JUMP TO RECIPE -
I’m completely in love with the tomato crostata.
It’s dangerous to fall in love with a pie. A real shape-shifter: the crust starts off closed, like in a classic apple pie or the English staple, steak and kidney, with just a vent to let off steam. Then it morphs into a lattice – with the cherry filling or the Linzer raspberry jam peeking flirtingly through. Another shape, a pile of pastry cutouts decoratively arranged over the dish, from hearts for the Valentine pie to stars and trees at Christmas. Crumb or streusel topping, and again all left to imagination, nothing on show. But if we move in the French or Italian direction, with pies calling themselves galettes or crostatas, the cover is blown and the filling is on show – almost, with edges of pastry modestly shielding it a little. But watch it: it’s only a small, tiny step away from pizza – and the naked truth!
It’s dangerous to be in love with a pie, a galette or a crostata (let alone pizza). You can’t get enough of it, and it’s just crawling up and up onto your waistline. Delightfully flaky pastry, with or without sneaky cheese addition, is full of carbs, those floury devils. You take a look at your plate and all you see are virtuous tomatoes, chard or figs – but they are deviously resting on the pastry case, unarguably the best bit.
It’s dangerous to be in love with a pie – but love is blind, and has extremely well developed taste buds.
Recipe found in NY Times Cooking – and it was a coup de foudre.
- For the pastry:
- 125g (about 1 cup) plain flour
- 75g (½ cup) fine cornmeal
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 140g (1 stick plus 2 tbsp.) cold butter, diced
- 35g (½ cup) grated mature Cheddar or Gruyere
- 6 tbsp. iced water
- For the tomato filling:
- 600g (1½ pound) tomatoes, cored and sliced 5mm thick (or halved if cherry tomatoes)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp. cider or white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. honey
- a small bunch of fresh thyme sprigs, leaves stripped from half the sprigs
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, lightly smashed and peeled
- 80g (1 cup) grated mature Cheddar or Gruyere
- black pepper
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water
- flaky sea salt, like Maldon
To make the pastry, pulse all the ingredients except water in a food processor until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs. Add the water and pulse until the pastry just comes together. Shape it into a ball, wrap it in foil and flatten to a disc. Chill for 2 hours.
Spread the tomato slices on a tray lined with double layer of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and leave for 2-3 hours.
Place the honey, vinegar and the whole thyme sprigs in a small pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 minutes, then pour into a bowl. Wipe and reuse the pan to heat the olive oil; add the garlic cloves smashed with the flat of a large knife and peeled. Cook the garlic gently on low heat until golden and caramelised. Remove it from the oil and chop finely; keep the oil.
Roll out the pastry to a round about 30cm in diameter, dusting with flour if it sticks. Place it on a sheet of parchment lining a baking sheet and return to the fridge for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7.
Pat the tomato slices dry with kitchen towels and brush them with the thyme syrup. Remove the pastry from the fridge and mark a 5cm border around the circle.
Spread the cheese on the pastry leaving the border clear. Sprinkle the cheese with the chopped garlic, half the stripped thyme leaves and black pepper. Place the tomato slices over the cheese in a round overlapping pattern. Sprinkle the remaining thyme leaves and drizzle with the garlic oil. Top with the sprigs of thyme cooked in the honey syrup.
Fold the edge of the pastry over around the tomatoes forming a 3cm border. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the tomato slices are wilted and bubbling with juice. Remove from the oven and let the crostata stand for at least 20 minutes – the juices will get absorbed but the pastry underneath will still be crisp.
Serve warm or at room temperature.