For the past three years, Big Papa and I have found ourselves abroad in September. While I love to travel, the fact is September in Seattle is glorious. The days are warm and clear; the mountains are crisp and in view; and, there is an abundance of fresh local bounty—right in our very own backyard.
Our cool maritime climate inevitably delays many crops until the cusp of fall. So I’ve felt considerable angst as we’ve headed out of town just when everything is finally ripe…our tomatoes in particular.
This September we managed to stay put. Despite the sorry excuse for a summer we experienced in Seattle this year, the weather over the past few weeks has been spectacular. Our plants couldn’t be happier. To celebrate, I decided to pick some of the best of the bunch and feature them in a tart.
End-of-summer tart makes use of the same basic recipe that I wrote about a few weeks ago (Channeling my inner Martha: Zucchini Tart), but changes up the zucchini topping for colorful medley of halved cherry tomatoes, caramelized Walla Walla onions, and a sprinkling of fresh basil. Sungold tomatoes (always a winner in our garden) taste sugary sweet and play nicely with the caramelized onions. The bright notes from the fresh basil offer a bit of herbal balance.
Recipe makes one 10-by-15-inch tart. Use an inverted backing sheet in the oven helps give the tart an extra-crisp crust.
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 9 sheets frozen phyllo dough (12 by 17 inches) thawed (I think I ended up using more)
- 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1-1/2 ounces)
- 1/3 cup fresh basil, cut into strips
- 2 cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- Caramelized Onions (see recipe below)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 pounds Walla Walla onions (About 4 medium-sized onions), halved and sliced thin (I like to cut mine “round,” not sliver moon shaped)
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- Black Pepper
How to Caramelize Onions
1. Add butter and oil to a cold non-stick skillet; melt the butter over high heat.
2. Once the butter melts, stir in the onions, brown sugar, and ½ teaspoon of salt.
3. Let it cook, stir on occasion until the onion softens down and is slightly wilted. This should take about 5 to10 minutes.
4. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stir often until the onions turn to deep brown color. It usually takes me about 40 to 50 minutes to cook down and caramelize the onion. Patience is a virtue.
5. Once the onions are caramelized and you achieve the color you are looking for take it off the heat. I like mine mahogany colored. Add a dash of water and season it with salt and pepper.
Note: Don’t stare at the clock. Instead pay close attention to the pan. If you want caramelized onions, not burnt onions, keep stirring often and check to make sure it is that the onions are not getting burnt. I can’t stress this enough. Once the onions start to brown, they can burn quickly. You’ve been warned.
How to make the tart
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and place an inverted baking sheet on the middle rack. Brush a 10-by-15 inch rimmed baking sheet with butter.
2. Brush 1 phyllo sheet with butter, and overhand (keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap as you work). Top with a second phyllo sheet in a slightly different position and brush with butter. Repeat with remaining phyllo and butter, creating a crust with a 1-inch overhand on all sides. Fold edges under to double the thickness. (Don’t worry if some pieces crack along the edge.)
3. Whisk together eggs, cream, milk, Parmesan cheese, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
4. Crumple 6 layers of foil into a rectangle the size of the tart, and fit into crust. Bake crust, set on inverted sheet, until edges are golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Remove foil. Bake until surface is golden, 4 to 5 minutes.
5. Immediately pour custard carefully into crust (do not overfill). Slather caramelized onion evenly over the top and then distribute cherry tomato halves round side up all over the tart. Bake on inverted sheet until custard is set in center, 20 to 22 minutes. Immediately slide tart onto wire rack, lifting from one end using a large, wide spatula. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Want to celebrate more deliciousness? Check out Wanderfood Wednesday!