Family Heirlooms- Grandmothers and Tomatoes

tomato tarte tartin

My very first memory of tomatoes is with my Grannie. I was a tiny little girl, sitting at her big kitchen table with a plate of beautifully red, juicy, and perfectly ripe sliced tomatoes. She sprinkled them with salt and pepper and encouraged me to eat up. At the tender age of five, I was in love; I was in love with tomatoes. From that time on Grannie and I have shared our love for tomatoes like it’s our own special secret that no one else is privy to. When she gets her hands on some good tomatoes, she always shares them with me. Growing up, she would come over to our house for no other reason than to drop off a tomato for her Sweet Loryn, while always reminding us all that she would bring them for her Sweet Chelsey too, if Chelsey liked them. She’s always fair, that Grannie. When I was in college, I would show up at her house for lunch as often as I could, and the menu was often the same. A plain ol’ tomato sandwich that was anything but plain. White bread, good mayonnaise, juicy sliced tomatoes. Perfection. Sometimes she’d throw some roast beef and provolone cheese on there, but the tomatoes were always the star.

Fast forward ten years and I still don’t see a tomato sitting on the counter without thinking of my Grannie. I’m not sure there’s another person in the world who understands the delicious simplicity of a salted, sliced, fresh-off-the-vine tomato. I recently found myself with a couple pounds of hideously malformed, but beautifully bright and juicy heirloom tomatoes. Those things…seriously so ugly, they’re cute! I saved a few for slicing up for lunch, but wanted to put the rest to use in a fun way. How about a Tomato Tarte Tatin?

Sounds fancy…

Sounds hard…

It’s not!

A tarte tatin is simply and upside-down tart. Where as a regular tart would be baked with all of the toppings sitting atop puff pastry, a tarte tatin is the opposite. You put all of the goodness- in this case tomatoes, butter, onions, cheese- in an oven-safe skillet, top with puff pastry and bake. To serve, you say a quick prayer and invert the whole thing on a plate. It looks super impressive but is actually quite simple. You can do it with anything really, but it’s classically done with butter, brown sugar, apples and puff pastry. That would be PERFECT as fall really begins to roll in. But today, I’m making a tarte tatin with a few of my favorites.

Using a combination of olive oil and butter, I caramelized a small red onion. To that, I threw in a few tablespoons of fresh dill and crumbled goat cheese, and topped that goodness with a gorgeous layer of sliced and seasoned heirloom tomatoes. Sprinkle the tomatoes with a thin layer of breadcrumbs and roll the puff pastry out on top of it all. Bake until the pastry is brown, crisped up and cooked through. I let it cool for a few minutes and then ran a silicone spatula around the edges to loosen everything up, and then inverted the whole thing on to a plate.

Man, this thing is good. It reminds me of a tomato salad served with a buttery breadstick. YUM!! My Grannie would be pleased with this dish. She would love the caramelized onions, the flaky puff pastry, and especially the heirloom tomatoes. She would taste and nod and tell me how delicious it was, as she does with everything I cook. But I have a feeling, a tiny hunch in my heart, that she would secretly prefer a plate of sliced and salted heirlooms, served in her home with a very eager little girl sitting across the table. I have a confession…I would too. There is nothing better!

Tomate Tarte Tatin

1 lb. heirloom tomatoes
1 red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2-3 oz. crumbled goat cheese
1/8 cup panko bread crumbs
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
  2. On a sheet tray lined with a cooling rack, arrange the tomato slices. Season both sides of the tomatoes and allow to sit for 30 minutes to remove moisture. After 30 minutes, blot both sides of the tomatoes with a paper towel to soak up any remaining moisture.
  3. In the meantime, gently roll out the puff pastry to fit the diameter of a 12-inch sauté pan.
  4. Place a nonstick, 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and butter. Once the butter has melted, add the red onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions begin to turn golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Add the dill to the onions. Remove pan from heat.
  5. Sprinkle the goat cheese evenly on top of the onions. Arrange the tomato slices on top, in a circular pattern, overlapping them slightly. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the panko breadcrumbs on top in an even layer and place the puff pastry on top. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, puffed and crisp.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before inverting the tart onto a plate. Slice into 6 pieces. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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