Hello. Welcome to Pamplemousse, a seasonal journal from my California kitchen and garden. As the first post on this blog, I'd like to pay homage to my favorite food, the tomato. Yes, it's the beginning of October and the tomato is hardly an October staple, but I extend the tomato season out as long as I can! In California, I am spoiled to have fresh tomatoes of one variety or another available all year long and I do take advantage of this to a degree, but in the deep of winter (or as close to winter as California gets), I phase fresh tomatoes out and switch to canned San Marzano tomatoes because even in this sunny climate the tomatoes taste best when they're in season. A pale orange-red hothouse tomato from a grocery store in winter simply cannot compare to a big purple heirloom tomato bursting with summertime flavor. Yet here I am eating tomatoes in October. My only excuse is that my local CSA box is still offering heirloom tomatoes, so I'm still eating them (though they are admittedly smaller and less vibrant than the crop from July).
If you're lucky enough to still have tomatoes available like I do, or if you're even luckier and still have some tomatoes on the vine in your garden (a swarm of aphids devoured mine!), then I would recommend this recipe as a farewell to summer, a final celebration of the tomato until the warmer months of next year.
Summer Tomato Tarte Tatin
*adapted from The New York Times recipe by Melissa Clark
Makes 1 tarte. Enough for 6 if being served with a side (like a salad of mixed bitter greens).
1 package vegan puff pasty (I prefer Aussie Bakery Puff Pastry, available at most health food stores, but GeeFree Puff Pastry is a good gluten-free alternative)
2 tbsp sunflower, safflower or avocado oil
1 medium sized red onion, thinly sliced
1/8 cup unrefined sugar (coconut and beet sugar work great here)
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1 lb organic cherry tomatoes (preferably a medley, but use whatever is available and fresh)
1/2 cup chopped Kalamata olives or green olives, pitted (I used a mix of the two)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 tbsp salt
Black pepper to taste
A tarte tatin is essentially an inverted tart, meaning you bake the tarte upside down with the filling on the bottom of the pan and the crust on the top. You then flip the tarte to serve and it makes for a beautiful and delicious presentation.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Wash and pat dry tomatoes then evenly spread over the paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Let sit for a minimum of 1 hour, but preferable longer, up to 3 hours. You want the salt to draw some of the juices out of the tomatoes before you bake them—otherwise, the puff pastry will become soggy. If you have particularly ripe tomatoes or if you experience the problem of the pastry still being soggy, try gently pricking the tomatoes with a toothpick or fork before salting.
While the tomatoes are sitting, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil a 10-12 inch cake pan (a spring form pan will make the process of inverting the tart easier, but is not necessary). Unfold and roll out the thawed puff pastry, then cut into a 10-12 inch round, depending on the size of your pan. If you have excess pastry dough, re-freeze and save for another use (mini tarts maybe?).
In a skillet heat the oil and add the onions. Cook, stirring regularly until the onions are caramelized, then remove from the heat and set onions aside.
In small saucepan, combine the sugar and 2 tbs water and cook over a medium-low heat. Gently swirl the pan until the sugar has melted into a golden syrup. Be careful not to let the sugar burn as this makes for a difficult mess to clean! Once golden, add the vinegar and swirl until combined. Remove from heat.
In your oiled cake pan, arrange all the tomatoes at the bottom in an even layer. Add the chopped olives as the next layer, then the caramelized onions. Spoon the syrup mixture over the layers, then add the chopped herbs and black pepper. Top with the pastry round and tuck the edges into the pan, around the topping. Prick the pastry top with a fork to allow for the release of steam.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let stand for 10-15 minutes to allow the juices to congeal slightly before flipping the tarte onto a serving platter. Serve immediately.