J and I generally agree on the big marital issues: sex, money, travel destinations and the importance of always owning at least two dogs. But seemingly minor matters occasionally rock our relationship; high on the list is his insistence on purchasing crappy tomatoes.
I was taught at an early age that beef should be served rare, broccoli is bearable if blanketed in Hollandaise and tomatoes should be eaten only when they've been ripened on the vine, picked in the morning and bought at a New Jersey farm stand in the afternoon. Consequently, although I grew up in suburban Philadelphia, I ate tomatoes only at the Jersey shore and only from late June through September.
When The Jerseys came in, we ate them every day. Dinner began only after the pitcher of iced tea and the platter of sliced tomatoes were on the table.
The first time J brought home hothouse tomatoes I restrained my horror and asked him not to do so again. I explained that these flavorless orbs had no place in our kitchen, that I was morally opposed to the encouragement of picking green tennis balls and then gas-ing them into faux ripeness, and that some foods are worth waiting many months for. He nodded and the next time he went to the store he bought tomatoes. In December.
After decades of marriage, I've given up. He buys tomatoes from November through May and I complain and he ignores my complaints. A truce sets in as the first local tomatoes arrive at the farmers' markets we frequent and sweet harmony reigns all summer as the dozens of tomato plants in our garden bear fruit.
Two weeks ago he brought home some sure-as-Hell-not-grown-within-a-hundred-miles tomatoes and instead of ignoring them I decided to try to make them meal-worthy. I had a round of Flo Braker's sour cream and cornmeal dough in the freezer so I planned dinner around her Cheese and Tomato Galette, which she demonstrated years ago on the Baking with Julia series on PBS.
This is not a good recipe; this is a marvelous, mood-enhancing, marriage-mending recipe. Even so-so tomatoes ascend several levels on the flavor scale within the folds of Flo's tender, buttery, lightly crunchy pastry.
You can find not only the recipe but also superb step-by-step photos for the dough here -- a new-to-me blog that I immediately added to my RSS feed.
Once you have the dough made, the galette goes together quickly.
Cheese and Tomato Galette
[adapted a bit from "Baking with Julia" by Dorie Greenspan]
1/2 recipe galette dough, chilled
2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 ounces mozzarella , shredded
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade or torn
2-3 firm but ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Fresh basil leaves for garnish
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400-degrees F.
Roll the dough directly onto a piece of parchment paper into an 11-inch circle. (This is a soft dough; sometimes I have to stop mid-rolling and put it into the fridge for a bit to firm up. )
Toss the cheeses and basil pieces together in a small bowl. Scatter the mixture over the dough, leaving a 2- to 3- inch border. Place the tomatoes in slightly overlapping concentric circles atop the cheese.
Fold the uncovered dough border up over the filling, allowing the dough to pleat as you lift it up and work your way around the galette. This happens naturally.
If you see a rerun of the PBS show you'll see that Flo's pastry pleats look like the hem of a Givenchy gown while mine, above, look like a sewing project from a junior high Home Ec class. If your tart look more like mine than Flo's, fear not. It still will taste sublime.
Bake the galette for 35-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp and the cheese is bubbly. Transfer the entire baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the galette rest on the sheet for 10 minutes. Slip a wide spatula or a small rimless baking sheet under the galette and slide it onto a second cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with fresh basil leaves. Better served the day it is made; best served within an hour or two of baking.
Because I was working with what I had on hand, I used feta cheese instead of the Monterey Jack and mozzarella. Different but still delicious.