September 21, 2020

A Timeless Tomato Tart

This spring, as shoppers searched shelves for yeast and flour, heirloom tomatoes were just beginning their journey. Their seeds were buried and reliably took root. With water, sunlight and good soil, the plants bore fruit, offering a timely reminder to us all on the importance of nourishment and care.

Heirloom tomatoes illustrate a connection to the past, and there’s comfort in how they stand the test of time. The prized seeds are passed down from season to season, generation to generation. Farmers harvest them from the juiciest, sweetest and most vibrant tomatoes, then save and plant the seeds the next year once the weather is warm. Gardeners and shoppers who revere them know that their season is worth the wait. There are thousands of varieties, from the roundish and slightly peppery Brandywines to the stately, bi-colored Gold Medals — all unlike those cookie cutter-like hybrids that are bred to be “tough enough” for a long, bumpy journey.

The joy of this tomato pie is in how it leans on those misshapen heirloom varieties, which are — like many of us — fragile and prone to bruising. But don’t judge heirlooms on external characteristics. Inside, there’s robust flavor and sweetness to be savored.

Whether you’re a first-time baker or a serious hobbyist, this heirloom tomato tart is a delight to make, with some reliable shortcuts. Store-bought pesto and pie dough can make preparing this dish especially simple. The dough may need some rolling out to fit in the pan, but leaning your weight into a rolling pin to expand the dough can be a cathartic release at the end of a hectic day.

Tomato slices, sweet and juicy, abound throughout the tart, suspended in an airy egg custard that’s speckled with fragrant basil and fresh oregano. While in the oven, that custard — just eggs whisked with cream — bakes up, rising to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the tomatoes. (Use an assortment of heirloom styles to make this dish even more intriguing.) Melted mozzarella melds everything together, and those trusty tomatoes keep the filling bright and juicy.

Life is uncertain enough. Dinner doesn’t have to be.

Recipe: Heirloom Tomato Tart