We just got back from California, and I must say, I ate one of the most amazing tomatoes I’ve had in decades. Truly.
It reminded me of the tomatoes my mom had growing in the garden when we were kids. Juicy, meaty, and oh so sweet. In that awesome tomato way of sweetness. Add a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and there is truly nothing better. I remember growing up, and when the beefsteak tomatoes were ripe, they became the only thing I wanted on toast! And nothing made a BLT better than one of those tomatoes. My mom made the most luscious tomato salads, and then there were the thick tomato slices all ready to be added to burgers fresh off the grill.
The other thing I love about tomato season is the memory of all our Italian friends and neighbours making sugo (tomato sauce) in their garages. It was a true family affair. You might have school, or even college classes to attend, but when it was sugo time, you were expected to stay home and help out. All those glorious gleaming glass jars just waiting to be filled with freshly stewed tomatoes. I knew of this firsthand, because we often took advantage of all those family moments. A group of us may have been in a car, driving through the countryside, but if we had a craving for a coffee break or were a little peckish, we knew we just had to pull into the driveway of any of our Italian friends- there would be espresso and pizelles ready for us in a matter of moments. Such a happy and enthusiastic time. We all got into the spirit of the moment.
Well, I live in a condo now, and don’t have quick access to an Italian garage during sugo time. Well, I do, though I technically don’t know most of the owners of said garages. Although this year, I may just have snagged a spot with dear family friends for their canning weekend. I can’t wait!
And what do I make with all the tomatoes, now that I am surrounded by bushels of them at the markets? Of course, there is still that trusty tomato and toast breakfast. And the most spectacular BLT, using double smoked bacon on toasted sourdough. And then there is Harissa Spiked Bruschetta and Tomato Jam.
But this galette or crostata is another of my favourites.
It’s really just a spin on my Fleeting Fiddlehead Galette. The crust is so tender and buttery, and a dream to whip up. And surprisingly, it has yogurt in the dough. Because it is a free form recipe, you really can’t go wrong with how you fold it up. You just spread a layer of cheeses, herbs and spices, and then just lay your tomatoes on top. I’m not going to state how many tomatoes you need. This will depend on their size, and how thick you want the layer to be. Now I overlap the tomatoes, and use a variety of sizes and colours, to create some visual interest. But in the end, it’s all about the tomato. The rest is just a conduit to serve the tomato! Just don’t make the layer too thick. Then the tomatoes won’t roast off, and will end up in a rather soggy layer. Not good.
As an alternative to a savoury meal for 4-6, why not prepare this as an appetizer? Just roll out your dough into more of a rectangle, so that when you slice it, you will get two across and maybe 4-5 rows, in other words, about 8-10 slices? It would make a perfect appetizer for a lazy evening, served with a chilled white wine, or even a cold beer!
I hope you whip this up, with any of the cornucopia of tomatoes you have picked from your garden or from the market. This recipe will work great well into September. After which, if fresh heirloom tomatoes may not be available, then just move on to my Pizza Tart, and use the wonderful cherry tomatoes that are now available year round.
Summer Tomato Crostata
Summer tomatoes are king on this crostata- an easy to whip up dough, with a layer of cheese and herbs, and topped with the best tomatoes of the season. Serve it as an appetizer or main dish.
- 1 1/4 cup unbleached AP flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 8 tbsp (1 stick) frozen unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup ice cold water
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup goat cheese softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese I just use 'pizza' mozzarella
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese fresh is best
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp fresh thyme chopped
- 1 tsp hot pepper flakes
- 1.5 lb or so fresh tomatoes sliced. You can use a variety of tomatoes, both in sizes and colour
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp fresh basil chiffonade'ed
- Maldon finishing salt for the crust
For the Crust"
Add the flour and 1/4 tsp salt to a bowl. Whisk to combine. With the large holes of a grater, grate the butter stick into the flour. Mix gently with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the yogurt, water and lemon juice. Pour this over the flour mixture and use your hands or a wooden spoon to form the dough into a ball. Flatten slightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
To prepare the Filling:
Whisk together the olive and garlic cloves in a small bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the three cheeses and then add the olive oil mixture. Stir in the thyme and hot pepper flakes. Refrigerate till ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Remove the dough from the freezer.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
On a well floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12 inch circle, trimming the edges to clean it up. Transfer the dough to the parchment lined baking sheet.
Leaving a 2 inch border untouched, spread the cheese mixture evenly over the dough. Arrange the tomato slices over the cheese. Overlap slightly and arrange in a pleasing way, then drizzle 1 tsp of olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with the fresh basil.
Fold the edges of the dough in and over the filling, pleating to make it lay nicely.
Whisk together the egg and 1 tsp water. Brush this over the crust. Sprinkle the edges with the finishing salt, and extra thyme leaves if desired.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is puffed and crust is golden brown.
Let it cool just a touch before cutting into it, allowing it to set.
This also tastes lovely at room temperature. It even tastes good cold!
You can use a variety of tomatoes- heirloom, roma, beefsteak, cherry, grape etc. Various colours also make for visual impact.
Because each tomato will vary in size, I am going to leave it to you to decide how many you will use. Large ones may require that you are only using two or three. But if you are sticking to smaller sizes, you may end up using four or even six. Just don't over fill, you want them all to get the opportunity to roast off without becoming soggy.