at least once. It is really a hybrid of my favorite pizza (available on this very blog) and the classic “Caprese” salad of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. While this tart would work okay with supermarket tomatoes, I suppose, I personally wouldn’t bother: at the least, you should use native field plum tomatoes (i.e., not hothouse or hydroponic), since the tomatoes are the stars here, and should really shine. Served with a chilled glass of dry wine, and a salad (since we also have a ton of kale in the garden, I’d made a recipe for “Massaged Kale Salad” with mangoes and pepitas earlier in the day to serve with our tart, inspired by the new program “Aarti Party” on the Food Network), this makes for a light supper or lunch on a hot, late summer’s night that evokes the scents and flavors of the Mediterranean, or the south of France.

The layers of grated Romano and Parmesan cheese, prosciutto, and grated scamorza cheese on the bottom layer of the puff pastry tart shell not only add richness and complexity to enhance the tomatoes’ balance of sweetness and acidity; they serve the equally important purpose of providing muliple barrier dams that allow the shell to remain perfectly crisp instead of becoming soggy from the tomatoes’ juices. Salting and blotting the tomatoes between double layers of paper towels provides added insurance against the dreaded sogginess (and I use this same technique whenever I use tomatoes to top a pizza).

Concerning the puff pastry, the two brands that seem most readily available in Denver are Dufour, which I can find at Whole Foods, and Pepperidge Farm, available at Safeway and King Soopers. Dufour may have the tiniest of advantages in that it comes in a single sheet, which saves a bit of work: Pepperidge Farm’s product comes two sheets to a package, so you have to overlap them with an egg wash, and use a rolling pin to seal them together to form one piece. To my way of thinking, this really isn’t such a hassle, and the quality of both products is so consistently good that I’d personally choose Pepperidge Farm given its considerably lower price.
If you’re unfamiliar with puff pastry, it’s a good idea to work with it as quickly as possible while it’s still nice and cold once you haul it out of your fridge: as it warms, it becomes more and more elastic and gooey, just like Dali’s watches. The firmer it remains, the easier it is to handle.

This may be due to Denver’s altitude, but I always find that the bottom, cheese-dusted layer of the tart sheel rises and puffs up substantially no matter how thoroughly I prick it with a fork before its first baking. No problem: I know now to expect this, and simply press down firmly with a broad metal spatula to deflate and even out the bottom layer as soon as I remove it from the oven.

Tomato tart with smoked mozzarella and prosciutto
--1 package of frozen puff pastry (Dufour or Pepperidge Farm), thawed in the refrigerator overnight).;
--Four, for dusting
--1 large egg, beaten
--1/2 cup grated Parmiggiano Romano cheese;
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese;
--3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
--6 oz grated smoked mozzarella cheese (scamorza);
--1 lb Roma tomatoes
--1 tsp. kosher salt
--2 generous Tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil
--2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
==Freshly ground black pepper to taste
--Fresh basil leaves, enough to stack, roll tightly, and slice into thin ribbons equally 2 tablespoons

1.) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a rack in the lower-middle position. Lightly flour a large, flat, wide work surface. If using Dufour puff pastry, roll the sheet out to a rectangle about 9” x 18”. If using Pepperidge Farm, brush one end of one sheet with about a 1” band of egg wash, over-lap the second sheet on top, and, using a rolling pin, roll and press to even out the seam. You should then have a 9” x 18” rectangle of dough. If not, roll in length and width slightly until you do.

2.) Using a very sharp knife, cut a 1” strip of dough evenly alongside the long side of the rectangle of dough, setting the strip alongside on a long piece of foil, parchment, or paper towel. Cut a second 1” strip from the long side of the dough rectangle, and place it with the first strip. Cut a 1” strip of dough from the short side of the rectangle of dough, and place with the longer strips. Cut a second 1” strip of dough from the short side. Brush all four strips of reserved puff pastry dough one by one with egg wash, placing one long strip each as evenly as possible on top of the left and right-hand sides of the dough rectangle, egg side down. Repeat with the short strips, placing them egg side down on top of the short (top and bottom) ends of the dough rectangle. Brush the unbaked tart shell evenly with egg wash, and sprinkle bottom layer of tart evenly with a blend of the grated Romano and Parmesan cheeses. Prick the bottom layer evenly all over with a fork to prevent excessive puffing.

3.) Transfer the shell to an unrimmed baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or a silicone mat. Bake for 14 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake 14 more minutes. Remove puff pastry shell from oven, and allow to cool completely on a wire rack (if bottom has puffed, press down evenly to flatten it with a metal spatula. Shell can be baked several hours in advance. Before proceeding to step 4 below, return oven to 425 degrees).

4.) Evenly arrange thin layers of prosciutto over bottom of tart shell to cover as completely as possible. Sprinkle smoked mozzarella evenly over prosciutto. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, and black pepper well. Set aside.

5.) Thinly slice tomatoes, place them in a single layer on a double thickness of paper towels, and sprinkle evenly with salt. After ½ hour, tomatoes should have extruded excess liquid. Using another double thickness of paper towels, press the tomatoes gently but firmly to blot them as dry as possible.

6. In rows, overlap tomato slices in scallop patterns until all tomato slices are used up. Using abrush, dab the surface of tomatoes evenly with olive oil/garlic/black pepper mixture.

7. Bake tomato tart for 15-16 minutes. As you remove it from oven, sprinkle tart evenly with chiffonade of basil leaves. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Slice and serve hot or warm.

(Will serve 4 to 6 as a light supper or lunch entrĂ©e, 6 to 8 as an hors d’oeuvre).


Jenn said...

Fabulous pictures today! Peter, you have made me hungry again! The tart looks so delicious...and so summery. Y ou guys have grown some beautiful tomatoes, I'm jealous. I have got to get some puff pastry, I have never worked with and but need to try it for sure now. Thanks for sharing with us!
(oh..I love the reference to Dali's watches..hehehe)

Peter said...

The important thing is that puff pastry is a very forgiving product. My eye-hand coordination isn't the best, and, the first time I tried to construct the tart, it looked in its unbaked form like a lopsided mess. No worries: it still puffed up into a plausible, if "rustic," rectagle pie shell. Go for it! ;-)

Andrea the Kitchen Witch said...

Bravo! Amazing colors, it looks good enough to eat :) When my Cherokee purple tomatoes finally ripen I'm going to make this. Great guest blog Peter!! You 2 sure do eat well :)

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