Freeform Tomato Tart with “Goat Cheese” and Basil

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Before I get to today’s recipe, I’d like to mention two gifts: one for you, and one for me.

The first is the Simply Bar giveaway prize you can win by going here. The giveaway is on until September 7th, so you’ve still got time to enter!

The second is a gift I received in the mail this week, from the amazing and incredibly thoughtful Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe. Johanna is a new mum who manages to cook several fantastic dishes a week and still finds time to blog about them, take care of her darling baby girl, maintain a household and (from the sounds of it on her blog) an active social life as well.  I’m incapable of accomplishing even half of that in a day–without any children! (Well, some people say that having a dog is like having a three year-old, one who never grows up. Still, I was never that productive, even before The Girls!). I was so thrilled with my present that I could barely wait until I got the package inside the house to rip it open.  

Here are the authentic Aussie goodies that I found inside:

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[Left to right: Promite (or vegemite), similar to Marmite, something I've been dying to try out for ages; Tasmania Mountain spices; Oz Tukka spices (including wattleseed, which I cannot WAIT to use in some brownies or truffles!), Lemon Myrtle soap (smells absolutely heavenly), an incredibly clever Melbourne snow-dome (they don't really get snow in Melbourne, do they?), and, in the back, a lovely bag from the botanical gardens and an Australian linen tea towel embellished with adorable koala bears.]

Such a generous and thoughtful gift–thank you so much, Johanna! It made my day–nay, my week! :)

Until I can begin to cook with my native Aussie ingredients, I have a few Canadian-made recipes to blog about.  Such as this tomato tart, which began its short life as a pizza–sort of. 

All around me these days, I see gardens flourishing in the heart of tomato season. Heirloom varieties and beefsteak and plums and cherry tomatoes are all ripening on vines. Our neighbours to the north have tomato plants that look like something out of Little Shop of Horrors, with vines that threaten to climb over the six-foot fence separating our properties and encroach on our yard, halted only by the profusion of ponderous red fruit dangling from their branches, keeping them weighted toward the ground.

In my own garden, sadly, there is no similar abundance of these fruit-cum-vegetables.   Is it because I didn’t use chemical fertilizers?  Is it because I didn’t pull the weeds thoroughly enough?  Is it because the HH refuses to start a compost bin and I couldn’t properly feed the soil (shameful, I know)?  Or is it because I simply suck at gardening?

Whatever the reason, plants that should at this very moment be yielding dozens of plump, juicy tomatoes are instead tentatively offering me only four (four!) squat, pebble-like, green fruit.  I can only hope that the sunshine we experienced today continues for at least a month so that my poor tomatoes can reach full maturity before they are plucked from their stalks to sacrifice their lives in  service to my plate (and my palate).

Yearning fresh tomatoes, I decided to do what any reasonable person would do instead: purchase them.  Our local market was showcasing Ontario tomatoes in varying autumnal shades from deep crimson to rust to mustard yellow.  I decided to buy a few of each and create the quintessential late-summer dish: a tomato tart.

Actually, a tart wasn’t my first choice; I had originally intended to create a pizza.  A couple of weeks ago, I attempted my first gluten-free pizza crust, mostly to see if I could (and I figured my own creation couldn’t possibly be worse than the stiff, glossy, linoleum-hard crust I’d been ordering at Il Fornello whenever we eat there lately).

After combining elements of several recipes I found on the web, I mixed my ingredients and patted the dough into the pan. I pre-baked it to avoid the soggy center syndrome, then topped with pesto, veggies, and some ground pine nuts.  And while the pie was actually quite tasty, it couldn’t qualify as pizza. With its crisp, slightly flaky crust and tender crumb, it was just too much like a biscuit to work as a pizza dough.  

Well, have you ever read Real Simple magazine? (it’s one of my summer-vacation indulgences, along with People). The magazine devotes an entire column each month to “new uses for old things,” or ways you can employ items in a completely different context from their original, intended, use.  For instance, old cardboard rolls from paper towels can be used to separate and organize your computer cables (just string the cables through them one at a time).  Rubber bands can be used to open jar lids. Post-It Notes can be used to clean your computer keyboard.   Empty water bottles can be used as throw toys for Chaser, who will retrieve them indefinitely, or until she collapses on her pillow, whichever comes first. And so on.

Actually, Malcolm Gladwell talks about this same phenomenon in his latest book, Outliers.  He cites a test of creativity in which people are asked to provide as many uses as they can for common items such as a brick.  Aside from the obvious (“to build walls”), the most creative people came up with uses such as “To break windows for robbery. . . to use as ammunition, as pendulum, to practice carving. . . as a hammer, keep door open, footwiper, use as rubble for path filling. . . to prop up wobbly table, paperweight. . . to block up rabbit hole.” 

Then there are the people who move to new and useful occupations after spending time in a previous incarnation: Julia Child, who became a chef and cookbook author after spending years supporting her husband in his diplomatic endeavors; John Grisham, who turned to writing best-selling suspense novels after a career as a lawyer; or Joaquin Pheonix, who made the transition from acting to singing rap last year (oh, wait, I said “useful,” didn’t I?  Strike that last one).

Heck,  “I can be creative!” I thought.  “I can turn that pizza crust into a brick!” I decided to re-purpose the pizza crust as a savory rustic tart crust instead–one that requires neither rolling nor cutting, but only strong fingertips to pinch the edges high enough to enclose the filling. 

(“Mum, that’s a great new idea for the pizza crust.  But you could have just re-purposed it as dog treats, you know.”)

I covered the crust with thick slices of my tri-color tomatoes and hefty blobs of cashew goat cheese, which I’ve been eating lately by the boatload, it seems.  (It’s piquant, creamy, and incredibly versatile in a variety of dishes, such as these daringly hot appetizers).  Scattered with thin shreds of fresh, brilliantly green basil from our garden (at least something is growing as it should) and then drizzled with a tad more olive oil, this tart provided a flavorful, filling and aesthetically pleasing supper. 

And so, what started life as a merely adequate pizza crust found its true fulfillment at last.  Gladwell would be proud.

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Last Year at this Time:  So Long, Summer: Chilled Avocado Soup

© 2009 Ricki Heller

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Comments

  1. this is gorgeous! I have got to try this cashew goat cheese already (and perhaps pick up a Real Simple for my upcoming road trip.)

  2. My first gluten free pizza crust attempt was an absolute failure, definitely not something that could be re-purposed! This, on the other hand, looks divine. Now I know just what to make with all the tomatoes that are available these days, but I won’t lie, you had me at ‘cashew goat cheese’. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. I do have plenty of tomatoes hanging around, as well as basil, so this might have to be my next experiment! I’ve never tried making a “cheese” before, but that looks exceptional. Mmm tarts!

  4. that looks so delicious!

  5. Oh, such a beautiful tart! I’ve been craving tomatoes every which way lately, and it’s such a shame that really delicious ones are so hard to come by around here. Next year, I’m absolutely growing my own… But I might just have to make do with my crappy, non-local tomatoes and make this tart right now anyways, it looks too good to wait!

  6. Mmm, this sounds so good! I love the cashew goat cheese. Sounds like the perfect addition!

  7. what a lovely tart – and no plastic disaster like my tart last week!

    And thank you for such a gorgeous picture of the gifts I sent (although I hope you realise promite is different to vegemite – let me know if you need me to send vegemite) – am glad you liked them

    We don’t have snow in Melbourne but we have it in the mountains nearby – in fact we have just had a mini-drama here where one of our state ministers got lost in the snow for a couple of days and just found today.

    Oh and I like the recycling mentality of the post – I am sure Sylvia would love to join chaser in playing with the plastic bottle – she keeps knocking my drink bottle over every time she can at the moment – bless the wee rascal!

  8. What a fantastic recipe!! And, thanks for the list of ways to use everyday items. I have been trying to clean my keyboard for months now, and have not been successful. I will try the post-its!!

  9. Wonderful g-f tart recipe. I also love that you used cashew goat cheese. It is hard to find good g-f recipes. Thanks!

  10. Wow–that is lovely! I wish I had space to attempt a garden, but honestly, if I did? I don’t think I would be very successful…I killed too many herb plants to count a few summers ago when I tried to grow them in my windowsill! It was sad :-( SO, I am with you–yay for farmers markets! I go to ours every single weekend (sometimes more than once!) and I am in love with all the beautiful local produce that *some* people are able to grow…they even manage herbs, too, which takes skill, in my pathetic opinion! I am excited to try your gluten free crust most of all–when you say “whole bean flour”…is that any bean? Or soy flour? Or…?

    Thanks!
    Courtney

  11. Your tomato tart looks soooo good! I already have pizza on the menu for tonight, but this one is the next tart in line!

  12. you know, I just want you to feed me for a couple of months. I think that would be just about perfect.

  13. That’s a great picture of the tart and the recipe sounds just delicious. Our tomato season was far too short also.

  14. Oh Ricki that crust looks absolutely perfect! I would have to break off and steal little bits of the edge yum. What a wonderful sweet package to receive. =)

  15. The tart looks delicious – we’ve been experimenting with gluten-free flours, and this looks like a healthy combination of gluten-free whole grain flours. Tomatoes and basil a perfect combination!

  16. Lisa,
    The cheese is phenomenal–I just adore it. And a juicy read is always good for a trip! ;)

    Eve,
    It’s not quite the pizza crust you remember, but it really is good. And you will love that cheese!

    Jes,
    The cheese is really easy to make, and worth it!

    Pearl,
    Thanks so much! It really was. :)

    Hannah,
    You could always try other veggies if the tomatoes aren’t up to par–I think roasted zucchini or even red peppers would be great!

    Shelby,
    It is, I think. :)

    Johanna,
    I did assume that promite was different from vegemite, but in the same “family,” like marmite. ;) And Chaser would be over the moon to play with Sylvia, I am sure!

    Gina,
    Let me know if it works if you give it a try–my keyboard is in dire need of a cleaning, too!

    krunsdogs,
    Thanks so much! The cheese really did add a little “je ne sais quoi”. ;)

    Courtney,
    I am definitely a black thumb gardener myself–my little tomatoes are soooo pathetic compared to my neighbor’s! As to the flour, it is sold here as “whole bean flour” on the label (I get it at the bulk store). It’s a whitish-gray color, so I’m pretty sure it’s neither soy nor chickpea. I’m thinking more like navy beans, or even kidney beans.

    Josianne,
    Thanks so much! Hope the pizza was yummy, too. :)

    Diann,
    Thanks! Glad to hear it wasn’t ONLY my bad gardening skills!

    Ashley,
    Yes, the package was such a great surprise. And I tend to do the same thing with the crust–the crunchy edges are my favorite part. :)

    LK Sisters,
    I guess it is rather healthy, isn’t it? But still very tasty!

  17. Your blog is so inspiring, even for a non-vegan girl like myself!!

  18. Thanks for the tip on the “whole bean” flour. I actually have some navy bean flour in my freezer, so I will give that a try and hope for the best!

    Courtney

  19. i’ve gotta try your tomato tart, Ricki – it looks so delicious & it sounds absolutely perfect for enjoying those summer tomatoes. mmmmmmmmm! i can’t wait to give the cashew cheeze a whirl as well – it seems like a fun thing to make & oh-so yummy! i used to love watching little shop of horrors when i was little, which makes me laugh because it wasn’t exactly the most child appropriate movie! ahahahahaaa!

    real simple always has the neatest tips, and the goodies from Johanna are just too awesome! vegemite = yum, and i bet promite is just as wonderful. i use vegemite in a lot of sauces and marinades, and i spread it on gluten-free millet-flax toast, too! so yummers & full of B vitamins. i don’t ever recall having wattleseed. i’d love to hear what kinds of yummies you use it in. keep us posted!

  20. You are so amazing! Your blog is always so creative, beautiful and inspiring and the photography – wow!

    Thank you for this recipe, I can’t wait to try it! This looks like the perfect end of summer snack. Just gorgeous.

  21. Looks amazing, Ricki!

    Or should I say, “tomazing”?…No, I shouldn’t :(

    Think I can sub buckwheat flour for the whole bean flour?

    Thanks for a tomato recipe! With no garden, I’ve also been taking the “reasonable person”‘s route and buying mine…by the basket. Thank you for saving me from yet another night of Tomato stuffed tomato with a “tomate” reduction.

  22. What a fabulous care package to get! I just love getting stuff from other countries. I can’t wait to see what you do with it. I love this tart idea! I’ve never seen a recipe for vegan goat cheese either. How delicious!

  23. That picture looks good enough to eat! The rice and beans in such a hearty looking crust and all the good-for-you veggies. But what is whole bean flour? Is that a local specialty? I’ve been thinking it was just another way to say chickpea flour but obviously not if they are separate ingredients.

  24. Hi there…
    Just stumbled onto your blog! Love it! Too weird that I too have a shepard mix and a lab mix although your lab looks pure} and my shepard’s name is L.C. same as Elsie just spelled differently:) Well I’ll definitely be stopping back by from time to time!! Great recipes~

  25. those are some great tips from real simple :) and while the girls might like this, let’s keep it for me, ok? :)

  26. Looks wonderful, Ricki! The weather’s just starting to warm up here in NZ and I’m looking forward to in-season tomatoes and basil and all those wonderful things!

  27. Does that ever look amazing. I have yet to venture into the nut cheese territory but I have once again been reminded that it is on my list of kitchen adventures.

  28. Anh,
    Thanks so much for your kind comment! Glad to know the HH isn’t alone in liking the food ;)

    Courtney,
    Can’t wait to hear how it comes out!

    jessy,
    Thanks for the ideas for the Promite! I really can’t wait to try it (once I’m a little looser on the ACD, since it is, after all, YEAST!!) ;)

    Voracious Vegan,
    Thanks so much for your kind comment–believe me, the photos are all luck, as I know nothing about photography! Just lucky that the HH got me a good camera for my birthday so I can experiment in style. ;)

    Alex,
    I am guessing that buckwheat flour would work, though it will confer a bit of buckwheat taste (which is fine by me, actually). Let me know how it turns out–bet it’s “tomazing!” ;)

    Kris,
    The goat cheese is really sensational. I need to amend the recipe, too, as I forgot to say that I don’t take that long to make it–I just blend w/ a bit less water and put it right to the oven (without the 12 hour fermentation, which doesn’t change the taste or texture in any way, as far as I can tell).

    Mom,
    I am guessing that whole bean is navy bean flour; over here in the bulk store, it’s labeled as “whole bean flour” only. The only other bean it could be is fava, but I don’t think so, as the flour is slightly gray in color (not yellow like favas).

    Simpledaisy,
    Thanks so much for your comment, and for reading! As it turns out, our Elsie’s REAL name actually IS “L.C.” too! The full story behind the name can be found here.

    Shannon,
    Okay, I’ll be sure to wrestle some away from Chaser for you. ;)

    Alice,
    Thanks so much! And I bet your spring is actually warmer than our “summer”! ;)

    Meghan,
    It’s well worth the effort. Then again, I have to make a 1/2 batch of the stuff rather than a whole batch to ensure that I don’t eat it all in one sitting. ;)

  29. Brilliant! I just found your blog and am totally adoring your writing and recipes…I’ve made some cheese-esque items with cashews and I can’t wait to try this ‘goat cheese’, especially with tomatoes. Nice!

  30. That looks wonderful! All those different colours. And it sounds delicious of course.

  31. I have to try that “goat cheese” recipe. This tart is so colorful and appetizing to the eyes. I’m so glad you have a gluten free crust recipe I can try. Looking forward to this.

  32. Wonderful care package! Johanna always amazes me with her talents for multitasking. I sadly seem to be lacking in that department with many hastily thrown together meals, a crazy messy house full of 3 yelling and arguing children and no social life worth mentioning :P

    I love seeing care packages from home and what makes people from other countries excited. It give you a new appreciation for things you maybe take for granted a little.

    Love the tart too! It looks amazing!

  33. What did you think about the vegemite, Ricki? When we were in New Zealand, some Kiwis taught me to spread Marmite on crackers with a dab of butter. It is such a treat. I can get Marmite again now that we are visiting South Africa. :-)

    Your rustic tart sounds absolutely delicious, and I can’t wait to make some of your vegan cheese. The pictures are very much in the Ricki style too. I always look forward to seeing your food stylings and presentations on the blog.

  34. i just found this recipe this morning and it made me drool! i am definitely making this soon!

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