Still Life with Garlic and Lucinda’s Tomato, by Sarah Jane Moon.
Recipe below: Tomato Torta with Fontina, Mustard, and Tarragon
Per I Ospiti
In my relatively long time on this earth, I’ve never owned anything. Well, nothing major. I must admit I do have a nice collection of Repetto shoes, but I’ve always rented apartments and cars. Now I own a house. Incredible. Owning, it turns out, has supplied me with unexpected feelings. It’s more intimate than I would have imagined. And cooking in my house has taken on both a protective quality and a formality that’s new to me. I’m hoping it’s a transitional thing.
Over all the decades of cooking I’ve done in my city apartment, I’ve always said to myself, “Tonight friends are coming for dinner,” or “Friends are stopping by for a glass of wine.” Or, when the affairs turned into intense production numbers, “Tonight twenty friends are coming for an eight-course Sicilian dinner.” But at my new house I’ve started thinking of my friends as guests. “Guests are coming for drinks.” Now, these are for most part the same friends. Odd. I wonder if a reserve has set in with ownership, or maybe awkwardness at being in a new and much bigger kitchen. It also might have something to do with the fact that some of these guests stay the night, and not just because they get drunk and fall asleep in the bathtub, but as actual invitees. I now need towels, and sheets, and doors that close. I have two extra bedrooms, sometimes with people inside them wearing bathrobes. What a concept.
One thing I am finding is the need to have more stuff on hand, more cheese, olives, wine, and bread. People show up, excited to see the place. I cook things that can be cut into pieces and passed around, high hostess style, and I’ve been making a lot of savory tarts. They’re relatively easy but fancy looking. Antipasti at the ready. You might want to try this one, which is really a celebration of the last of the summer tomatoes. It has been a great year for tomatoes.
You’ll want a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
(Serves 6 as an antipasto)
For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup dry white wine
For the torta:
Extra-virgin olive oil
5 medium round summer tomatoes (any color, or a mix of colors), sliced into not-too-thin rounds and set on paper towels to absorb some moisture
2 heaping tablespoons crème fraîche
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon allspice
1 large egg
8 large sprigs tarragon, the leaves lightly chopped
¾ cup grated fontina Val d’Aosta cheese (use the large holes of your grater, as the cheese is somewhat soft)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with a little water, to brush on the crust
To make the dough: Place the flour in a medium bowl. Add all the other ingredients, and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a moist crumbly mass. Now squeeze the dough together with your hands so it clumps. Tilt it out onto a workspace, and knead and press it together very briefly, just until you have a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it rest, unrefrigerated, for an hour.
After the dough has rested, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil your tart pan.
Roll out the dough. You’ll see that it’s very easy to work with. You won’t even need to flour your workspace. Drape the dough into the tart pan, leaving about ½ inch of overhang. Press the inside so the dough is up again the sides of the pan. Trim off excess by taking a rolling pin around the perimeter. Now build up the sides, by pushing the dough a bit higher than the tart rim. This will prevent it from shrinking too much during baking.
In a small bowl, whisk together the creme fraîche, Dijon, garlic, allspice, and egg. Season with a little salt and black pepper. Whisk in about a teaspoon or so of warm water to loosen the mixture to a still thick but pourable consistency.
Place the tomatoes in the tart pan in a slightly overlapping circular pattern. Season them lightly with salt and black pepper. Pour the crème fraîche mix evenly over the tomatoes, making sure not to let any run under the edge of the dough. Scatter the tarragon evenly over the top and sprinkle on the fontina. Brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust turns golden and the inside is set. Let rest about 10 minutes before slicing. It will be good warm or at room temperature, and it will be especially nice with a glass of Falanghina or another mineraly Italian white wine.