Heirloom tomatoes are finally in season! They are my summer obsession and they are finally affordable at the grocery store. Now for the next month, I will pretty much eat nothing but heirloom tomatoes. The best way to eat them is raw topped with a little olive oil and salt and you have pretty much got the most perfect dinner. It is even better if you have fresh bread to go with it.
I dont’ really think I had heirlooms before moving to San Francisco. I grew up on the generic beefsteak and never really cared about tomatoes until I discovered heirloom varietals. Once I discovered those suckers I was hooked. Don’t tell Luke, but I may have even spent $40 one time on tomatoes for a dinner party – that is how much I love them. I will cash out some serious cashola for those things. (If you were wondering everyone loved the most expensive tomatoes on Earth when I served them, mostly because they didn’t have to pay for them).
My favorite are the black zebras which are a dark, dark purple, almost black, as well the amana orange which are big huge tomatoes that are bright florescent orange. They taste pretty much like candy.
I randomly drove by the Seed Bank this morning on my way to go foraging in Pt. Reyes (more on that tomorrow).This is such a Northern California thing – but the Seed Bank is an old bank building that was converted to store plant and flower seeds instead of money. They have pretty much every plant imaginable but check out all the amazing tomato seeds they have.
Why does heirloom matter you ask? Well for one they taste better. To give you the short answer, it is also a way of preserving history through seeds – before agriculture became industrialized there were many different varieties of plants/flowers that were grown for sale. Once agriculture became more industrialized farmers realized that it was easier and more effective to only grow one type of variety, usually the one that was the strongest. Thankfully, there has been a movement in the recent decades to bring these plants back and places like the Seed Bank does just that. They are particularly fun to eat and cook with because they taste better and look better.
Remember when I made my hanging garden? Well I planted 3 different types of heirloom tomatoes. Sadly I forgot which ones I planted but they are finally starting to produce fruit. It is going to be a surprise as to what pops out of them.
Here is a great recipe for heirloom tomatoes. This recipe can be either really simple and quick by using store bought pie crust and pesto or a little more time intensive by making your own pesto and pie crust. Completely up to you.
It is a great dish to serve at a dinner party because it looks pretty. Also you can of course use any type of tomato – a beefsteak would be delicious in this tart. Enjoy!
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 lb fresh mozzarella (not unsalted), very thinly sliced
- 2 lb mixed heirloom tomatoes, sliced 3/4 inch thick
Blend together flour, butter, shortening, parmesan, pepper, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size lumps. Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water over and gently stir with a fork (or pulse in food processor) until incorporated.
Gently squeeze a small handful: If it doesn't hold together without falling apart, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) after each addition until incorporated, continuing to test. (Do not overwork dough, or it will become tough.)
Gather both portions of dough into 1 ball, then pat into a disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round and fit into a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable rim. Roll rolling pin over top of pan to trim dough flush with rim. Lightly prick tart shell all over with a fork.
Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights or rice. Bake in middle of oven 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and bake until golden, about 15 minutes more. Cool in pan on a rack.
Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Mix in the cheese.
Fill tart shell:
Remove side of pan and slide shell onto a platter. Arrange one third of mozzarella in bottom of shell and drizzle with one third of pesto. Arrange one third of tomato slices, overlapping, on top of cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat layering twice.