Wise Women and Tomato Tarte Tatin

I notice bylines. You know, the small type under the magazine or newspaper story that indicates who the author is. It probably comes from the years I worked at our local metro newspaper and would look for personal bias (surprisingly little) in the stories of reporters I knew and maybe check out what beat that cute guy in the cafeteria was covering.

So I zeroed in on Julia Reed's in a story on tomatoes in last weeks Wall Street Journal. She is a fine writer, a southern woman you want to be friends with. Not folksy "y'all come back" type but wise, witty and chic with a full embrace of her not always sophisticated southern roots. I've been reading her stuff for years, mostly in Vogue magazine, and it's made me look forward to getting older if only to be as comfortable in my skin as Julia seems to be. Ditto Nora Ephron, ditto Ruth Reichl, ditto Diane Von Furstenberg. Smart women who don't take themselves too seriously, exude warmth, dig into life and share the experience.

Now about those tomatoes. This is a riff on tarte tatin, the caramelly french upside down apple dessert. In addition to the cherry and big tomatoes weighing down your vines, you will need butter, balsamic vinegar, onions, basil, a sheet of purchased puff pastry and goat cheese. A little sweet, a little tangy, a little salty supported by a flaky crust. Easy, elegant and homey. Serve a big slice with a salad for lunch or dinner. Good reheated too.

Tomato Tarte Tatin

Adapted from Julia Reed's recipe, Wall Street Journal 8/17/13

3 large tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 pint (approx. 2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons reduced balsamic vinegar*
4 ounces goat cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

* Reduced, syrupy balsamic is ideal but straight from the bottle will work too. To reduce, simmer 1/4 cup in a pan for 20-30 minutes until it's down to about 2 tablespoons.

1. Preheat oven to 275º. 

2. Place halved cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan with garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bake in oven for about 30-40 minutes or until browned and somewhat dehydrated. Remove, set aside and increase oven temperature to 400º.

3. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil  and butter over medium heat and add onions with a pinch of salt. Cook low and slow (reduce heat if onions are browning too quickly - they shouldn't sizzle)  until onions are soft and brown, about 30-45 minutes. 

4. Oil bottom and sides of 9 inch cake pan and cut a circle of parchment to fit in the bottom. Drizzle balsamic over bottom and sprinkle on the fresh basil. Lay in sliced tomatoes and salt and pepper them. Fit roasted cherry tomatoes in all the gaps, then spread caramelized onions over that. Sprinkle with goat cheese.

5. Roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface so it will fit the diameter of the pan plus an one inch overhang (you will have some pastry left over). Lay over the top of the filling and tuck in the edges. Bake for 30 minutes until crust is browned and you can see some filling bubbling up around the edges. 
Let rest for 5 minutes, invert onto large plate and serve warm or at room temperature. 


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