A trip to the market & heirloom tomatoes

‘Wow, look at those beautiful heirloom tomatoes’ I pointed out to R. as we strolled through the sun drenched food market one lazy yet beautiful weekday afternoon.  I immediately plucked the punnet filled with orange, red cherry and purple grape coloured heirloom tomatoes and placed into my almost full basket along with baby zucchini, bunches of asparagus, a beautifully exquisite tin of chestnut puree, a bunch of gorgeously fragrant thyme and a wonderful pale wodge of creamy feta cheese.

Before we’d even had the chance to pay for our gourmet goodies my mind was already at home, pacing through my kitchen plotting various ways to celebrate these wonderful tomatoes.  However my attention quickly returned to the market the moment I spotted a delicious packet of dried figs, yes I’ll have those to I thought.  Thrilled with my purchases I remembered exactly why I adore shopping for food so much, I just love the excitement of planning what to eat once I’ve been newly inspired by what’s on offer at the market.  I find that each and every visit brings with it the discovery of new and wonderful delights to try, an exotic cheese, or a new import of some kind or I have the pleasure of reacquainting myself with old favourites which inspire me more than you could ever know.

On our way home and with lunch time looming I knew I had to whip up something quick yet wonderful to celebrate the deliciously ripe heirloom tomatoes in all of their glory.   It was my intention to ensure the tomatoes were the star of the show so I needed a dish that kept all of the wonderful tomato integrity.  A tart!

Once home, I headed directly for the kitchen to once again take another look at my glorious gourmet purchases.  Looking at the tomatoes nestled on the counter I wondered for the briefest of moments whether they were too beautiful to eat!  Luckily these deranged thoughts were quickly kicked out of consciousness thanks to hunger pangs and I immediately set about rolling out my herb pastry.  Having homemade pastry on hand is all thanks to my squirrel like qualities.  And by that I mean I have ‘stock piling’ like traits.  You see if I go to the effort of making pastry/lemon curd/bolognese/ bourguignon /etc I make double quantities and freeze the leftovers which on days like today are a complete and utter life saver.  Having homemade herb pastry snuggled serenely in the deep freeze is a wonderful occurrence.  So thanks to effort paid in days long gone I reap the rewards of delicious homemade pastry with very little hassle.

With the pastry rolled out, I whipped up a delightfully creamy cheesy concoction to cover the pastry and to which the halved tomatoes would nestle in.  My creation was a simple mix of ricotta, sour cream, parmesan, lemon zest, a little of my newly purchased creamy feta and a good grinding of sea salt and black pepper.  I lathered this over a circle like area of my lovely thyme studded pastry and immediately darted the mixture with my halved heirloom tomatoes.  The colours looked so beautiful, wonderful reds, orange and purple all huddled closely together awaiting a hot oven.

Once in the oven R. and I knew the tart would take thirty minutes or so, just enough time for me to whip up a batch of simple, yet delicious raspberry friands.  I love friands, to me they are the posh French cousin to the humble but wonderful muffin.  Just like muffins, they are a breeze to make.  It really is as simple as adding wet ingredients to dry, stirring for mere moments and placing the mixture into muffin/cupcake/friand moulds.

And after ten to fifteen minutes in the oven you are left with the most wonderfully fragrant vanilla spiked treat.  I use vanilla bean paste in my friands, seeing the tiny black vanilla seeds dotted through out the mixture are a superb sight, not to mention the wonderful fragrance they impart.  There is something so reassuring and comforting about the aroma of baked vanilla, I like to think of it as the cooking equivalent of a hug from mum.

R. and I spent the rest of the afternoon on the balcony, sipping wine, reading the papers and nibbling on the wonderful tomato tart debating whether the oven roasted sweet heirloom tomatoes or the flaky herb spiked buttery pastry was our favourite.  I love days like this I thought.

Heirloom Tomato Tart
Adapted from Cannelle et Vanille Herb Pastry recipe
Herb Pastry:
2 ½ cups plain flour
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp fresh thyme
½ tsp black pepper
225 grams butter, cut into cubes and chilled
½ cup ice water
Cheese topping:
1 heaped tablespoon sour cream
2 heaped tablespoons ricotta
2 heaped tablespoons crumbled feta
2 heaped tablespoons parmesan, grated
1 lemon, zested
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 punnet of heirloom tomatoes, halved
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 egg, beaten
Rocket dressed in lemon vinaigrette, to serve

For the herb pastry:
Place the flour, salt, black pepper, thyme and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse it three times to incorporated and aerate all ingredients.  Add the cold butter into the food processor. Pulse it about 8-10 times until crumbly.  Add the ice water all at once while pulsing until dough starts to come together.  Place the dough onto a work surface and form it into a rough circle, cut the dough in half and wrap each circle in plastic wrap (place one half in the freezer for later use).  Chill the second half in the refrigerator for 2 hours. 
Roll the dough on a cold surface to about ½ centimetre thick. 
For the cheese topping:
Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine.
Preheat oven to 180°C.  Place rolled out pastry on an oven tray lined with baking paper.  Top the pastry with the cheese topping to create a circle, leaving a 2 centimetre border.  Place cherry tomatoes on top of cheese mixture and fold the pastry border up, pinching roughly to secure the edges.  Season the tomatoes with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Brush the pastry with the egg wash and bake in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden.  Serve with rocket salad.

Almond and Raspberry Friands
Adapted from Donna Hay
1 cup almond meal
1 2/3 cups icing sugar sifted
3/4 cup plain flour sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
5 egg whites
125g butter, melted
1/3 cup fresh or frozen raspberries 

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and flour a regular sized friand tin or a muffin tin or line a muffin tin with cupcake papers.   Mix almond meal, icing sugar, flour and baking powder in a bowl and stir to combine. Add the egg whites, and stir until just mixed in. Add the melted butter and stir again until just mixed in. Spoon teaspoons of the mixture into each muffin tin/friand tin/cupcake paper, then sprinkle berries on top.  Bake 10 to 15 minutes (depending on friand size) or until golden and springy on top.  Serve with crumbled pistachios.