In honor of my friends J, who asked for the recipe, and R, who wondered about a “tarte,” I’m writing this one out in detail. It’s summer (i.e. Dirty Girl Produce has tomatoes, finally!) so the tomato recipes come out. This is a big favorite, a recipe by Paul Bertolli from the San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook. It consists of tomatoes, leeks, cheddar cheese, and basil, in a butter pastry.
This is my version – I don’t do everything according to the recipe; for example, I make the crust like a regular pastry, instead of putting in half the water with the butter, which I found not to work as well for me.
About 3 hours in advance, mix the crust:
Mix 1 cup flour and a pinch of salt. Cut 2 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter into a small dice and add to the flour; cut in till the butter is in fine pieces. Slowly, and one at a time, stir in 5 Tbsp ice water, till the dry floury bits are dampened and the dough can be made into a ball. Make it into a ball. Actually, I flatten mine a bit, getting it partway to its eventual shape. Wrap in waxed paper (plastic wrap should be avoided whenever possible, and waxed paper is terrific for this use) and chill in the fridge for at least 1 1/2 hours.
Thoroughly wash about 1/2 pound of leeks, white and pale green parts only (3 medium will do it). Cut into chunks about 1 cm in maximum size. I wash the white stalks after removing the ends, then check carefully for hiding dirt, chop, immerse in water, swish and smoosh around a lot, and drain in a colander as long as possible, so that the leeks are more or less dry before the next bit. Melt 1 Tbsp unsalted butter in a large fry pan, add 1/3 cup water and the leeks, bring to a boil, turn to simmer, cover, and cook till the leeks are soft. The recipe says 10 minutes, but it has never been this quick for me. Further, it seems important to get the leeks dried out so that they do not dampen the tart when added. When the leeks are done, stir in 1/2 tsp salt (I usually forget this. Don’t.) and let them cool.
Maybe 70 or 75 minutes before dinner, roll out the dough to desired size. If you are not ready to make the tarte, put it back in the fridge. The tarte shown is elongated so it will fit the pans for our small oven, so as to save gas while cooking. The bottom of the pan in the photos measures about 8 1/2″ by 12″.
Preheat the oven to 400 and prepare the rest of the ingredients. Slice 2 large or 4 small (photos: 4 small) tomatoes. Recipe says 1/8″ slices, but these are fatter. Tear basil; no amount specified. Grate 2 1/2 oz (1/2 cup) med-sharp cheddar. I used Sierra 8 year cheddar from The Cheese Board, which is an especially good cheese, though not necessarily optimal for this recipe.
Dust the crust with flour a bit and spread on the leeks. I used just a bit too much/many leeks on this, I think. Leave a border of crust for turning up – maybe 1 1/2 inches. Toss on some of the torn basil.
Sprinkle on the grated cheese (actually, I just grate the cheese directly onto the tarte at this point – this is a shade under 2 1/2 oz), sprinkle on the rest of the basil, and put the tomato slices on prettily. Salt and pepper to taste (I salt and pepper the tomatoes) and fold the crust over the edges of the tomatoes, pleating it nicely.
D chose an old favorite wine, Valreas, a Cotes du Rhone Villages that we get at Trader Joe’s for about $6, maybe $7. It’s delicious, and a great value. We enjoyed it with this dinner.