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Mini Heirloom Tomato Tartlets with a Parmesan Crust

Posted Jan 11 2013 8:22pm
Promise me, before you read any further, you are not going to be mad that I bought tiny heirloom tomatoes in the dead of winter, and I hope you're not sitting in front of the computer right now cursing me for putting up such a recipe. I need you to know that my intention for sharing this recipe is not to showcase these tomatoes and to convince you to go out and buy some bland winter ones that have been shipped a thousand miles to your home, and possibly grown by workers in unsavory conditions. No, I am merely here to share the story of how I fell in love with this tart crust, and the filling - you will see - comes second. You could even go ahead and sub out the tomatoes with mushrooms, olives, potatoes, apple, or tuna - options are always good, but I really encourage you to try this crust, because you might just fall in love like I did. 


Before we talk about this crust, I just need to say a few things about these tomatoes, and then I'll stop - promise. I bought them at Trader Joes on an impulse buy, which is often the case when I step foot in that store. Once I impulse-bought 2 jars of speculoos butter and a bag of chocolate covered cranberries. Not my finest moment.  Luckily, I've impulse-bought most items in that store, and am not to eager to try them again. So, I was walking down the aisle - not impulse shopping, but probably subconsciously following the smell to the sample bar where my free coffee was awaiting, when I saw the tomatoes towering high. I'm sure I let out a small but embarrassing *eep* when I finally figured out what they were. I rationalized my decision to buy them, by comparing the proximity of Mexico to California, and then comparing the proximately of California to Washington. People tell me that California is a long state, but in my mind it just feels so close. To my surprise these tomatoes were far from being bland. They were flavorful, tart, tangy, and sweet. Lately, I've been flipping through this book  and feeling inspired to make some cute French pastries, savory and sweet. I've realized through trial and error, that as long as you have a good crust recipe, you can fill them with almost anything and they will be delicious. But if they don't turn out tasting as anticipated, people love tiny food, and at least they've got that going for them.
I think I typed something random like 'tart recipes' into the google search engine and 'French tart dough recipe David Lebovitz' came up third, and surprise, surprise, allrecipes number one - how did that site take over the recipe section of the internet? Having the word recipe in their name doesn't hurt. Just out of spite, I clicked on the David Lebovitz link, and because he lives in Paris, wrote a book about it, has a witty personality, sarcastic sense of humor, and all in all, I like his style. 
After scrolling down to his recipe, I gasped. I couldn't believe that he, well him and Paule Caillat, wanted me to melt the butter before adding it to the four. But what about the chilling, and then cutting it in, and then freezing, and flaky crust, and ahhhh. This was way to much for me to take in that short period. I took a step back and thought about it for a while. After reading through the hundreds of delightful comments, I mustered up the courage to take a little risk, and I tried it. And lucky enough, I didn't burn my face off in the process (*please see instructions below on how not to burn your face off). I am so glad that I took a little risk in making this dough. This crust is light, crisp, buttery, savory, and just plain amazing. It is so delicious, I could eat it on its own dipped in a little speculoos butter - sorry, I had to go there. I don't even understand what is happening in this recipe, scientifically speaking, but it is a real show stopper - I swear. If your thinking about making a sweet tart, take out the Parmesan cheese and add some sugar, a tbsp or so. But, I really like the addition of the cheese, and I imagine it would also taste good with a sweet filling! 

MINI TOMATO CHEDDAR TARTLETS WITH A PARMESAN CRUST RECIPE (print) 
pastry recipe adapted slightly from Paule Caillat  via David Lebovitz  
makes 6 small tarts
notes: quiche and tart dishes can easily be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for a couple of days. When ready to eat, preheat the oven to 375ºF and warm them in the oven for 15 minutes. 

TART SHELL INGREDIENTS
6 tbsp butter, unsalted
1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
3 tbsp water
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat the oven to 410ºF.

In a medium size oven-proof bowl or dish, add the butter, oil, water, and salt.

Place the bowl into the oven for 15 minutes.

When you are ready to remove the dish from the oven, be very careful. The butter, oil, and water will sizzle and pop, especially when you first take it out of the oven.

*How to not burn your face off - where oven mitts, possibly a long sleeve shirt, and hold the bowl away from your face.

Place the bowl onto the counter, with a pot holder or towel underneath.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, shredded Parmesan cheese, and black pepper.

Slowly stir the flour mixture into the hot butter. It is important to still be cautious of the hot butter, it may still pop when you add the first bit of flour. Also, remember that the bowl is very hot, so wearing oven mitts while stirring is ideal. Stir the mixture until combined. Let it sit and cool for 5 minutes.

Once the dough is cool enough to handle, divide it evenly into 6 - 4 inch mini tart molds. With your fingers, press the dough flat and up the sides of the molds. Prick the shell with a fork 10 or so times. Once you have finished forming the first tart shell, place it into the freezer while you are making the next one, and then repeat. Place the last tart shell into the freezer and let cool for 5 minutes.

Place the tart shells onto a baking sheet and place in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and fill. Please see recipe below for filling.

FILLING INGREDIENTS
1 - 2 cups heirloom baby tomatoes, halved and salted - let sit for 20 minutes in the salt
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter, unsalted
1 leek, sliced
1 garlic, minced
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup cheddar, shredded + extra for sprinkling
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves. Place them onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with a tsp of salt. Let them sit for 20 minutes, so that some of the extra liquid can leak out.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Fry the sliced leek and minced garlic in butter until soft.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, and cream. Add the shredded cheddar, salt and pepper, and stir.

Fill each tart shell (recipe above) with a layer of the leeks and garlic. Place 5 or 6 tomato halves, cut side facing up, into the tart shells. Pour the egg mixture over top of the tomatoes - 3/4 inches full. Sprinkle a bit of shredded cheddar on top. Place the tarts onto a baking sheet, and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Remove the tarts from their molds and serve.

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