Thanks to a crazy coincidence of timing, we even got to cook Sunday brunch for the residents of a Chicago Ronald McDonald House (RMH). RMH is an organization that both my Mom and I support in our different geographies although as a regular volunteer, she does a lot more work with them than I do. It was really special to be able to do that together.
Of all the great experiences we shared during her trip, my favorite was the last night when we decided to stay in and cook. The Royfriend had left town earlier in the day to go to a family reunion so we were free to relax and go at our own pace. We mixed up some cocktails (gin, limeade and seltzer water... my new favorite summer drink in case you're wondering) and just enjoyed the experience of cooking together. Looking back at my stubborn resistance to cooking as a child and as a teenager (ok, and as a young adult), I'm pretty sure neither of us saw this coming.
We tackled the GORGEOUS cover recipe from the July/August Food Network Magazine and at the last minute, decided to make the Barefoot Contessa's sole meuniere too. Both were amazing, but I'll save the sole meuniere later this week.
The recipe for the heirloom tomato tart was intense. Because I was cooking with the original Lazy Woman, aka: my mama, we changed it up a bit so it worked for us. Namely, we skipped making the crust from scratch. She's not a baker and I only make baked goods that come from mixes in a box, so I used a refrigerated pie crust instead. I also used regular tomatoes instead of heirlooms. Then I picked up the recipe at step 4 and it was smooth sailing from there.
Holy cow does that little tart pack a punch! On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it an 11. The tomatoes were bursting with flavor and the cheese and onion mixture along with the fresh herbs added a lot of depth. You could taste all the different layers... the tomatoes, the cheese, the herbs, the sweetness of the crust... it was succulent and rich and so, so good. This is officially a favorite and is on my list for the next time I host book club or have company.
A few notes... the manchego cheese is expensive but worth it. Spend a few extra dollars to get that instead of a substitute cheese. You should be able to get what you need for under $10. The way I see it, this is a main dish that I'd serve along with a side salad, so it was worth spending the extra $$ on. If you want to skip the manchego, the reviews say that Parmesan is a good substitute.
I used a mandolin to thinly slice my onion. It worked so much better than my paltry knife skills. If you have a mandolin (mine was $10 from Target), try it. You may have to cut your onion in half but it will work all the same. Just make sure you watch those fingers!
And finally, if you go the pre-made pie crust route (which I HIGHLY recommend), lightly flour your pie dish so the crust doesn't stick.
Heirloom Tomato Tart (Food Network Magazine)
Prep and cook time: 2 hours
I've amended the recipe to use a refrigerated pie shell. If you want to make the original version with crust from scratch, then follow this version.
1 - 9" refrigerated pie shell (Pillsbury makes a good one)
3/4 cup shredded manchego cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 1/4 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used light mayo)
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Freshly ground pepper
Lightly flour your pie dish. Bake the refrigerated pie shell according to directions on the package.
While the pie crust bakes, thinly slice the tomatoes and toss with 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a colander. Let drain about 30 minutes, gently tossing occasionally.
While tomatoes drain and pie shell bakes, thinly slice the onion. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool.
Combine the manchego, mozzarella, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons each chives and parsley, the thyme, 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper, and the sauteed onions in a bowl. Spread in the crust. Arrange the tomatoes on top. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with pepper.
Bake at 375 degrees until the tomatoes are browned, about 50 minutes. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon each chives and parsley.