Every school’s got them, and I’m not talking about the universally-dreaded things that rhyme with “rice” (though that too would be accurate). I’m talking about super-moms – the tireless volunteers who chair almost every school committee and make the rest of us look like slouches in comparison. As a show of appreciation (and also because they’re nice people), I invited two such moms to an impromptu lunch earlier this week. Guess what? They were just coming from a meeting at the middle school. In July! (See what I mean?)
With the garden basil going gangbusters and “Jersey Fresh” tomatoes showing up in the markets, the time was ripe for Sara Moulton’s Tomato, Basil and Cheese Tart (WITH BACON CRUST). In addition to crediting Sara for creating this recipe, I have to acknowledge my mother for discovering it. Whereas I collect cookbooks, she actually uses them. So thanks, Sara and Karen, for this delicious slice of summer. And thanks, Patty and Sang, for all you do for our schools! (And for not being mad about these photos. )
Tomato, Basil and Cheese Tart with Bacon Crust
(Adapted from Sara Moulton Cooks at Home)
Serves 4-6 (As you can see, the 3 of us nearly polished off the entire tart . . .)
For the crust:
- 8 slices of bacon
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 4 tablespoons cold water
Time-saving option: use a ready-made pie crust and just line the bottom with crumbled bacon, or omit the bacon altogether.
For the filling:
- 4 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 1/3″ – 1/2” thick
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for salting tomatoes
- 1 cup firmly packed basil leaves (plus a few sprigs for garnish)
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup coarsely grated mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Few grinds of black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil for brushing tops of tomatoes
- Optional for drizzling: aged balsamic vinegar (the thick, syrupy kind) or regular balsamic vinegar, reduced in a saucepan until thickened. I like the sweet/tart balance this brings to the tart, but serving with a balsamic vinaigrette-tossed green salad would deliver a similar effect.
Make the crust:
Cook bacon in microwave (approx. 4 minutes for 8 pieces) and crumble, or cut crosswise into 1/2″ pieces and cook in a sauté pan until crisp.
Add the crumbled bacon, flour and salt to a food processor; pulse a few times to combine.
Add the butter pieces and pulse a few times. Add the cold water and pulse a few more times; the dough should come together when pinched.
Dump crust mixture onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Gather up the sides of the plastic wrap to help form the dough into a disk. (This just helps contain the mess.) Refrigerate dough for at least an hour, or for up to several days.
With a piece of parchment paper below the dough and a piece of plastic wrap on top (to prevent sticking), roll out the dough into a circle approximately 12” in diameter and 1/8” thick. Note: cold dough will crack around the edges. No big deal – just perform a little dough plastic surgery (patch and roll).
Heat oven to 375ºF. Remove the plastic wrap and transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. (A regular pie pan works too.) If the dough is too sticky for the parchment to come off easily, just drape it over the tart pan and put the whole thing in the freezer for a few minutes. Remove parchment paper and trim any excess dough from the edges.
Line the pastry shell with foil and fill with dried beans, rice or pie weights; if you have cool connected pie weights like this (below) you can skip the foil. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights. Return tart to oven and bake for 10 minutes more or until lightly golden. Cool in the pan.
Make the filling:
Turn down oven to 350ºF. Sprinkle tomato slices on both sides with kosher salt and drain in a colander. This is a key step – it makes the tomatoes taste better and prevents the filling from getting too watery.
Combine basil leaves, ricotta and eggs in a food processor and process until blended. Add the teaspoon of salt, mozzarella, Parmigiano and pepper; process until just combined.
Line the bottom of the baked tart shell with a layer of tomatoes, using the end tomato pieces (round edge facing the crust) and any of the less-attractive slices. To catch any drips or overflows, place tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet for baking.
Spoon on the cheese/basil mixture, spreading gently to cover tomato layer. Arrange the remaining tomato slices on top.
Brush tomatoes with olive oil and bake 55 minutes or until mixture is set. (Tart will firm up as it cools.)
Cool at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Can be served hot or at room temperature.