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List-maker, tart-baker

I am a list-maker. In fact, if I were deemed eligible for some sort of “World Champion” title, it would most likely be for my skill at making lists, although I am awfully good at lip-synching too, and crying, and balancing my checkbook, and scraping my breakfast bowl clean. (“What are you hammering in there?” Brandon yells from the bedroom. “Let me guess—a nail in the baseboard? No, no, wait! A birdfeeder for the backyard? No, no, I know! Your breakfast!” he shouts, ever the wise guy, over the ping! ping! ping! of my spoon against the bowl.) Yes, as I was saying, I am good at many, many things, but I am a true champion at lists.

I love lists. They’re so liberating. I can purge my entire brain onto a piece of paper, and Look! There it is! I don’t have to think about things anymore, because the paper does it for me. I can see exactly what needs to be done, and then I can decide what to do—or, even better—what not to do. [Oh, sweet liberty!] Most days come with a list, and some weekends do too. Under my roof, even the grocery list has a little space of its own, albeit a small, fat-splattered one on the shelf next to the stove, beside a looming pile of cookbooks. But my favorite variation on the theme, my pet list, is a messy Post-It that sticks in my agenda. It is the nerve center, the motherboard, the county seat. It is my list of what to cook. Because some days, you know, you forget. And if there’s one thing better than a delicious meal, it’s got to be a delicious meal that lets you check something off the list.

This tart is both. It’s been on the Post-It—one item of, oh, eleven—for at least a month now, waiting for a few pounds of good Roma tomatoes to make it possible. I tore the recipe from a magazine a few summers ago on a trip home to see my mother, who always plants a fat, shiny pile of recent food magazines and other ragtag mail—the newsletter from my grade school, say, or the society pages from Oklahoma City Friday, “The Newspaper for Oklahoma’s Trendsetters!”—on my bed as a welcome-home present. (My mom knows just what I like.) To make a long story short, said recipe joined me for the trip back to Seattle and has, in the summers since, taken up permanent residence in my seasonal repertoire. It’s an old friend of sorts, one I’ve been wanting to introduce you to. Hence, you see, its presence on the list.

And if you know a good thing when you see it, you’ll add it to your list too. Bright with the summery, sweetly acidic flavor of tomatoes, this tart tastes like the color red incarnate, a lush, vibrant, saturated flavor. I like to think of it as a cousin to pizza, one with a frilly collar and a French accent. Under its layers of thyme-and-oil-roasted tomatoes lies a thin cushion of cheese and a basecoat of mustard mixed with crème fraîche, whose soft dairy tang brings a creamy quality to the sweet-tart tomatoes. Gathered together in a tart shell made with plenty of butter, this thing calls for some serious plate-scraping, if not “World Champion” status.

Roasted Tomato Tart with Crème Fraîche and Thyme
Inspired by Food & Wine, June 2003

This tart is a tad labor-intensive, but if you’ve got time to spare on a Sunday afternoon, it’s well worth the effort. And as an added benefit—a gift with purchase, if you will—you’ll get a wonderfully fragrant kitchen too. As Brandon said, pointing to the oven, “That smells amazing.” In a pinch, you can try leaving the skins on the tomatoes: the texture of the finished tart filling won’t be as uniform and silky, but it’ll still taste good, and it’ll take less time. Also, depending on what’s in your garden or at your local farmers’ market, you can try using other types of thyme. We used lemon thyme, because that’s what we had.

4 lbs ripe plum tomatoes, trimmed, halved, and seeded
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt
2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ batch Martha Stewart’s pâte brisée without sugar (enough for one 9-inch tart), unbaked, or your favorite savory pastry recipe
2 Tbs crème fraîche
1 Tbs whole grain mustard
½ cup finely shredded gruyère cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and place racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the tomatoes with olive oil, thyme, and a generous pinch or two of salt. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet, and pour over them any oil that is left in the bowl. Slide the tomatoes into the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the oven, and let them sit for about 5 minutes. Working carefully, remove the tomato skins. [I find that a pair of rubber gloves—the yellow, snug-fitting kind that you might wear when you wash dishes—helps here, but if your fingers are less heat-sensitive than mine, you might be just fine without them.] Turn the tomatoes cut side up, nestle the slices of garlic into their flesh, and roast for 30-35 minutes more, until the tomatoes look a little dry and the garlic is pale golden. Let the tomatoes cool.

While the tomatoes cook, roll out the pâte brisée on a lightly floured surface. Press it gently into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, and fold in the overhang to reinforce the sides. Trim away any excess dough. Chill the tart shell until the tomatoes are finished roasting.

When the tomatoes are ready, line the tart shell with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights. Bake the tart shell for 30-35 minutes, or until just set. Remove the foil and the weights, and bake the tart shell for 5 minutes longer, or until pale golden.

In a small bowl, mix the crème fraîche and the mustard; then spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the tart shell. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Arrange the tomatoes in the tart shell in two layers, cut side up. Bake the tart for 25 minutes, or until the tomatoes are just beginning to brown at their edges. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 servings, for an appetizer or a light lunch


Blogger lobstersquad said...

I understand you so well. I love lists so much that apart from normal "to do" lists, I make lists of things I´ve done, or just alphabetical lists of stuff, if I´m stuck waiting somewhere without a book.
But of course "to-cook" is the Queen Bee of lists, and that tart looks like making it into mine, now that tomatoes are so everywhere.

12:35 AM, August 22, 2006  
Anonymous Ellie said...

Woah, that tart looks amazing! I can't believe you could pace yourself whilst eating to take such beautiful photos - I don't think I could have torn my lips away from the plate for that long!

3:38 AM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger Hausmannsblog said...

Beautiful Story. Beautful pictures. We love your Blog. So much that we linked "orangette" in our blog. It's in german. But if you need translations, we will give it a try.


6:06 AM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

Champ at crying, eh? A certain someone I wake up next to everyday might give you a run for your title in that category!! lol This 'skill' of my wife doesn't bug me so much as I have good hugging skillz :)

6:21 AM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger Shari said...

hi molly!
this tart looks excellent and it appears to be the rather sophisticated (city) cousin of my (country) tomato pie. :)

i am a total list maker too. lists are lovely all around.

thanks for the inspiration. xo shari

6:55 AM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger iamchanelle said...

absoloutely stunning!
i loved this post! what a lush piece of summer you have created there - i must try this. i will be sure to put it on my list (i LOVE lists, too). :)

7:35 AM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger Garrett said...

What a fun and clever post!

7:49 AM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger Faye said...

This looks outrageous. I like this with smashed roasted garlic, a little lemon zest and a teeny bit of fresh thyme stirred into the mascarpone, instead of the mustard as well.

7:56 AM, August 22, 2006  
Anonymous ASMO said...

I love this tart! It's an old French staple recipe and I liken it to pizza as well. So I've always called it the Bellenaves Pizza, because that's the village my family comes from, in Auvergne

8:14 AM, August 22, 2006  
Anonymous Luisa said...

Just last night, at 2 am or something, I was thinking I should just turn the damn light on already and make a list! My head was spinning ;) Anyway, YOW, this looks good. Am bookmarking it. As usual. :)

8:27 AM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger Pille said...

That tart looks wonderful, and will be included on my ever expanding to-do-list this very moment.
(For my non-food life I have a little black book where I write things and then cross them off when I've 'done' them. I revise my list regularly while drinking my breakfast coffee and find it immensely rewarding:)

8:59 AM, August 22, 2006  
Anonymous leslie said...

Just as I was eyeing the beautiful deep red and taking in the fragrance of the late summer tomatoes in the outdoor market for a tart of my own, you pop up with this scrumptious option. miam! It's a sure sign that we must be in the 'tomato tart' time of year.
From another 'list maker, tart baker' (and lover of France)...I send you greetings from Provence!
I'll try my hand at another version of tomato tart that is served for lunch at one the little cafés here in Aix en Provence and let you know how it turns out. You've inspired a little comparative 'tart' tasting in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, a note of appreciation for your inspiration, on many levels...you've taken a big 'bite' out of my time spent searching for new ideas on Epicurious and random googled sites for awhile now and I thought I'd let you know. I'm delighted to have discovered Orangette and such a 'cookin' community' of creative souls!

9:10 AM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger Tokyoastrogirl said...

Ok- when I read your title I started humming Pat Benetar's "Heartbreaker" in my head..."you're a list maker, tart baker, love taker don't you mess around with me!" Ok, I'll stop! Being a list-maker myself, I understand. I sometimes find "what to make for dinner" lists from two years ago stuck in cookbooks.

I actually made this exact same tart when the recipe was first published, and absolutely loved it- the grainy mustard with creme fraiche is so nice with the concentrated tomatoes. I served it as the main dish in an all-veggie supper and it was a big hit. You just reminded that it must be made again before all of the good tomatoes leave us until next summer.

10:12 AM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger Carolynne said...

Oh, I am SUCH a list maker, I know exactly what you mean. Something about emptying out whatever is swirling around in your brain into a nice concise list - it's so satisfying.

Also, I love your blog. I can't wait to go home and make this tart with some tomatoes fresh from my garden.

10:33 AM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger kickpleat said...

oh my! i am drooling.

2:55 PM, August 22, 2006  
Anonymous jules said...

glad to see there are fellow list addicts out there...

gorgeous tart

3:17 PM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger christianne said...

I've been trying to figure out what to do with some ready-made crust that's currently thawing in my refrigerator. (I buy ready-made because making my own terrifies me) And my lemon thyme plant is completely overgrown...this is a perfect dish! Thanks!

4:05 PM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger The Tart said...

Yummy yum yum.
Forget the cupcakes ... I'm switching to Tarts, natch!

The Tart
; *

4:29 PM, August 22, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Lobstersquad, I think that I may have to retract my "World Champion" eligibilty where lists are concerned - you, dear lady, are the champ! I can only imagine what delicious things might be on your "to cook" list...

Aww, thank you, Ellie! It was pretty hard to pull my hand back from the fork, but that's where a deep breath comes in handy - that, and Brandon's sworn promise that the tart would still be there when my camera duties were done!

Thank you, Hausmannsblog! Now, about this business of translating...

Wheresmymind, you and your wife are just too cute. She's one lucky gal.

Shari, the lists you share with us in your "Junk Drawer Tuesday" and "Five Senses Friday" posts are some of my favorite lists out there. Talk about inspiration...

Thank you, iamchanelle!

Thanks, Garrett! I had fun writing it too.

Faye, I love the idea of adding lemon zest, and I know that Brandon, a.k.a. Mr. Garlic Man, would be thrilled at the thought of some roasted garlic here. The next time I make this, I know what I'll be adding to the creme fraiche...

ASMO, I love that - "Bellenaves Pizza." Very fitting!

Yes, Luisa, turn the damn light on already, and make a list! Here's hoping that tonight will be better - and that there's a tart on your table soon. xo

Pille, I love the idea of your breakfast-coffee-and-black-book routine. For us list-makers, that could well be the best part of the day - I mean, aside from mealtimes, which are pretty nice too.

De rien, leslie! It's my pleasure - and thank you for reading! And as for this comparative tart tasting, I wait with bated breath for the results! Miam, miam...

Tokyoastrogirl, I'm so glad to hear that you've made this tart too - and that you loved it as much as I do. For the version I posted here, I upped the quantity of tomatoes - the original amount felt skimpy - and I've used my own preferred pastry, but otherwise, it was hard to fuss with something so simple and so tasty. You'd better hurry and make another before summer gets away from us! [Oh, and about Pat Benatar, hum on, sister! Who can resist the chorus of "Heartbreaker"? Please.]

Carolynne, I hope you like this tart as much as I do. Given our shared taste for lists, at least, it seems only likely...

Kickpleat, quick - get a napkin!

Thank you, jules.

You're most welcome, christianne. Look no further: crust + lemon thyme = tomato tart...

The Tart, I should have guessed!

4:53 PM, August 22, 2006  
Anonymous Valerie said...

That looks incredibly tempting. Unfortunately, my picky boys would refuse to eat this, so I'll have to wait until I'm home along someday! Thanks for sharing the recipe - I'll look forward to getting to make it myself!

8:33 AM, August 23, 2006  
Blogger Harry said...

I anxiously await all your postings, and you've not disappointed me. So well written, so descriptive. My mouth watered before even getting the recipe. I wish I'd seen it last week when I oven-drived a Costco pack of Roma tomatoes. Definitely will save for the future. Thanks.

3:14 PM, August 23, 2006  
Blogger Natalia said...

I like to make lists too. More so because it allows me to stall and procrastinate than because I am a good list maker. This tart is definitely going on my list of things to make. (Which is a good list to be on because items actually get crossed off this one.)

7:28 PM, August 23, 2006  
Anonymous Colleen said...

Hi Molly!
I really enjoy your blog and have tried a few of your recipes. I've loved everything I've made :)
My husband and I live in WI and will be vacationing in Seattle starting this Sat. I was wondering if you have any special or note worthy restaurants to point us towards. Thanks!!

5:58 AM, August 24, 2006  
Blogger Julie said...

Very beautiful tart. I recently made one with slow roasted tomatoes and puff pastry. I like the use of creme fraiche and mustard in this one. I'll put it on my list of things to try.

11:23 AM, August 24, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

You're very welcome, Valerie. I hope you get some home-alone-with-a-tomato-tart time soon!

Thank you, Harry, for your generous words! And as for the tomato tart, maybe it's time for another trip to Costco?

Natalia, if and when this tart does get crossed off your list, you'd better write and tell me what you think...

Colleen, I would love to share my list of favorite Seattle spots. Happy to! It's a bit long, though, so I'm hesitant to post it here. But if you send me an e-mail, I'll zip it right over to you. You can reach me by clicking "VIEW MY COMPLETE PROFILE" in the sidebar above and then on "Email."

Thank you, Julie. You know, I wonder how puff pastry would work in this recipe? Hmmm...

9:47 PM, August 24, 2006  
Anonymous maryeats said...

I find it especially gratifying to place a little check bock next to each item on the list, so I can tick each item off with purpose.

When I pack, I also make a photocopy of the list and stick it in my luggage.

My husband and friends make fun of me, but I'm not the one running around the hotel room crying over a lost ipod charger or missing underpants.

Beautiful photos as usual. I am eagerly looking forward to the day when I live in an apartment with an oven so I can tryout your recipes.

5:15 PM, August 25, 2006  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Only eleven items on your to-cook list??? I have at least fifty, if not sixty. Either I'm too ambitious or you're just a tad better at checking things off your list! I think the only other list in my life that hangs around with such permanence and unreduceable length is my cookbook wishlist on amazon...

But I'm glad this gorgeous tart made its way from list to web. It looks like something we would love around here, even if that means by making it I would have to sacrifice an opportunity to check something off of my list... ;)

6:33 AM, August 26, 2006  
Anonymous Robin said...

Melissa, I thought I was the only one with a huge cookbook wish list on amazon! (and you should see how many I already have by scouting them out at remainder...)

Molly, the Tomato Tart looks incredible! I can't wait to make one.... (I just bought the requisite plum tomatoes at the farm stand!) I use the Martha Stewart Pâte Brisée recipe all the time and I like her lemon curd recipe as well...
I have so many ideas for additional fiddling with the tart, like adding some sun dried tomatoes and lemon peel for intensity. Or changing the crème fraîche to goat cheese etc....changing the herbs...as well as using a bit of flavored olive oil (basil or cilantro or garlic).
My all time favorite flavored olive oil was Consorzio Cilantro but it's no longer available (I did stock up on as many bottles as I could find- it adds a little "je ne sais quôi" to loads of things)... some day I hope to master making my own.
The photos of the tart are incredible, just the color alone! Yum, I can't wait to try it!

12:29 PM, August 26, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

maryeats, your list-making skills put me to shame! A list of your suitcase's contents? You, my dear, mean business! I'm truly humbled. And as for your sad ovenless state, maybe you should add one to the list?

Melissa, I know, eleven items does seem rather meager for someone of my appetite, but I assure you, my friend, that the number is only that low because I continually revise the list, you see. I operate by the assumption that once an item has been there for, say, a couple of months and is still unmade, maybe I just wasn't so excited about it to start with. I try to only keep as many items on my "to cook" list as I can make over the course of couple or three weeks. Otherwise, it's just an exercise in futility! But oh - you should see the backlog of bookmarks and folded-down pages on my cookbook shelf! My list could be waaaaay longer, if I let it be. Hey, you know, maybe we should team up and tackle our lists together? With two of us in the kitchen and four mouths to feed, maybe we could plow through our lists a little faster. Yet another reason why you should be in the Pacific Northwest...

So, Robin, how was it? With all your wonderful ideas for tweaks and additions, goooooodness, it had to be good! Please do report back...

7:14 PM, August 27, 2006  
Anonymous anna said...

i don't know about you, Molly, but there's nothing that makes me smile inside like my loved one gently teasing me. i didn't even realize how much so until reading your blog entry. laughing is an important part of what keeps relationships alive, so long live your bowl scraping! oh, and this tart will be added to my recipe list, because this girl simply cannot resist an oven-baked tomato dish.

9:05 AM, August 30, 2006  
Anonymous Planethalder said...

Every Sunday morning my husband and I talk through our meals for the work week ahead, before we go shopping for provisions. We drool over cookbooks and saved recipes of meals gone by. The week's meal list is then stuck on our fridge door so we're always aware of what's for dinner!

11:33 PM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger Magpie said...

Damn, that sounds good. And I'm with you on the lists, and with the pile of clippings and assorted mail that my mother collects for me...

8:36 AM, August 23, 2007  
Blogger Megan said...

Made it last night! Labor-intensive - yes! Worth it? Yes! The tomatoes are gorgeous. Was a little too rich for me and would make it next time with some kind of less-rich crust.

Question about the tomatoes: could you pre-peel the tomatoes whole, using the boiling water trick, then roast them, rather than stopping in the middle to peel?

8:07 AM, September 21, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Oh Megan, I'm so glad you made it! I just love this thing. But as for the tomatoes, you know, I have no idea. I can't imagine, though, that you could go wrong by peeling them first. I say give it a go! Will you let me know if you do?

11:27 AM, September 21, 2007  
Blogger Megan said...

Update: made it this again (the other half of the crust wasn't long for my freezer), and the result was another sunny pie to rally around.

I was in a hurry (um, even with this recipe?) and needed it to be spot on, so I didn't try the pre-peeling trick but will certainly let you know if I do. 16 lbs of the season's finest local tomatoes perched on my kitchen table almost ensure it. Thanks, Molly.

5:51 PM, September 24, 2007  
Anonymous emiglia said...

I get mocked for my lists, my color coded post its, but especially, my recipe list, which is fifteen single-spaced typed pages and counting (yes, that's just titles) of things I want to try to make. This tart just made it on my list. Which if I stop reading blogs and browsing epicurious, should be achieved by approximately 2015.

8:40 AM, November 29, 2007  
Blogger HadleyEG said...

My Dad is a fiendish list-maker, and my parent's house is littered with his indecipherable scribbles. For the past two years, for Christmas, my mother has called a local paper store and had them make her up a foot-tall stack of plain, white notepads, which she wraps and gives to him. Last year, I believe they game them to her for free. Listmakers know--a life without a notepad is hard to keep track of.

I am so excited to buy the creme fraiche I've been eyeing at the farmers market for the past two weeks, wondering what I could use it for....

11:51 AM, June 11, 2010  
Anonymous Lisa said...

So, Molly, I downloaded this recipe from Orangette waaaaay back when you first posted it, but I finally made it for the first time yesterday for Christmas dinner. It took allllll day. I wasn't sure it would be worth it. But then I made a feast - in addition to the tart, beef tenderloin, roasted cauliflower, asparagus with lemon and pecorino romano, gruyere popovers, sweet potato casserole . . . you get the drift. And my thirteen guests were unanimous that the tart was the best dish of all.

I won't make this often, because it was darn labor intensive, and, to be honest, I don't think that a holiday meal is the right context for it, both because its amazingness should stand on its own and because you just don't have time to make something with this many steps when you're cooking a million other treats for a big crowd. But I will make it, oh yes I will.

I have hidden away the two slices that are left from the three tarts I made. I'm going to eat them for my lunch with the five stalks of asparagus that also survived the onslaught. And no one else can have any.

Merry Christmas!

5:21 AM, December 26, 2011  

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