Here in Normandy we are luxuriating in what is called the “arrière saison” or late season. For us, this means that summer produce like eggplant and zucchini, melons and peaches and particularly tomatoes, are at their best. This is because we get our sun later than other regions, and we keep it longer too, at least during the day. At night, temperatures drop which is good for the flavor of the vegetables and even better for the cook. Instead of just eating tomatoes raw like we do when it’s hot day and night – sliced fat and thick and seasoned with salt and pepper, in a salad tossed with delicious olive oil and shallots or garnished with mozzarella, or simply bitten into the way you would with an apple – “arrière saison” temperatures inspire cooking. And I don’t think there’s a better way to cook a tomato than by putting it in this simple, and simply regal, tomato tourte.
You can make this easily and I urge you to do so because it is likely to change your life. I’m serious. This is a life-changing dish because it is so delicious that you’ll now have a hard time imagining an arrière saison without it.
Use the best, most ripe (but not over ripe) tomatoes you can find, preferably from your local grower. The recipe calls for cream, which makes it “light” by French standards. I use either heavy cream or crème fraîche, and occasionally soy cream if my vegetarian daughter is going to partake.
I suggest you follow the recipe to the letter the first time you make this. Yes, I can tell that you’re thinking “Hmm, this would be good with basil/pesto/that delicious confit of peppers published here the other day/smoked duck/sausages…” You’re right and all of those additions would be fine. But taste it as it is written, then decide.
SUMMER TOMATO TOURTE
adapted from FARMHOUSE COOKBOOK (Workman)
1 recipe On Rue Tatin tender tart pastry
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream or creme fraîche
2 large eggs
1 heaping teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 cup (about 40g) Gruyère cheese, grated
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-1/2 pounds (1.250kg) tomatoes, peeled, cored and diced
- On a lightly floured surface,roll out the pastry to fit a 9-inch (22cm) pie plate or cake pan. There will be extra pastry hanging over; leave it there. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (if you have time. If you don’t, don’t worry unless your kitchen is very hot. Then, you HAVE to refrigerate the pastry).
- Preheat the oven to 425F (220C).
- Pre-bake the pastry. Place the pan on a baking sheet in the center of the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. (It’s not necessary to weight the pastry, as the hanging edges keep it from bubbling up). Using a very sharp knife, trim off the edges of the pastry flush with the pan, letting the scraps fall on the baking sheet. Continue baking until the pastry is golden, about 10 more minutes.
- While the pastry is baking, whisk together the cream and the eggs in a large bowl until combined. Add the thyme and garlic, and mix well. Then stir in the cheese. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Add the tomatoes, stir, then when the pastry is baked, open the oven, pull out the pan, pour in the mixture and QUICK, put it all back in the oven. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 350F, and bake the tart until the custard is set and golden on top, about 55 minutes. Check the pastry strips from time to time, and remove them when they are golden. They make very good appetizers.
- Remove the pie from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, or to room temperature.About 8 servings