Last Night’s Dinner: Creme Fraiche Galette with Heirloom Tomatoes

I’m shallow when it comes to food.  I go for the pretty-looking food.  Sometimes it’s the food itself- vividly colored fruits and vegetables.  Sometimes it’s how the food is dressed.  I still remember this amazing salad and goat-cheese tart that I had at a French restaurant when I was probably about 13 years old (yep, more than 15 years ago).  It had a couple nasturtiums scattered on the plate and the brilliant red and orange blooms just made the salad seem fresher.  And on our recent trip to Mexico, I had to take a picture of this tuna tartar, with all the accompaniments on a separate rectangular dish:

So, yes, I’ve been eying heirloom tomatoes for awhile.  All the different colors and patterns and curvy shapes remind me of blown glass ornaments.  I just wanted them in my possession- sitting in a bowl, looking pretty.  But eating them would be good, too.

One hesitation to buying them?  It’s only in the last few years that I have come to appreciate tomatoes on their own.  I’ve always liked  them in sauce form, but only recently have I started to enjoy them raw, in salads or on sandwiches.  What really sold me was a tomato given to me by a friend a couple years ago.  I was getting ready to make some pasta and figured, “Oh cool- I have this fresh tomato I can use.”  But when I cut into what was quite possibly the juiciest, reddest tomato I have ever seen, I knew I couldn’t cook it.  Nope, that little guy was enjoyed with nothing more than a little salt and pepper, and I finally understood why people get all excited about summer tomatoes.

Still, I’m picky about tomatoes, so I had this fear that heirloom tomatoes, being so pretty, couldn’t possibly taste good (kinda like when you assume an amazingly beautiful person could not possibly have any intelligence or substance).  But it was hard to resist the boxes of mixed heirloom tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market last weekend.  And it turns out they taste just as good as they look!  It was awesome having all the different kinds at once and being able to taste the subtle differences between them.

Having this bowl of beautiful tomatoes also provided the perfect opportunity to cook the cover recipe from Harvest to Heat by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer.  As much as I love the OCD precision of creating a lattice-top pie crust, there’s something so appealing about rustic tarts (well, in this case a “galette”), and the idea of a savory one with cheese and tomatoes was too good to pass up.

With butter, creme fraiche, and cheese, this isn’t exactly a light recipe, though I did try to compensate a bit by replacing half of the regular flour with whole wheat flour, which worked out fine- the crust was delicious!  We were not crazy, however, about the cheese I decided to use – a sheep’s milk ricotta salata – since it didn’t really melt, despite baking for 35 minutes.  (Based on what I just read on Wikipedia, ricotta isn’t a “proper” cheese because it “is not produced by coagulation of casein.”  Maybe that’s why it doesn’t melt like most cheese?)  I think in the future I’d try manchego, as the recipe suggests, or maybe a chevre.

This cookbook is definitely not for beginners- not only are the recipes pretty fancy, there are also a lot of things that are not spelled out specifically and are open for interpretation, such as not clarifying how thick to slice tomatoes, or if the cheese should be grated, crumbled, or sliced.  I don’t think any of these things will make or break the recipe, but good to know if you’re used to more explicit guidance.

The recipe in Harvest to Heat calls for an optional garnish of microradishes (didn’t even know these existed) and microgreens, dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar.  We just did baby spinach with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, served on the side, but having taken a couple bites of the galette and the salad together, I could see serving greens on top of the galette in the future.

Creme Fraiche Galette with Heirloom Tomatoes (adapted from Harvest to Heat by Estrine & Kochendorfer)

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface (for the dough, I used 1/2 cup white flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)

1/2 tsp coarse salt, plus more for the tomatoes

1 tsp baking powder

1 stick of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup creme fraiche, chilled

1 pint of tomatoes, a combination of heirloom cherry tomatoes and other tomatoes, cut in half or sliced if large (I used mostly regular-sized heirlooms, plus a few grape tomatoes to fill in some gaps)

1/3 pound of semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese, such as manchego (again, I used sheep’s milk ricotta salata, which I wouldn’t recommend; I think a soft goat cheese would work well)

To make the dough, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and butter in a food processor, or by hand in a medium bowl.  Blend just until the butter is mixed with the dry ingredients without overmixing; there should be some pea-sized clumps.  (This was my first time using our new food processor to make dough and it was awesome.  Took about 1/4 of the time it takes by hand!)  Mix in the creme fraiche, again not overmixing.  Gather mixture into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Chill for 2 hours.

Place the tomato slices in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt.  Let them drain on several paper towels.  This helps to absorb some of their moisture and keeps the tart from getting soggy.

While the tomatoes are draining, heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out to a 12-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick.  (Actually, I rolled the dough out on a sheet of floured parchment paper as it was easier to transfer to a baking sheet.  It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle, or anywhere close.  The free-form shape is part of the charm!)

Carefully slide a rimless baking sheet under the dough (or carefully slide the parchment paper, with the dough, onto the baking sheet).  Scatter the cheese on top of the dough, leaving a 3-inch border.  (This is kind of silly, but since the ingredients list just says “1/3 pound of cheese” I wasn’t sure if I should grate it or try to crumble it…. In the end, I was too lazy to pull of the grater and so I just thinly sliced the cheese and arranged it on the dough.)

Arrange the tomatoes on top of the cheese.  (I actually left off the last few slices because the whole tart was covered, but I should have just overlapped more, since the tomatoes shrink a bit when they cook.  So use lots of tomatoes!)  Fold the edges of the dough over the tomatoes, pleating the dough as you fold.

Bake the galette until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.  Let it cool while you make whatever salad or fancy microgreens you’re serving with the tart.

Just before serving, drizzle a little olive oil over the galette.  I also sprinkled a little ground pepper and fresh basil on top of the tart for some extra color.  (I told you I like pretty food.)

So pretty, and so good.

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Filed under Cooking, Food I Didn't Cook, Last Night's Dinner

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