A couple of weeks ago the Wednesday food section of The New York Times featured a photograph so big you’d have to be 20/500 not to have seen it. A tart, no a crostata with tomatoes and a shimmering honey-thyme glaze.
Who would conceive of such a thing? Why Melissa Clark, of course. Suzen and I look for articles and recipes by Melissa for multiple reasons. They read good. They taste good. They never fail. And they instantly become one of those recipes you tell yourself to make once a month upon pain of deprivation. A diet of only Melissa Clark recipes would be life sentence you’d relish for decades.
Melissa was writing about the waning weeks of summer and what to do with ingredients that might just not be in summer prime. Like tomatoes. She devised this wonderful treat which Suzen made at the first opportunity. Our only improvisation, and Melissa gave us permission, was to use sliced cherry tomatoes instead of full size ones.
The crostata is just heaven. The glaze over the tomatoes gives them added sweetness with definite herby overtones. The crust, made with cheese and cornmeal, is soft and satisfying. If, and I mean if, you should have leftovers, then the cornmeal flavor will be dominant that second day. But hot out of the oven the cornmeal notes are quietly buried away. You can taste something is there, but it is hard to identify with the barrage of all the flavors exploding in your mouth.
“I’m doing this again,” Suzen said after two forkfuls. “But next time …” And then she began to rattle off all the things you could play with: adding goat cheese, using some onions, making it all onion, filling it with mélange of already cooked veggies instead of tomatoes, … The possibilities are endless.
But no matter what form it takes, Suzen and I will always pause with that first bite and offer thanks to Melissa for adding to our short list of “must make” favorites.
Tomato Crostata with Honey-Lime Glaze by Melissa Clark
Yield: serves 6 to 8 as a side, 4 as a main course
For the crust:
- 125 grams all-purpose flour [about 1 cup], plus more for rolling out dough
- 75 grams fine cornmeal [about ½ cup]
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 24 grams grated extra sharp Cheddar [about ½ cup]
For the filling:
- 1 ½ pounds different-colored tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick or halved if cherry or grape tomatoes]
- 1 teaspoon kosher sea salt, plus a pinch
- 2 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ½ bunch fresh thyme sprigs, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed an peeled
- 65 grams extra-sharp Cheddar, grated [about 1 cup]
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 large egg
- Flaky sea salt, like Maldon
Begin by making the crust. In a food processor, briefly pulse together flour, cornmeal and slat. Add butter and cheese and pulse until mixture forms chickpea-size [3 to 4 one-second pulses]. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, up to 6 tablespoons, pulsing occasionally until mixture is just moist enough to hold together. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Spread out the tomato slices in a single layer. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and let sit for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.
In a skillet over medium heat, combine vinegar, honey and thyme sprigs and bring to a simmer; let simmer 2 minutes, then transfer a bowl. Wipe out skillet, then add olive oil and garlic. Cook garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it is golden and caramelized. Remove garlic and finely chop. Reserve garlic oil.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin. Gently roll out dough to ¼-inch thickness, dusting with flour if dough is sticking. Transfer dough to baking sheet and return to the fridge for another 20 minutes.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Pat tomatoes dry with paper towels. Brush tomatoes with honey mixture [reserve the thyme springs]. Leaving a 3-inch border, distribute cheese, garlic and half the chopped thyme leaves on center of crust. Add black pepper to taste, then layer tomatoes in an overlapping pattern, maintaining the border. Drizzle garlic oil over tomatoes, sprinkle with remaining thyme leaves and lay the reserved whole thyme sprigs on top. Gently fold crust up around tomatoes, make a 2-inch boarder.
In a small bowl, whisk egg and 1 teaspoon water. Using a pastry brush, brush egg wash over crust and sprinkle top of crostata with flaky salt. Bake for about 35 minutes, until pastry is deeply golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Source: Melissa Clark, The New York Times, August 7 2013
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55mm lens, F/4 and 1/50th second at 3200
[Why are my ISO values so high so often; the camera is so good I do not get any noticeable graininess and I can avoid the shadowing from the built in flash that I prefer not to have.]
This post will look a bit different than the typical one. And the format surely is. And some spellings. I’ll explain why later. What you do get here is a complete meal:
- Chicken Pudding
- Scallop Tomatas
- Peach Cream
[No, that spelling is correct. Just be patient, please.]
Here we go.
Beat ten eggs very light, add to them a quart of rich milk, with a quarter of a pound of butter melted and some pepper and salt, stir in as much flour, as will make a thin good batter; take four young chickens, and after cleaning them nicely, cut off the legs, wings, &c. put them all in a sauce pan, with some salt and water and a bundle of thyme and parsley, boil them ‘till nearly done, then take the chicken from the water and put it in a the batter, pour it in a deep dish and bake it; send nice white gravy in a boat
Peel off the skin from large full, rip tomatas — put a layer in the bottom of a deep dish, cover it well with bread grated fine; sprinkle on pepper and salt, and some bit of butter over them — put another layer of each, ‘tlll the dish is full — let the top be covered with crumbs and butter — bake it a nice brown.
Get fine soft peaches perfectly ripe, peel them, take out the stones, and put them in a China bowl; sprinkle some sugar on and chop them very small with a silver spoon; if the peaches be sufficiently ripe, they will become a smooth pulp; add as much cream or rich milk as you have peaches; put more sugar and freeze it.
These are real recipes. From Virginia. From 1828. Hence the spelling and the style. And, did you note this, the absence of quantities. A quart of milk, rich milk, yes. But otherwise, you are just adding salt, pepper, bread crumbs and butter. Oh, you need to use that silver spoon, too. You know, I had a grandmother who did exactly that, though I never knew why. Somewhere, there is a chemist who knows.
Andrews McMeel Publishing is collaborating with the American Antiquarian Society to preserve the foundations of American culinary history. The Antiquarian Society has 1,100 cookbooks in its preservation shelves. Andrews McMeel has a project to publish 100 of these books, some in paper and some as e-books. The recipes above do come from the 1828 edition of The Virginia Housewife by Mrs. Mary Randolph. The book portrays a culinary world that is very, very different from the one we have now. This is all way before Whole Foods.
No, Suzen and I have not prepared any of these recipes, but we are going to attempt them. And others. We won’t do the calf’s feet fricassee, but there are plenty of things to try.
If you are a foodie, if you think things haven’t changed all that much over time, well, you need to get this charming book. It was not just a different time in 1828. It was a different world. The Virginia Housewife is a time machine, showing you how much has changed and offering some gems that just still may please you, your family, and your friends.