I find myself in the same situation every year. While everyone else seems to be looking forward to crisp fall air, wearing sweaters, and making big pots of soup, I'm trying to delay the passing of summer any way I can.
It's October and I've yet to buy a single winter squash, apple, or pear. The farmers' market has been full of fall fruits and vegetables for weeks now but as long as there are still tomatoes, or peaches, or raspberries in the market, I can't bring myself to buy anything like winter squash. Winter is long and we'll be eating stuff like that for months.
Where I live the first frost doesn't usually occur until mid-November and the leaves don't begin to color until mid-October or later. It's an area of long, lingering summers. Tomatoes, peaches, raspberries, and other summer produce are abundant in September and the quality is still good; eggplants and peppers are at peak. I never buy chrysanthemums in the fall because September is when my impatiens plants finally begin to look luxuriant.
But by the beginning of October even I have to admit that summer is really over and fall is here. The evenings have a noticeable chill, the days are noticeably shorter, and signs saying things like "last week for peaches" have begun to appear in the market. My tomatoes have stopped producing and this past weekend my sister-in-law dropped off a bag of beautiful tomatoes grown in her Eastern Shore garden and told me that it was her last batch.
So this is a good-bye to summer tomatoes. It's the sort of thing I would never do with tomatoes in July or August -- it feels too heavy and besides at that time of year I'm always trying to keep from turning the stove on. But in early October, it fits.
The tart is adapted from a recipe I found in the Hors D'oeuvres volume of the Time-Life The Good Cook series which was edited by Richard Olney and published in the late 70s and early 80s. The tart dough is from a Martha Stewart recipe.
I've mentioned before that I'm pastry-challenged, and I continue to speculate that there's a pastry gene which I was born without, however this was one of my most successful pastry forays to date. The tart shell was actually flaky and crisp, and the combination of the tomatoes and Gruyere cheese was delicious. Maybe I'm overcoming my pastry disability?
For the tart shell:
1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons butter, in 1/2 inch pieces
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons ice water
1. Combine flour and salt in food processor. Process for a few seconds to combine and distribute.
2. Add butter to food processor and pulse until butter is combined with flour -- about 20 pulses
3. Whisk egg, and then whisk in ice water. With the food processor running, add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and process only until it comes together. Gather into a disk, wrap with plastic, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out the dough, and fit it into an 11" tart pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork, wrap with plastic wrap, place the tart pan on a baking sheet or a plastic cutting board and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Turn the oven to 400 degrees to preheat.
5. Cover the tart with parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dried beans, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes. Cool on a rack. Leave the oven on.
For the filling:
3 to 4 tomatoes, preferably in a range of colors
3/4 cup of grated Gruyere cheese, divided
1/3 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of a combination of chopped fresh parsley, chives, thyme, rosemary
1. Slice the tomatoes about 1/4" thick. Salt them and set them aside to drain.
2. Mix 1/2 cup of grated cheese with 1/3 cup of cream and a dusting of nutmeg. Spread on the bottom of the tart shell. Layer the tomatoes, sprinkling herbs over each layer and salting each layer of tomato lightly. Sprinkle the last layer with cheese.
3. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes until the top is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown. Let the tart sit at least 15 minutes after coming out of the oven to firm up.