Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Womanhood, piecrust, and Rachel's tomato tart

Last week I had come to the conclusion that I was a total failure as a woman. I was having people over for dinner and, as one final tribute to the waning days of summer, I planned to bake my once venerated lemon meringue pie. Total piecrust fail. Despite my respectful treatment of the unbaked crust, and despite my use of ceramic pie weights, the crust shrunk down like a . . . well, it shrunk down to a mere shadow of its former self. So I sprinkled the warm, shrunken crust with sugar and cinnamon and ate it. I felt obligated to hide the evidence of my failure, which of course was a yet another version of failure.

Then I called in the reserves. My friend Kath came down from Gettysburg and baked a piecrust suitable for the lemon meringue pie. It was a good pie but my feminine ego was crushed by my failure.

When I was in Seattle last month my daughter-in-law, Rachel, made an incredible heirloom tomato tart. Rachel is such a woman that she baked the tart for 3-year-old Theo’s picnic birthday party while carrying newborn Ignatius on her hip. So I got the recipe from Rachel and made the tart. It’s perfect—perfect crust, perfect filling, and simply beautiful. I feel like a woman again. Thanks, Rachel!

Rachel’s Heirloom Tomato Tart

1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flower
½ cup butter, cubed and chilled
1½ cups grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons ice water (or more, as needed)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

11 ounces chevre
2 tablespoons cream
3 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
½ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
6 medium heirloom tomatoes, uniform size
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Combine sea salt, flour, butter, and parmesan in a food processor and pulse quickly to get a sandy texture with some pea size pieces of butter. With a few more pulses, blend in the ice water. The dough should stick together when you pinch it between two fingers. Roll out dough to even rectangle and place in pan, pressing across the bottom and working towards the sides and up to form a rim. Chill the tart shell for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator and poke a few times with a fork. Cover the tart with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Take shell from oven, remove parchment paper and weights, return shell to oven, and bake for another 10 minutes, until deep golden brown. Remove and sprinkle with ½ cup shredded parmesan. Let cool completely.

In a medium bowl, combine the chevre, cream, basil, and black pepper, and place mixture in an even layer in the cooled pastry shell.

Slice the tomatoes and arrange in a nice pattern. Top with a drizzle of the olive oil, sea salt, and garnish with more fresh basil.

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