It’s a cool, rainy day here on the East End and to me there’s nothing cozier than sitting down at our long farmhouse dining table and enjoying a splendid mid-afternoon family lunch. Inspired by the French influence of the tarts, I picked up some of those glamorous glass bottles of sparkling French lemonade and even made a special Hotel Costes playlist to add to the ambience. I don’t want to make you jealous or anything, but this was, quite simply, the finest lunch of the summer!
It was also the most time-consuming Barefoot recipe I’ve made all summer. Nothing remotely complicated, but a bunch of steps. But let me be quick to add: it was more than worth it.
You start with defrosted puff pastry, which gave me pause to fondly remember the first time I used the stuff, 20 years ago. I don’t recall exactly what I was making, but when I rolled out a sheet and cut it into the shape specified, I apparently wasn’t quite satisfied with the result. So like a puff pastry dunce, I wadded the dough up into a ball and attempted to roll it out again like pie dough. Except you can’t do that with puff pastry! You actually destroy the whole flaky, layered nature of it, and it bakes up into something tough and loathsome. Smiling as I remembered my early culinary disaster, I took the opportunity to give the boys a little lesson in puff pastry do’s and dont’s.
On the stove, you essentially make a caramelized onion jam with some slivered garlic, thyme, a bit of white wine, salt and pepper, and that’s the base of the tarts. Top with some goat cheese, gorgeous tomato slices, shaved parm, basil and they’re ready for the oven. I can’t imagine anything prettier or more rustic than when I opened the oven door some 20-odd minutes later to find perfectly browned tarts with exquisite puffed edges. They tasted even better than they looked, and the deliciousness was only enhanced by a tiny glass of Chardonnay. Crispy, flaky crust. Luscious, savory onions. Sweet, soft tomato. Creamy, tangy goat cheese. What could be bad about that?
Absolutely nothing. It brightened up this gloomy afternoon. Plus I’m continuing to be tantalized by Stèphane Pompougnac’s hypnotic grooves coming from the stereo…what a treat to chill with such luxurious mood music after such a scrumptious lunch!
Barefoot Contessa Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts
Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics ©2008
- 1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
- Good olive oil
- 4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
- 3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
- 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
- 4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet)
- 1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
- 3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves
Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.
Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.
Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.