Don’t get me wrong, I like tomatoes but some people, like my husband, LOOOOOVE tomatoes and eagerly await the amazing ones straight off the vine that ripen late in the summer in northern Michigan. And then there are “Indiana tomatoes” that my friend, Carrie, swears are the best – those Hoosiers get pretty excited about their corn too. Maybe this is a Midwest thing and maybe you can relate. If you can’t, but still like a tasty tomato dish now and then, you will flip over this recipe too.
I had this, three different ways this summer and as you might imagine, the actual recipe was definitely the way to go. I learned a few things in the process. Some of you may have seen it on the cover of the August issue of Food and Wine. It is called the Giant Summer Tomato Tart – and it is truly gigantic, a hearty appetizer for at least 10 people and of course summer is the optimal time to have it. I’ve been trying to write this for a month – sorry for the delay. But…it would be great for a tailgate party too!
So here it is:
GIANT SUMMER TOMATO TART
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
8 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed
½ cup fine dry breadcrumbs
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1½ lbs. mixed heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt and pepper
Basil leaves, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a large rimmed baking sheet (I used parchment paper for easier clean-up) with 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Lay one sheet of the phyllo dough on the baking sheet; keep the rest covered with damp paper towels. (more on phyllo below) Brush the phyllo with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and sprinkle all over with 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs. Repeat the layering with the remaining phyllo, olive oil and breadcrumbs.
2. Bake the crust for about 25 minutes, until golden and crisp; rotate the baking sheet halfway through cooking. Let cool completely.
3. In a food processor, pulse the cream cheese with the mayo until smooth. Spread the cream cheese mixture in the center of the tart, leaving a ½ inch border all around. Arrange the tomato slices on top and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly-ground pepper. Drizzle lightly with the olive oil and garnish with the basil leaves. Cut into squares and serve.
The tart is beautiful to behold and will totally impress your guests. It is even delicious at room temperature – no need for the phyllo to be hot.
WHAT I LEARNED:
First time I had it – it was made on Na’an which is sort of a pizza crust kind of thing. It was tasty but obviously was more in the flatbread realm. Way easier and quicker to make though!
Time two: I couldn’t find phyllo, so I used puff pastry. That was kind of funny because puff pastry does exactly that – PUFFS! When it came out of the oven, it was 3 inches high so I had to kind of crunch it down to finish making the tart. Again, we enjoyed it but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.
Finally, I thought ahead (rare for me), by a day and got the ingredients - to the letter. I let the cream cheese sit out for hours so it was really easy to mix with the mayo (no processor needed) and simple to spread as well. True to its reputation, the phyllo was tricky. The sheets are super thin and almost see-through. My suggestion is to get everything totally prepped – your olive oil in an easy to drizzle container (measuring cup or oil bottle with thingy on the top), breadcrumbs in a bowl with a big spoon, clean hands with which to spread oil and breadcrumbs. Then, unwrap your phyllo – if you cover with too damp a paper towel, you will get a gooey mess so I suggest a very slightly damp tea towel. If you have a willing helper, you can keep the phyllo folded in half. The good news is you have tons of sheets in a box so you only need 8 good ones therefore you can toss out liberally. The true secret to phyllo is to work FAST! Don’t worry too much about measuring the oil and breadcrumbs – just get them on there and spread them around with your hands.
I think the breadcrumbs give the tart some airiness somehow and a bit of a crunch. I kind of wanted to try using Panko but I was trying to stay with the recipe. If you use Panko, let me know how it is!
So, there you go. Happy Fall! - with a summer recipe!