7 A.M.: Sitting on the plane waiting for take-off, Diane turns to me with concerned, sleep deprived eyes, “We have to have my brother water the tomatoes! It’s supposed to get hot this week.” Nevermind the fact that in the upcoming week, we had 2.5 days to shoot almost 40 recipes plus get footage for 3 videos. Or that we’d be dealing with 115° heat in Scottsdale. The only concerns running through that pretty mind of hers was of our precious tomatoes back home.
After several hit and miss years of growing tomatoes, this is the first year we’ve be raising them. Going beyond plopping them in the ground, setting up the drip irrigation, and hoping for the best. Despite that our schedule has been a travel filled, back-to-back-shooting-jobs summer, these tomatoes have been nurtured, coddled, fed, pruned, and continually watched over. As soon as we get home, it’s rub Sierra and Dante’s heads, put down the bags, and check the tomatoes.
The tenacious care has given us overwhelming bushels of tomatoes. Sun Golds, Kentucky Beefsteaks, Brandywines, Anna Russians, Yellow Perfections, Sweet 100’s, San Marzanos, Black Zebras, Jaune Flammes. The variety, quality, and abundance has been ethereal.
fresh tomato tarts from left over nectarine cobbler dough
Breakfast, lunch and dinner have been laced with the tomato bounty. Determined to allow as little loss of these precious orbs as possible, we’ve continually rediscovered favorite and found new ways to savor them. While baking for one of our latest posts, the Nectarine & Raspberry Cobbler, inspiration led to an easy and delicious way to serve them for appetizers.
While making the cobblers, we had quite a bit of extra biscuit dough left over. Not wanting it to go to waste, I rolled the dough out, cut it into fluted rounds using a mini-tart mold, gave them a few playful stabs with a fork, then blind baked the rounds. After the culinary alchemy yielded golden, fluted rounds, we topped them with a spread of fresh pesto, slices of tomato, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, then finished with lovingly pinched tips of Italian Basil.
At a loss for a name, Diane put up a photo on the Garden portion of WORC and there were several fantastic names people came up with. My favorite, Stephanie’s “Gone in 60 seconds!” Call ’em what you’d like, they are delicious. Of course, like bruschette or similar appetizer fare, the topping options are only limited by your imagination. Go crazy with your creativity. However right now, we have some tomatoes to eat!
It’s good to be home and in the garden. Now back to puppy ear rubs…
If you find yourself making a cobbler or similar dough, make a little extra for these summertime appetizers. We used a 3" tart mold to cut the shapes, but any cookie cutter will work. This pesto is one of our favorite variations. Use a good quality olive oil. It makes a huge difference. Some like to add pine nuts, or use another nut of choice, or adjust the ratios. Make it as you like best. We tend to make our pesto using a mortar & pestle, but you can easily make the pesto in a food processor. If you do have a large mortar & pestle, you may like the rustic texture from making the pesto in it better.
- 1 cup (160g) all-purpose Flour
- pinch of Sea Salt
- 2 teaspoons (10g) Baking Powder
- 1 Tablespoon (15g) Brown Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (30g) cold unsalted Butter , cut in small chunks
- 3/4 cup (195ml) Heavy Cream
- 1 cup fresh Italian Basil Leaves , chopped
- 1 clove Garlic , crushed
- 1/4 cup fresh, grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1-2 Tablespoons toasted Pine Nuts
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt , or to taste
- fresh ground Black Pepper
- 1/4 cup (60ml) Olive Oil
- fresh Lemon Juice , to taste
- fresh , flavorful Tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
- fresh Italian Basil leaves , for finishing garnish
Make the Tart rounds: Preheat oven to 375° F. Line sheet pan with parchment paper or silipat.
Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Add brown sugar and butter, then pinch butter with flour until it is the size of small peas. Pour in heavy cream and mix to form a soft dough (be careful not to over-mix).
On a well floured surface, roll dough out to approx. 1/8" thick. Cut into rounds using 3" tart mold or cookie cutter. Poke holes in dough with a fork. Carefully lift rounds onto lined sheet pan. Place in oven and bake for approx. 15 min or until golden. Set aside to cool.
Make the Pesto: Combine basil, garlic, cheese, pine nuts, salt, and pepper in a food processor or mortar & pestle. Start food processor, or pound the ingredients then slowly add olive oil. Adjust olive oil amounts to your preferred texture. Season with fresh lemon juice to taste and mix a little more. Cover and set aside in refrigerator until ready to use.
Final plating: Spread a nice layer of pesto on the crust rounds. Layer the sliced tomatoes on, the finish with some freshly grated or shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and the small basil leaves.