You may think you’ve arrived at the wrong blog now. French? Tarts? I thought you made easy stuff, Lindsey. Allow me to share that these exquisite concoctions are very do-able. (And, that loving food the way I do, I do get fancy every once in a while…)
I named these little fellas balsamic tarts matin… “morning tarts”, because I finished them at 7am before a brunch. And adding balsamic vinegar adds a level of, Oh wow, you went to so much trouble! with such ease. I discovered in creating these that I’m in love with four-dimensional flavor. Like grab your blue and red glasses, hold onto your chair. Oh sure, you’ve got tomatoes with basil or kiwi with strawberries. But I’m discovering the joy of layering textures and flavors until the final depth has an unexpected volume that just knocks your socks off. For example, plain yogurt + lime zest + lime juice + chile + chopped mint poured over grilled pineapple. Yeah, like that.
Today I’m returning to my beloved slow-roasted tomatoes. I made two batches in the last week, and enjoyed them with all sorts of accompaniments. Amazingly simple, here goes.
The basics: start with some tomatoes. Medium, small, or teeny—it’s up to you. Simple enough. Now slice them in half through the top. Arrange them on a baking sheet, some parchment paper beneath for easy clean-up if you like. Note: if you have a toaster-oven, this might be preferable for your energy bill. I did mention slow-roasted tomatoes, didn’t I?
Drizzle your tomato halves with just enough olive oil to make them glisten. Just a drizzle over each. A teeny bit of salt and pepper—be sparing here, too, as the tomatoes themselves will be so rich. On batch No. 2, which I made with grape tomatoes, I added a little fresh rosemary on top. Unlike vegetables roasted on high heat, you don’t need to be so wary here about having space between the tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 225 F—just 200 for grape tomatoes, warns the cook who completely burned the batch pictured here. Grape tomatoes actually took only 40-50 minutes, as opposed to three hours for larger tomatoes. Believe me, don’t pass up as opportunity to roast big tomatoes!
Stick them in the oven and go about your business for a few hours. Just be sure to check on them if you’re using grape tomatoes, they roast much faster! What you’re looking for doneness is almost no juice and shriveling. Shrinkage, for my Seinfeld fans.
This is the batch I enjoyed with my homemade pasta. You see how they’re wrinkling around the edges, and have no more juice around the seeds. Might as well make a big batch, since these are so versatile. To store for about a week (though I promise you won’t leave them that long), cover in olive oil and seal well.
So, now that you’ve got these divine little creations, you can enjoy them with a number a dishes (making good use of that flavored oil!) … or you could make balsamic tarts matin. I am calling them morning tarts because it sounds adorable. Please don’t think their success relies on less sleep.
All you need to create balsamic tarts matin:
- mini muffin pan
- store-bought refrigerated rolled-up pie crust
- your slow-roasted tomatoes of pride and joy
- ricotta cheese (if you can find fresh like I did—farmer’s market, Whole Foods, etc.—indulge)
- parmesan-reggiano (or other hard, salty cheese)
- fresh rosemary
- balsamic vinegar
- salt & pepper
I haven’t included amounts because, as you’ll see below, most everything is to taste. The amounts are also completely dependant on how many tartlettes you’re assembling.
Ricotta cheese is fantastic on its own, and even better if you have some super-fresh ricotta. This is also not the time for part-skim ricotta… everyone is only eating half a teaspoon in each serving. Go for whole 🙂 Since my fresh ricotta was creamy and rich, it just needed a little saltiness and oomph to complement these verrrrrrrry rich, intense tomatoes. For my ricotta mixture, I grated (with my microplane for fine pieces) a bunch of parmesan into my ricotta. Some small, clean spoons on hand to taste. A few sprinkles of pepper, and some finely chopped rosemary. Taste and add what you need for a little kick. I meant to add lemon zest, (but forgot) and I have no doubt a little lemon would be so bright with the tomatoes.
THE TARTLETTE SHELLS
Let’s be technical: these are tartlettes because they’re so tiny. I rolled out my very cold pie crust (one or two, depending how many tartlettes you need) into a very, very, very thin sheet. I don’t have a circle cutter (i.e. a biscuit cutter), so I played around with wine glasses and drinking cups until I found a size appropriate for my mini muffin pan. I believe the vintage Burger King glass I used was about 2.5 in. in diameter.
Once pressed firmly into the pan (no butter/spray needed, they really pop out so easily), poke a lot of holes with a toothpick or skewer. They will puff up so much with no room for filling, keep poking more holes. Bake according to the recommended temperature and keep an eye on ’em. Just golden, but not too dark!
Your little tartlettes store well at room temperature in a sealed container, or in the freezer for about three months—but for goodness’ sake, enjoy them before then! Hold off on filling them until less than an hour before serving. Do trust me on this one. Soggy tarts? Je crois que non.
Ready to eat! I told you this was easy. To prevent the tarts from getting too soggy for serving, I put a teeny bit of ricotta in each shell before adding balsamic vinegar. Now your little ricotta-tomato combo is delightful on its own, but the balsamic just adds exciting depth to such a small bite of cuisine! I spooned my ricotta mixture into a plastic baggie (a pastry bag would have been helpful) and cut off the tip so I could be more precise, and less messy than I’m known to be.
Since these little fellows were traveling to my Sunday brunch, I put them right into a travel container—to decrease damage risk to my little beauties. Balsamic vinegar—just a drop, mind you—is crucial to these tartlettes, but would look messy on top. A little ricotta, a drop of balsamic, and then another layer of ricotta is just perfect. Plop your darling tomato atop, and christen with a fragrant rosemary leaf.
Serve! Enjoy! Celebrate your triumphant flavor!
…and don’t forget to tell me all about it. This small bite has endless variations. Once you start making tarts, you’ll never stop impressing your friends with them. So easy, so teeny, so yummy. Coming from a petite chef who must cook atop a stool, I dare say the most surprising things are often found in the smallest package.