Every year for the last twenty my family and I have walked across the street to our neighbor’s house for their annual Easter party. As I, and all the once-kids, have grown, the atmosphere at the party has changed. The egg hunt used to be a colossal affair, puzzle pieces hidden inside each color-coded egg that had to be assembled by a team before you were rewarded with an Easter prize. As fewer party-goers attended for the pastel eggs and more came for the excuse to casually drink throughout a Sunday afternoon the food also changed. While at one time the dining room was stacked high with buffet platters of chicken skewers, pastas mountains of salads, fruit platters and giant slices of crusty bread, not to mention the pies, carrot cake, giant decorated sugar cookies and chocolate bunnies; recent years have brought a much more…we’ll say adult flavor to the meal. Chicken was replaced with lamb, pasta with a beautiful array of quiches and a few vegetable-rich salads provided the greenery. At one point an old family friend brought out an impressive selection of pate to spread over the crusty bread, and for a sophisticated yet happily springy appetizer my mother and I made two lovely roast tomato and ricotta tarts.
I love cooking for people who have known me since I was a child. They always seem so much more impressed by anything I bring to the table. Maybe they’re just impressed I learned how to spend time in the kitchen without flinging powdered sugar all over every surface and burning the toast. For whatever reason it may have been, these tarts were a great success. The ricotta adds just a bit of guilty richness at the bottom to offset the tart and salty roast tomatoes, and the whole thing is bold and colorful, a great dish to bring to any party.
For the Crust
1¼ C. all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) butter, very cold, cut into cubes
3-4 Tbsp ice water
For the Filling
About 2 cups assorted cherry tomatoes
About 200g ricotta
½ cup shredded basil leaves or arugula (optional)
plenty of salt and pepper for seasoning
This is a basic Pate Brisee recipe used for savory pies. This one is adapted from Simply Recipes but any preferred Pate Brisee will work here.
The most important thing with this type of crust is keeping all the ingredients as cold as possible. Start by cutting the chilled butter into cubes and placing in the freezer.
Measure the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor, sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and put the whole bowl in the freezer for a good 10 minutes. While the butter and flour are chilling you can prepare your ice water so it’s nearby when you need it.
When chilled, pulse the flour and butter several times in the food processor. The mixture will start to look like large crumbs. Add water very slowly, a tablespoon or so at a time, pulsing several times between each addition to make sure it’s fully incorporated and so you only add as much water as you absolutely need.
The dough is ready when it’s still in the crumb stage, but is just about to come together into one giant clump.
Turn out the dough, press it together with the heel of your hand, forming it into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375f and take the dough out to sit for 10 minutes or so before rolling it out on a floured surface. Roll out to about ¼“ thick and press into your pie tin.
Line the pastry dough with tin foil and fill with beans or pastry weights and pre-cook for 20 minutes. I then removed the foil and baked for another 5 minutes to make sure the bottom was cooked enough since I was about to fill it with creamy cheese spread. Watch the edges carefully if you do this, make sure they don’t get too brown later in the baking. Remove and let cool a minute
For the Filling:
Slice your tomatoes into thick slices (or if you’re using cherry tomatoes, quarter them). Sprinkle with salt and let them sit on a couple paper towels for several minutes to drain.
Whisk together the ricotta and egg and season liberally with plenty of salt and pepper. Spread the ricotta mixture into the pre-baked crust and top with a couple levels of tomatoes. (I tried to make sure as little of the ricotta was visible as possible). And Bake for another 40-45 minutes or until the edges of the tomatoes start to brown.
Remove from the oven, drizzle with a little olive oil, flake salt and, if you’d like, a few sliced basil leaves or arugula leaves lightly tossed in olive oil (NB: the photos were taken with arugula but the basil tastes better). Let cool at least 20 minutes before eating to let the ricotta set.