If we're going to be honest, it all started with my mother-in-law. Back in December, she brought a roasted vegetable tart over to my house for dinner, the kind of thing that changes your life in the way that only a pile of roasted sweet potatoes and eggplant secured by a thyme-flecked egg custard tucked inside a pastry crust can. The recipe can be found here, but the photograph looks nothing like what Jan brought over. Hers was heaped with vegetables, an architectural statement of a tart. It was glorious.
It got me thinking about tarts. Cooking vegetarian, it's easy to get stuck in a rut, I think. Or maybe everyone gets stuck in a rut now and then. Especially in the summer, when soups are less appealing, the question of what to eat for dinner seems more weighty. When I happened upon what seemed a winning, fairly light and part whole-wheat tart crust recipe in one of my old favorites, The Best Vegetarian Recipes by Martha Rose Shulman, I decided to try it out. This was in May. I had some leftover arugula pesto from the previous night, and a bunch of radishes from the garden. I pan-roasted the radishes, and whisked some of that pesto into three eggs, topped the whole thing with a little parmesan and let it bake.
It was easily the best meal I've cooked all year.
The crust is wheaty but not overbearingly so-- it's rustic and hearty enough to stand up to the filling. You can fill it with pretty much anything-- I've made other incarnations involving broccoli, zucchini, and green beans over the course of the summer. But last night's try was the hands-down best so far. Roasted tomato tart with basil pesto.
Roasted Tomato Tart with Basil Pesto and Smoked Mozzarella
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp yeast
3/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Proof the yeast with the sugar and water for a few minutes in a medium bowl, then whisk in the egg, salt, and oil. Add the flours, working the dough gently until it holds together. Divide the dough in half (this recipe makes enough for two tarts) and put one half away in the freezer for next week. Roll out the other half on a floured surface, then fit it into a lightly oiled tart part (or a round metal cake pan, or a pie pan, in a pinch). Preheat the oven to 375, and bake the unfilled crust seven minutes.
Six good-sized tomatoes, halved or quartered and roasted at 400 degrees for half an hour
Fit these into the crust once it's baked. Then whisk together:
1/2 cup basil pesto-- you can improvise a quick pesto of minced basil, parmesan, olive oil, salt, and a sprinkle of pine nuts.
Pour this over the tomatoes in the crust, then top with some slivers of strong-flavored cheese. Smoked mozzarella was our cheese of choice last night, but parmesan, feta, fontina, or asiago would definitely work nicely.
Bake an additional 35 minutes.