Or better titled...Beauty Isn't Everything!
As a mom, it's a little scary to raise a daughter in a culture that puts such a huge emphasis on looks. It makes my stomach turn to think of her bright-eyed, seven-year-old confidence being stripped away, at some point, by our society's ridiculous vain addiction. I don't know ONE single woman who doesn't occasionally struggle with insecurities about her appearance. Some are so burdened by insecurity, you can physically see it! It's in how they dress, or carry themselves. It's in the kind of relationships they choose, or how they speak about themselves and others! If you can't tell, this really get me RILED UP! A small, fearful part of me hopes my daughter turns out fabulously gorgeous, dreaming her adolescent years would be easier. But the more prominent, wiser side of me desires her to be a late bloomer, or even just slightly above average in appearance. To me, this assures she will likely develop depth and character earlier in life. Is that terrible for a mother to say?
Most of us have had an experience with a friend (or maybe someone we were once attracted to), who was the epitome of beauty, but had obviously gotten by on appearance their whole life. They never HAD TO take the time to become more. The result: an empty, shallow person in a pretty package. It's a true pity--think of who those people could have been if they hadn't been so highly praised for their external beauty all their lives. I don't want that for my daughter. I want her to discover who she really is, and the sooner the better! I want her to develop her gifts, and characteristics of sincerity, self-discipline, perseverance and humility. I even want her to go through some hard times, so she'll learn to rise above them! I'm getting teary writing this.
Believe it or not, all this comes from pondering over a tomato tart. I learned to make traditional tomato pies shortly after moving to the South. Fresh tomato pies are delicious and comforting, but not that pretty. Last month in Food and Wine magazine I found an alluring photo of a tomato tart and had to see how it compared. The picture, as I said, was wonderfully impressive. Yet upon tasting it, we discovered the flavor was quite disappointing. Mediocre at best--what a shame! I was a little surprised because I am usually pleased with recipes I find in F&W. Oh well, they can't win them all! The crust was a disaster and the filling low on the flavor scale. I was suddenly struck by the fact that I had been so eager to discard my old reliable tomato pie for this prettied-up version.
Things I've taken away from the "tomato pie incident": Clearly, never judge a book by it's cover. Beauty is often deceiving. Also, a personal quote...You are only as pretty as you taste. I'm going to teach THAT to my daughter some day. What do you think, instant classic??? After this experience, I took a few ideas from the pretty tart and used them to revamp my original pie. I loved the idea of using grape or cherry tomatoes instead of the chopped and drained Romas. I also liked the idea of using a tart pan instead of a pie pan. I don't know why, but tarts just seem classier. Let's not get confused here, the old-fashion tomato pie was far superior to the magazine tart and really needed no revision. I just like to change things up!
There are two sets of photos incorporated into this post. The photos from my original trial with the F&W recipe were so gorgeous, because I found heirloom grape tomatoes in variegated colors--but this was the tart that was not so great. The second round of photos came from incorporating the grape tomatoes into my traditional pie. I didn't find the heirlooms again and used regular grape tomatoes. The flavor was IN-CRED-I-BLE, but I still wanted to use the first set of photos. That might make me a hypocrite...hmmm. My husband says he liked the looks of the second tart better anyway!
If you look closely at the two tarts you can see a difference between the crusts. The crust recipe in the second round, the recipe I'm giving you, is specifically a tart crust. It's meant to hold it's shape and hold up to moisture without being prebaked. I found the crust recipe on Smitten Kitchen. I've altered the preparation a little, but not the ingredients.
Fresh Tomato Tart
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, diced
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes, rinsed and dried
½ cup basil leaves, divided
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1½ cups sharp provolone, grated (or fontina)
½ cup mayonnaise
½ tsp. pepper
Preheat oven to 375*.
In a food processor, combine the flour, cornstarch , one-fourth teaspoon salt and butter. Pulse the mixture until it is in very tiny bits.
Add one egg and pulse until a dough forms. This dough is rather tough but, it does come together nicely.
Gather the dough into a ball. Then press the dough in to the tart pan, covering every bit. (You could, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle, if you want.) Crimp the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roughly chop 1/4 cup of the basil leaves. Stack and roll the other basil leaves and cut them into thin ribbons.
Mix the cheese, mayo, chopped basil, green onions and pepper in a bowl. Spread the mixture over the bottom of the tart shell.
Top with grape tomatoes and press them down. Bake for 35 minutes—until the crust edges are golden-brown and the cheese is bubbling up.
Cool for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with 1/4 cup sliced basil ribbons. Serve warm. Serves 6-8.