Those of you chefs who cater, especially for vegetarian clients, are probably thrilled that summer produce is finally here and simply begging us to turn it into irresistible meals.

That’s especially true of tomatoes. I plant several varieties of cherry tomatoes in my garden and already am harvesting them, little by little. Most of the time I can’t even wait to take them back into my kitchen. Instead I tend to munch on them  them while watering my garden. There’s really nothing like eating a sweet, sun-warmed, perfectly ripe tomato with one hand while holding a hose in the other.

There’s no point in even mentioning the many ways to enjoy tomatoes. I assume you and your clients have your favorites. But if you’ve never tried making a tomato tarte tatin, you both are missing out, especially if you’re catering a dinner party or brunch. It has a lot going for it–it’s pretty easy to make, requires few ingredients (some of which can be prepped in advance), it’s stunningly gorgeous to present to the table, and it has a sweet savory flavor that you can elevate even more depending on your ingredient choices. Me? I add kalamata olives to insert a little saltiness. I’ve also been known to top it off at the end with shredded burrata.

I made my first one years ago at the home of a friend. She has an abundance of tomatoes on her home’s grounds (yes, it’s that kind of home; it has “grounds.”). One year when she had a bumper crop, she invited a bunch of friends over to make sauce. And I made a tarte tatin. It all went well until I took the masterpiece out of the oven and placed it on the stove to cool. I got involved in something else–I can’t remember what exactly–but I needed to move the tart out of the way and unthinking just wrapped my hand around the skillet’s handle. And screamed.

It was a stainless steel pan that had just come out of a 425-degree oven. And so I ended up with a painful second-degree burn. Yikes.

I learned after that to pay special attention to the pan since then.

Recently when I made the tart I pulled out the only 9-inch skillet I had, a flameware skillet. If you haven’t heard of or used flameware, you’re missing out on a great cooking experience. This is a clay cookware that is specially created to be totally heat resistant, that cooks evenly even at high temperatures, and doesn’t get killer hot the way metal does. I bought mine online at a Minnesota shop cookbook author Paula Wolfert introduced me to, Clay Coyote.

I hadn’t made a tomato tarte tatin in a flameware skillet before but it worked out perfectly. And, significantly, the pan is so light it makes flipping it over onto a plate a breeze, much easier than stainless steel or cast iron, and with almost no sticking–certainly no more than any other metal skillet I’ve used.

The tart itself is a marvel of sweet and savory. There are several ways to make it in terms of ingredients. Sugar instead of honey, sherry vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. Whole tomatoes, cherry tomatoes. Whole or sliced tomatoes. Onions. No onions. Whatever. The fundamentals are tomatoes, some kind of caramelizing ingredients, and puff pastry. For me, I enjoy a lot of red onions, cooked down and caramelized in butter and a large pinch of brown sugar. Honey and vinegar. The kalamata olives I mentioned above. And, the star of the dish, whole organic multi-colored cherry tomatoes.

You’ll start by cooking down and caramelizing the onions in a large skillet. Put them aside and in the oven-safe, 9-inch skillet you’re going to make the tart in cook up the honey and water to a point at which it thickens, then add vinegar and swirl to combine the two. Remove the pan from the heat.

You’ll sprinkle the olives over the honey vinegar mixture and start building the tart. The tomatoes go in–whole–over the olives, along with finely minced fresh thyme. (Want to use basil instead? Go for it.) They should cover the entire bottom of the skillet. Then you’ll spoon the onions over the tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper.

The last step is rolling out the puff pastry sheet and creating a 10-inch round. Place it over the onions and tuck the excess around the tomato onion mixture. Cut some long vents into the pastry.


Before you put the tart into the oven, be sure to place it on a baking sheet covered with foil to catch the tomato juices so they don’t hit the bottom of your oven. Bake for 30 minutes until the crust is nice and puffy and golden brown. Then remove it from the oven and let it cool briefly before running a knife around the edges.

Now comes the moment of truth: Select a plate/platter larger than 9 inches. Place it upside down over the pastry. Be sure to use oven mitts or a thick towel and carefully flip the skillet and plate over, place it on the counter and gently lift the skillet. If all goes well–and why wouldn’t it–you’ll have a beautiful, rainbow of glossy tomatoes staring back at you, encased in a crunchy crust. That’s perfectly good enough as it is, but you can also decorate it with a scattering of basil leaves.

 

Tomato Tarte Tatin
4 to 6 servings

Ingredients
1, 14-ounce package all-butter puff pastry
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
Pinch of brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of brown sugar and sauté until onions are caramelized. If you’re using a pan in which there’s some sticking, at the end of sautéing add a couple of tablespoons water and let it cook off, scraping brown bits from bottom of pan.

Transfer onions and brown bits to a bowl.

Combine honey and 3 tablespoons water in an ovenproof 9-inch skillet. Cook over medium heat, swirling pan gently until honey bubbles and thickens, 5 to 6 minutes. Add vinegar and swirl gently for another 2 to 3 minutes until combined. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle olives over honey mixture. Scatter tomatoes and thyme over olives, then spoon onions on top.  Season with salt and pepper.

Unfold puff pastry sheet and roll out into a 10-inch round. Place on top of onions  and tuck edges around the mixture. Cut several long vents on the pastry.

Place tart on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until crust is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around pastry to loosen it from pan, place a large plate upside down over the skillet, and, using oven mitts, flip the skillet upside down, place the plate on the counter, then carefully remove the skillet.

What is your favorite summer dish to prepare for yourself or clients? 

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Blintz Casserole to Break the Fast

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , October 10, 2016

Casserole

Tonight is Kol Nidre, the evening before the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur. Those of you with Jewish clients may know that the holiday requires fasting from sundown tonight to sundown tomorrow night. Traditionally it’s a way to concentrate the mind on praying for forgiveness for the sins committed the previous year and asking to be written in the Book of Life for the coming year.

At sundown, Jews then gather with family and friends to break the fast. The meal is usually a collection of fish and dairy dishes. In our family, lox and bagels intermixed with baked salmon, egg salad, chilled marinated vegetables, various dips served with raw veggies or bagel chips, noodle kugel, and blintzes.

My grandmother Tillie taught me how to make blintzes when I was a teenager and one of her specialties was this blintz casserole, which she would serve to break the fast. I’ve always loved this dish. It’s a little reminiscent of a soufflé. You make the blintzes–here with ricotta cheese–and then pack them into a single layer in a casserole dish. Over the blintzes you pour a rich sauce made with eggs, sour cream, a little sugar and vanilla, and orange juice. Thanks to the eggs, the sauce puffs up and browns around the blintzes, which have also cooked and form layers of crepe and cheese.

The creaminess and sweetness from the cheeses make for pure comfort food. You can make the blintzes and serve them on their own or as part of this casserole, both of which freeze beautifully. And while, yes, they’re the perfect break the fast food, they’re also just right for brunch–and you can also fill the blintzes with applesauce or berries or preserves (think blueberry or sour cherry, say) instead of cheese. Also, here I used ricotta because it’s easy to find. But hoop or farmer cheese are more traditional. Serve the casserole plain or with your favorite jams.

Tillie’s Blintz Casserole
Serves 12

Ingredients
Blintzes:
3 eggs, beaten slightly
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons canola oil

2 eggs
1 pound ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar or to taste

Casserole:
12 blintzes
6 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

To make the blintzes: Make the crepes by beating the 3 eggs slightly. Add the water and teaspoon of sugar and beat together. Slowly beat in the flour until smooth. A few lumps are okay.

Crepe batter

Set out a plate covered with wax paper. Heat a skillet and brush it lightly with canola oil. Using a 2-ounce ladle, scoop in some batter and drop it into the skillet. Tilt the pan all around so the batter forms a circle around 7 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about perfection. This is a homey dish.

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Return the skillet to the heat and let the crepe cook until the edges curl up slightly and the surface is cooked entirely–you won’t be flipping them to cook on the other side. Use a spatula to help you turn out the crepe onto the wax paper on the plate. Then brush the pan again and repeat until you use up all the batter. You should have a dozen crepes. You can make these a day ahead. Just cover the crepes and store in the refrigerator.

To make the filling, blend together the 2 eggs, ricotta, cinnamon, and sugar.

Forming blintz

Make the blintzes by placing 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of the crepe. Fold the bottom half over the filling. Then fold the sides in. Then fold the top down over the center.

At this point, you now have blintzes and could just fry them in butter and enjoy them with sour cream or jam or applesauce.

For the casserole, preheat the over to 350˚ F. Place each blintz seam side down in a buttered casserole dish.

Mix together the eggs, sour cream, orange juice, sugar, and vanilla.

ready for the oven

Pour the melted butter over the blintzes, then pour the filling over the blintzes to cover. Bake at 350˚ F for an hour.

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What are your clients’ favorite brunch dishes?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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