This makes six individual tarts, each about 4 inches across and you can make them in tartlet pans, ramekins, and even muffin tins. Or you can make one 9- or 10-inch tart and cut slices from it, though the larger one can be a challenge to invert. Either way it makes a perfect first course or even a light lunch when paired with a green salad. If you have tiny tartlet molds, you can opt to make bite-size (one bite or two) Tatins to serve as hors d’oeuvres; simply divide the ingredients among the smaller molds and bake them for less time. Frying basil leaves is really easy and the novelty of that familiar summertime flavor delivered in a crisp bite is pretty cool. I don’t recommend skipping that step, but if you insist, you can garnish the tart with fresh basil leaves. Note that the Tomato Confit (page 000) needs to be made ahead of assembling the tarts.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, preferably whole grain
8 to 14 basil leaves (the number depends on how many servings you plan to make), 2 leaves chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 sheet frozen all-butter puff pastry, thawed
Flour for during your work surface
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
Tomato Confit (recipe follows)
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese or fresh ricotta
1/2 cup oil (for optional garnish)
Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onions and the garlic, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn an even dark brown, 45 minutes to an hour. Be patient; if you crank the heat and brown them too early they won’t get the sweet caramelized flavor and soft texture you’re after. If the pan dries out, add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan as needed. When the onions are nicely caramelized, take the pan off the heat and stir in the mustard and chopped basil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Lightly flour your work surface, and roll the puff pastry out until 1/8-inch thick. Invert a tart pan over the pastry sheet. With a sharp knife, cut out the shape you need by tracing around the pan with a paring knife; do this multiple times if using smaller tart pans or molds. Transfer the cut out dough to a very lightly floured sheet pan and refrigerate while you assemble the rest of the tart.
Heat the oven to 375°F. Use a finger to spread the honey on the bottom of the tart pan, dividing it as necessary among multiple molds if you’re going that route. Place a single layer of tomato confit in the tart pan or pans, overlapping as needed to cover the bottom completely. (A very small tart mold may need just a single piece of tomato.) Distribute the caramelized onions over the tomatoes, dividing them evenly among multiple pans as needed, and gently spreading them to disperse them evenly.
Remove the cut dough from the refrigerator and place it directly over the onions. Lightly beat the egg and brush the top of the tart or tarts with the beaten egg. Sprinkle each lightly with additional kosher salt. Bake until the pastry is puffed and a deep, golden brown, 10 to 30 minutes, depending on size. Allow the tart or tarts to cool for about 10 minutes before unmolding, but unmold the tarts while they are still warm because there’s less chance they will stick. To unmold them, run a small knife around the edge of the tart to loosen it. Place a serving plate a little larger than the tart pan directly over the top of the tart pan and invert the tart onto the plate. If the tarts have cooled too much, and the tomatoes are sticking, put the tarts in a warm oven for a minute or two to melt the honey. If a tomato piece sticks, just carefully remove it from the pan and arrange it on the tart.
If you want to fry some basil leaves for the garnish, heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan until a basil leaf dipped into it sizzles. Place the remaining leaves in the oil and fry, turning them once, until crispy, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain on paper towel.
If you have made one large tart, slice it into six servings; (serve the tiny tarts whole). Garnish each serving with a small dollop of mascarpone and a fried basil leaf, if using.
· You can cook the onions up to three days before assembling the tarts. Keep them covered and refrigerated.
· You can arrange the onions and tomatoes in the tart pan earlier in the day and then simply top with the already cut crust right before baking.
Makes about 4 cups of confit
When you make tomato confit, you get two gifts: intensely flavored, silky soft tomatoes that you can store for almost a week and use in salads or on sandwiches plus a garlicky oil that’s delicious on grilled bread, in pasta, or whisked into a vinaigrette. I like to peel the tomatoes first and then roast so that the other flavors really get a chance to penetrate the tomato. However, you can skip that step; once roasted, the tomato skin comes off easily.
3 1/2 pounds tomatoes, preferably cluster tomatoes or plum tomatoes (12 to 14 tomatoes)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar, if needed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil
6 sprigs fresh thyme
To peel the tomatoes, cut a shallow X on the bottom of each tomato with a paring knife. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and have ready a bowl of ice water. Boil the tomatoes, a few at a time, for 30 seconds or so and then immediately plunge them in the ice water, which will cause their skin to pucker making them easier to peel. Using a paring knife when needed, peel the skin off of the tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes into quarters lengthwise and seed them.
Heat the oven to 300°F. Divide the garlic slices between two baking dishes or two sided baking sheets, each about 9 x 13 inches, spreading them out on the bottom. Lay the tomato pieces, interior side up in the pans. If the tomatoes are not very sweet, sprinkle them with the sugar, otherwise, omit it (the tomatoes will also sweeten as they bake). Sprinkle the salt over the tomatoes and season generously with the black pepper. Divide the olive oil among the two dishes, pouring if over the tomatoes and top the tomatoes with the thyme. Bake until the tomatoes are soft and wrinkled but still retain their shape, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool the tomatoes completely in the pan before transferring them to a serving plate or storage container with a slotted spoon. Reserve the oil (discard the thyme) for another use. Keep both the tomatoes and the oil refrigerated.
Tomato confit is something I like to have on hand; good thing a batch will keep for 5 days if covered and refrigerated.
Serves 6 as a first course or makes 12 two-bite hors d’oeuvres
Barbara Lynch is the Chef and owner of the prized Boston eateries No 9 Park, B & G Oysters, Menton and Sportello. Her recipes have been featured in many national publications such as Bon Appetit and The New York Times, as well as in her cookbook, Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition. She shared this recipe with us after her demonstration at the Taste of WGBH Food & Wine Festival.
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