Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tomato Wars

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.


Anonymous said...

You are a saint. Just please tell me he doesn't put them in the refrigerator.

That looks like the perfect thing for sad tomatoes. I have a bad habit of buying not-bad organic heirloom tomatoes flown to Denver first class from Chile (they love the free booze).

Very annoyingly, while they are shockingly expensive, they're still sort of 'eh.' But after a long winter, a woman's thoughts turn to thoughts of tomatoes.

Casey said...

Put them in the refrigerator? I'd have to divorce him.

burekaboy — said...

looks perfect :) thanks for the mention and link. i hadn't thought to use tomatoes. will definitely try that as summer is soon upon us with an abundance of all kinds (of tomatoes).

Casey said...

Thanks to *you* for posting those terrific step-by-step photos--as good as a private cooking class. I'd made a 3-berries galette with the first half of the dough--also wonderful. Thinking now about doing something with sauteed onions, black olives and anchovies.

Sam said...

Hi Casey
I wanted to thank you for that donation you made. I am certain it was you. You are so kind.
Thank you


Casey said...

my pleasure; effin cancer.

Anonymous said...

I, too, grew up with Jersey tomatoes -- and corn -- but that didn't stop my mom (wonderful as she is) from buying those plastic tomatoes in the cellophane boxes or frozen corn on the cob (better than the bad tomatoes) out of season. Now if my husband did that ...

I was delighted to see Flo's recipe for her tomato galette. I love, love, love the dough -- of course, I love, love, love Flo, too. She is SUCH a talented baker and I adored the way Julia would always give her full title. There was never a time when Julia referred to Flo that she didn't say, "Flo Braker, the Baker".

Katie Zeller said...

Even awful, faux tomatoes can be rescued by that! How pretty!
I am totally with you and never buy supermarket tomatoes... Until early spring, then I will buy the little cherry and grape that start to show up... They are actually quite good (I think they're grown locally, hot-house, but local)
Somethings are just meant to be eaten off the vine...ripened first!

Anonymous said...

Ooooo.... Love the idea of a savory galette. I may have to give this one a try when tomatoes come into season here.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this would be nice with some of those really good little Sungold tomatoes. I bet it would be fabulous.

I have a Sungold plant and two backup seedlings, just waiting for the nights to warm up. And a Black Krim and a Brandywine and some other damned thing. "Too many tomatoes" is my plan.

Mari said...

Your post cracked me up! I'd say if you've got the marital basics covered , I guess you'll have to let him slide on tomatoes, eh? Whatever the case, your galette looks delicious!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comment on my blog. I'm glad to come upon yours as well. I enjoyed your post about tomatoes and marital relations -- they are tricky things :)

I've never made this type of crust but I'm looking forward to the real tomato season here in the Midwest to make this tart. Great looking recipe.

Anonymous said...

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