KitchenWise: Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Tart is a versatile dish
There are very few things more delicious than tomatoes in season. Sure you can buy them year-round, but these imports tend to be mealy and flavorless, so why bother? Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Tart is a celebration of the tomato at the peak of its perfection, namely right now.
One important step will guarantee this recipe’s success: You want to keep the tomatoes’ water content from making the tart soggy. How to do it? Salt and drain them. This simple process not only flushes out their excess liquid, but it also magnifies their tomato-iness. For that matter, I recommend lightly salting and draining tomatoes even when you plan to eat them raw in a salad.
Here we’ve paired the tomatoes with some of their BFFs — mozzarella and basil — then stacked the deck by adding some ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The recipe calls for full-fat mozzarella and ricotta, but you can lighten it up by using low-fat versions instead.
Also, if you don’t feel like making pie dough from scratch, go ahead and substitute store-bought pie dough. (It’s usually sold already rolled out in a disposable pie tin.) After letting the store-bought dough soften a bit at room temperature, lift it up gently and fit it into the tart tin just as you would if you were using homemade dough.
By the way, a tart tin fitted with a removable fluted rim will make you look like a baking genius. It automatically gives the dough a fluted edge — no shaping on your part required — and it’s designed for easy unmolding so it’s a cinch to cut out slices. It’s really a worthwhile investment.
The finished tart is hard to beat — great right out of the oven or at room temperature — for lunch or dinner, at home or at a picnic. Add a salad and call it a meal.
AND BASIL TART
Start to finish: 5 hours (1 hour active)
Servings: 6 to 8
For the dough:
6 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
For the pie:
4 medium beefsteak tomatoes (about 1 3/4 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for sprinkling on the tomatoes
1 cup packed basil leaves plus extra small leaves for garnish
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup coarsely grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 ounce freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing on the tomatoes
Make the dough:
In a large bowl, stir together the flour and the salt, add the butter and, working quickly with your fingertips or a pastry blender, mix the dough until most of mixture resembles coarse meal, with the rest in small (roughly pea-sized) lumps. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the ice water evenly over the mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated. Gently squeeze a small handful: it should hold together without crumbling apart. If it doesn’t, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring 2 or 3 times after each addition until it comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and with the heel of your hand, smear the dough in a forward motion on the work surface to help distribute fat. Gather the smeared dough together and repeat the process. Form the dough into a disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it soften for 30 to 40 minutes at room temperature. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into an 11-inch round. Ease the round into a 9-inch tart tin with a removable fluted rim, trim the excess dough and prick the bottom and sides of the dough all over with a fork. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line the shell with aluminum foil and fill it with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and pie weights, return the tart shell to the oven and bake it until it is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool.
Make the filling:
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F. Slice the tomatoes 1/3-inch thick, lightly salt the slices on both sides and transfer them to a large colander or cake rack to drain for 20 minutes.
In a food processor, combine the basil, ricotta and eggs and process until blended. Add the salt, mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano and pepper and process until combined.
Pat the tomatoes dry with paper towels. Line the bottom of the pastry shell with the tomato end pieces, and spoon on the cheese mixture, smoothing it out with a spatula. Arrange the remaining tomato slices on top, in one layer, overlapping them slightly. Brush the tomatoes with olive oil and bake until the cheese mixture is set, about 1 hour. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including “Cooking Live.” Her latest cookbook is “Home Cooking 101.”