February 28, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Tarted up

By |2020-07-16T12:12:57+02:00July 16th, 2020|"Suzanne's Taste"|
Gorgeous love apples for a tomato tart. Illustration by the author.

o where do we go from here? And where is “here” anyway? Are you stuck in a country you cannot leave, as was our dear Rome doctor for a couple of months? Are you stir-crazy in isolation but keeping your distance, so to speak?

For starters….

You may think I am mad as a hatter, but this solitary time has been an education on so many levels, and I suspect it will be for God knows how long. But it’s our choice (mine and my husband’s) — no one has forced us into rural French exile — until the right alternative comes along.

Our little village is full of summer tourists, no masks, shoulder to shoulder in some places as on the beach, in a resto or three (love the French abbreviations). Our open market is available twice a week. And the wind blows pleasantly, if only the “Washington Post” hadn’t published an article suggesting the coronavirus’s tiny aerosol droplets can contaminate if you happen into their vicinity.

But enough of this. I am relishing my cooking days, pun intended, and one of the tastiest, quickest, and easiest dishes just right for summer’s gorgeous love apples is a tomato tart ready in 20-some minutes and good even for breakfast, as my sister-in-law WhatsApped me early one morning.

Assuming you can shop (or get things delivered), buy a high-quality butter-only puff pastry, feuilleté, and lay the circle in a round baking pan, trimming and crimping the edges prettily.

Heat the oven to 200C/400F, more or less, and spread the pastry with a generous layer of Dijon mustard.

Slice four large, firm tomatoes, not too juicy, into thin slices and lay the slices overlapping slightly in a nice pattern on the mustard layer. Add a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper. Grate about 2 cups of gruyere or caciotta or any nice semi-hard cheese you like and sprinkle it liberally over the tomato layer.

One of the tastiest dishes for summer’s gorgeous love apples is a tomato tart that is also good for breakfast.

Bake for about 20-to-30 minutes, watching to see that the pastry browns golden and crisp but does not burn. Then let the tart sit for a few minutes before serving.

I used to make my own puff pastry, but here in France the ones in the markets are so good that I spare myself the turns of dough that mille feuille requires in order to be light. But there is another crust that also works well too.

Here’s a quick solution: 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, salt to taste, ½ cup of white wine and ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil, tossed together with a fork and pressed into a pie pan. Presto!

I’m still pondering this tart-for-breakfast idea. Maybe slice a couple of Pink Lady apples very thin, sauté the slices in a couple or three spoons of butter and sugar, brown or white, and a sweet little touch of cinnamon as you would for tarte Tatin. Now put those in your tart and smoke it.

I think this might go better with your espresso than mustard.

About the Author:

Suzanne Dunaway, a longtime major magazine writer and artist, is the author and illustrator of "Rome, At Home, The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen" (Broadway Books) and "No Need To Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes" (Hyperion). She taught cooking for 15 years privately and at cooking schools in Los Angeles, and now maintains a personal website and a blog. She divides her time between southern France and Italy.