May 18, 2010

A Tale of Two Tarts

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
1 egg

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.

Fresh Tomato Tart on Foodista


  1. I have the same worries about my daughter. She is a little older than yours and the outside world is already showing its influence.
    Thanks for sharing the tart recipe. The pictures look amazing.

  2. You're nuts... both tarts are gorgeous! I personally love the second one. The uniform red is so vibrant.

  3. I've never had a tomato pie or tart before. Both the tarts look amazing! I would love to try this.

  4. Beautiful tarts. Nothing beats in season tomaotes. Fantastic job!


  5. Gorgeous tarts. They both look wonderful!

  6. Ah...beautiful! I love the looks of them both - but definitely vote for the tastiest. I do think people who are not drop dead gorgeous learn to develop other qualities and are generally more truly confident and diverse in their personal qualities - but feeling beautiful is also nice and i believe can come regardless of physical characteristics. If we know we are valuable and try to focus on our positive qualities, we can exude beauty and feel beautiful as well! Your daughter is lovely, regardless, so she should have the best of both sides - especially with your influence!

    Anyhow, the tart sounds gorgeous and i actually like the sound of "tomato pie." You, know, I've played with this SK tart crust recipe and had a hard time bringing it together and it ended up a bit shellac like (I am assuming because of the egg white) and tough (could've over handled it). I've been playing with it and my latest version uses two egg yolks, a bit of buttermilk to relax the gluten, and less cornstarch - not as crisp, but much more tender - does require parbaking. (I keep changing the recipe on my blog for the tart crust - hopefully people aren't logging all the changes!)

  7. Thanks Laura! It's any parent's greatest challenge to develop children who grow up to be confident, well-rounded, and true to themselves! I think my parents accomplished this. I'm just taking it day by day!

    I didn't have trouble with the dough, but I pulsed it in the food processor, instead of working it by hand as SK suggests. I wonder if that is the difference.

  8. Just stunning - I'd love both of them - adore a savory tart and this would be grand when the tomatoes come in.

  9. What a beautiful post and a beautiful tomato tart. Looks wondeful!

  10. I think both of your tarts look beautiful! And you know what? There ARE women out there who have never, ever worried about how they look. I'm not one of them... but my best friend is. She is inspiration for us all - even your daughter.

  11. I think those tarts are gorgeous, I just love the reds and the greens. If I had to pick, I think I would pick the same as your husband, the second one (only if I had to). I think the media and Hollywood are not helping women and their self-esteem. I am lucky enough that I grew up far away from that environment and know that life is not a fairy tale where everyone is perfect, rich and beautiful. I love imperfection in people :o)

  12. How can you go wrong with fresh tomatoes! What a delicious dish!

  13. first congrats on the top 9, I think both tarts looks amazing, such a nice recipe. Will definitely try that.

  14. Wow I am surprised about F&W just like you. I am glad you caught it though and worked out the fixes because this was on my list for NH tomato season coming up in a few months. Looks tasty!

    Thank You!


  15. Hello! Your tart looks absolutely great, but I have one question - you put raw tomatoes on your tart - is the bottom of the tart after baking still ok (meaning, not too watery)? thanks for answering me and have a good day!

  16. Tomato Tarts are one our fav dishes here and your's looks delicious
    Congrats on the Top 9 today

  17. They both look beautiful, great job!

  18. It's heartening to hear the voice of a mum who has her heart and philosophy in the right place, in my opinion! You'd be surprised how many mums get swept up by the tide and start moulding their daughters from early on to conform to society's expectations. I suppose part of it arises out of the fear that their daughters will lose out if they don't keep up *sigh* Kudos to you Sommer, for bucking the trend! Looks like your daughter is already on the right path, whether or not she knows it :)

    The tomato tart sounds and looks lovely and I would go for taste over looks any day! I think it's Lazaro (yup, that guy up there LOL) who said something like "Looks impress for 15 seconds but taste grabs the memory"..... but don't quote me on that cos my memory sucks ;)

  19. Magdalena~

    Yes, I added RAW grape tomatoes. They retain all juices inside the skin and it only comes out when you bite it! With my old tomato pie recipe, I used to chop, salt and strain the tomatoes for 20-30 minutes to remove a lot of the juices. Using grape tomatoes makes that step unnecessary!

  20. Beautiful photographs! And, you know, in a way, I'm glad the little tomatoes (we call them cherry tomatoes here) taste better than the heirloom ones because I haven't seen any heirloom tomatoes on sale!

  21. Friends~

    Thanks for all the encouragement. Parenting is HARD, but I say a prayer and do the best I can!

  22. thanks a lot for you answer; i was just wondering :)) have a good day!

  23. Both of the tarts look beautiful. I've never had a tomato tart, so I'm putting this on my to make list.

  24. Wow, this tart looks unbelievable! I can definitely see the difference between the two crusts. Pie/tart crusts are tricky to perfect but almost all the time, they wind up tasting great no matter what!

  25. I haven't tried any F&W recipes, but I can imagine that it's disappointing when their recipe doesn't turn out well. I absolutely love tarts and this one looks amazing. I like that the tomatoes are kept whole for this recipe. Also, you photos are wonderful.

  26. I love to cook, but the aesthetics of food are not my strongest suit. I often find myself with finished products that taste good but just don't quite look the way I envisioned them in the glossy magazine page of my brain. It is times like those that I fall back on some choice words of wisdom from my father which have proved invaluable over the years: "oh well, it will look a lot worse when it gets where it's going."
    Both of those tomato tarts look wonderful, and your daughter is lucky to have a mother like you.

  27. 'only as pretty as you taste' - clever, so maybe that explains why a few of my very ugly things taste so good....have never made a pie using cherry tomatoes, always sliced, will certainly try, like your crust too

  28. Dear Sommer - I really needed to see this today.

    I know exactly what you mean about the book being prettier on the cover than in reality but PLEASE take heart in the fact that the colors are...oh! don't get me started about the colors - the chocolate tomatoes, the yellow tomatoes...WOW!

    Sometimes as recipes go, if it is good enough for grandma it is good enough for me :)

    I really enjoyed this post Sommer but I KNOW how heartbreaking it is when after all the effort it turns out mediocre.

    Big hugs coming your way :)

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  29. Gorgeous tarts!! Oooh I can taste the sweet little tomatoes right now.

  30. I enjoyed reading this and yes, you are only as pretty as you taste. Love that. I intend to make this tomato pie very soon. My only question is if I should go with provolone or fontina cheese.

  31. Angela~

    SHARP Provolone is my first choice. It's not mild like regular provolone, but has an intense twang--somewhere between that of extra sharp cheddar and blue cheese. The fontina is another nice choice with it's salty nuttiness. Go with the fontina if you don't LOVE super sharp cheeses!

    I hope this helps!

  32. great post, I have two girls and I also worry that they will get sucked into this "beauty" world that we live in, raising kids is hard, I spend a lot of nights praying and worrying but they are a complete joy and I'm sure our daughters will turn out the tarts I love both pics, but I would go with your recommendation..taste before beauty!!

  33. Hey Sommer,

    For a deep thought about your future dreams for your daughter, the tomato tart certainly speaks out quite a lot about your feelings about it.

    I think we (esp. the wise ones) are hoping that people close to us would learn things with some hardships in order for those people to really... I mean "really" understand how we feel... Hmmm...
    But then you need that person to have the capacity to understand- some people just don't get it no matter how many times they fall.
    I guess all we could do is hope and pray for the best.

    Again, Summer beauties on the tart shells there. I love it!

  34. I also loved the picture in F&W, but will be making your tart when I get the chance! It looks fabulous!!!

  35. I vividly remember my adolescent years. Terrible acnee made me miserable but it also gave me the strength in character to get through it all. Mom stood my me the whole time.

    I've never had a tomato pie, only tomato tarts...
    I like the idea of using cherry tomatoes, they definetly make the whole look very fancy! And I also want to try the mixture you put on the bottom. I only sprend on some mustard, it's simple but very good.
    I just discovered your blog and I think I really going to enjoy reading you!
    Thanks for sharing

  36. I love your use of whole tomatoes in this recipe. Although heirloom tomatoes are beautiful they are only tomatoes. They can be just as mealy, unripe or rotten inside as any other tomato.

    I know there are parents that worry that their children will too much emphasis on these things. I think that the only children that fall into this are the children whose parents turn a blind eye to it. Children may go through phases but ultimately come full circle and end up with the values that their parents instilled upon them.

    So I would say don't worry too much about it. Society's influence won't often go deeper than the influence of a parent that cares. If you are smart enough to teach your children then you should certainly have faith that your children are smart enough to learn.



I love to hear your thoughts! Thanks for taking the time. If you have a question, I'll get back to you ASAP!