We have moved yet again. After two months of house-sitting in an urban oasis, we packed up our things and said our goodbyes. We took the dog out for one more walk. We cooked one more dinner. We slept one more night. And then we left.
The next morning, our belongings were jammed into a U-Haul and shoved into storage. We found ourselves in domestic limbo. Thank the universe for the kindness and goodwill of friends, for without them, we would’ve likely filled up a cooler and pitched a tent somewhere in Centennial Park. Instead, for one week, we had the great fortune of staying in our friends’ guest room. They opened up their kitchen to us without judgment of our homemade and highly aromatic kimchi or the bubbling bread starter left out on the kitchen counter. We played board games, had a fish fry, built a bonfire.
But we couldn’t stay there forever. After a week, we traveled north to our heimat. Welcomed by rolling hills of bluegrass and thick, hearty green forests filled with birdsong, we saw family once more before summer’s end.
And so begins our next assignment. Four months in a charming home in Sylvan Park. Built in 1918, with original hardwood, the floor plan seems almost labrynthine, each room like a reverie that leads to the next. Outside the house, the plants seem to wander and thrive just as the rooms. Tomato plants climb 12 feet up into the trees, some bearing bright yellow, sweet fruit. Others recline rangily, spreading themselves across the lawn. The harvest has been so fruitful, in fact, that each day yields a heaping bowlful of plump, red fruit. And as I have had my fair share of gazpacho and herbaceous tomato salads, I searched for another route. I first considered cooking them down and making a homemade pasta sauce with lots of garlic, fresh oregano, and anchovy. But I found myself wandering out of Italy and into France, which led me to this classic tomato tarte.
It starts with an ultra-buttery dough, the kind perfect for quiche or quite literally any pie you can dream up. But to make it even more comforting, I added a small amount of wheat flour to the dough. The result is an intensely rich, flaky crust with the warm flavors of toasted wheat. As for the filling, it began with deeply caramelized onions and dijon mustard, covered with a layer of blistered, sweet cherry tomatoes and fresh thyme. Served with a green salad and a glass of good red wine, it’s hard to beat.
Classic French Tomato Tarte
For the dough:
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks VERY COLD butter (225 grams), diced
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg yolk (for egg wash)
For the filling:
1 pound cherry tomatoes, whole
2 yellow onions, sliced in rounds
3 tbsp dijon mustard
neutral oil, canola is fine
salt and pepper
To make the dough, dice the butter and allow it to chill in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Meantime, in a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add the butter to the flour and, with a pastry cutter (or another fancy device like a stand mixer), mix until the butter is incorporated into the flour. The butter should break into small pieces about the size of mustard seeds, but should not be any smaller. These pea-sized bits of butter will melt luxuriously into the dough when it cooks for great effect. Add the ice water, a little at a time, until the dough just comes together. Form it into a rough disk, wrap it in plastic, and let it chill in the freezer for 45 minutes to an hour.
As the dough chills, heat a large pan on medium heat with a bit of oil. Slice the onions and let them cook for about 5 minutes without stirring them. The idea is to allow them to sit so they caramelize. Give them a stir and repeat the process. Over time, you’ll notice that the onions will begin to turn a rich golden brown. They should not burn. They should, however, reduce considerably over the course of an hour.
As the onions cook, heat another pan on medium-high heat with a bit of oil. Wash the tomatoes and throw them in the pan. Let them sizzle, blister, and burst. Every once in a while, give the pan a little shake to move them about.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Once the onions have caramelized deeply, add the 3 tbsps of dijon mustard. Stir to mix and then taste. If your dijon mustard is considerably salty enough, don’t add any more. Otherwise, add salt as needed. Likewise, season the tomatoes with salt and fresh black pepper.
Remove the dough from the freezer and place it onto a clean, floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll it out to a circle about 18” in diameter. It will initially be difficult to roll out, but will become easier as it warms up. Be sure to flour it as you go so that it doesn’t stick. Once rolled out, place the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Spread the onion-mustard mixture over the dough. Leave about 2 inches at the edge to be rolled over as the crust. On top of the onion mixture, pour the tomatoes. Fold the edges of the dough over to form a crust. With your thumb and index finger, crimp the dough where it folds over upon itself.
Bake it for 1 1/2 hours, or until the crust has brown. In the last 10 minutes, rub the outer edges of dough with the beaten egg yolk. Let cook until it has a burnished sheen.