Hey guys, this is a quick dispatch from Austin, Texas, where Tim and I are holed up for the week. We flew here on my birthday Monday and picked up groceries from one of the five Whole Foods Markets in town (we are in the WF motherland here) before checking into our rental.
These Early Girl tomatoes won me over from the first moment I spotted them in the produce section. Known for being some of the first to ripen each season (hence their name), Early Girls are also some of the last tomato plants to stop ripening at the end of summer.
Perfectly round, red and meaty inside, I felt like they were just begging to be placed in a rustic Early Girl tomato tart, so after we bought some spelt flour from the bulk bins, butter from the dairy case and small bags of mineral salt and thyme from the herb bulk bins, we were in business.
We made this tart for a vacation dinner last night, and it was too good to wait to share.
This trip to Austin is our first AirBNB experience, and last night’s dinner, cooked in our little apartment kitchen away from home, has convinced me this is a great way to travel.
Hunting around in a new cooking space for measuring cups and rolling pins (oh, there isn’t one? using my fingers!) or mixing bowls is kind of an adventure. And since we’re in Austin, it’s probably not surprising the kitchen came already stocked with coconut oil and organic popsicles.
It was also fun to remake a pastry dough we’ve been making for years, but in a totally different place and with different tools.
Note that our high-butter crust takes some getting used to in terms of preparation, but it rewards you with a totally flaky, delicious crust that is as good as the filling.Print
For the Crust:
- 1 cup white spelt flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted (although salted works in a pinch) butter, cold and cubed into half tablespoons
- 1/8 cup cold water
For the Filling:
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 cups sliced yellow onion (from about 1/2 to 3/4 a large onion)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for topping tart
- A small wedge (0.15 pound) of Robusto or similar cheese, sliced super thinly
- 6 fresh Early Girl tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Prepare the spelt crust: Combine spelt flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter quickly (using a pastry cutter or, when you’re working with limited resources, your fingers), which basically means breaking up the chunks until they are about a quarter of their original size throughout. The mixture will still be crumbly and there may be some slightly large chunks; don’t worry.
- Stir in the water. Now, using your clean hands, work the mixture into a ball of dough, pressing and smooshing it quickly with your hands. This will not take long and all you need to keep in mind is getting the dough into a ball as quickly as possible. What happens is your hands start melting more of the butter as you work the dough, which allows the mixture to soften a bit and come together, but you must do this quickly to avoid the dough becoming too soft. If, however, this does happen and the dough is sticking together, just add a little more flour. You control the dough.
- Once mixture is in a ball, wrap in plastic or set in a bowl and stick in the refrigerator.
- Next, in a large saucepan or pot, melt the coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir them together with the oil. Let this mixture cook for about 20 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent and just starting to turn golden around the edges, stirring it once or twice. Once onions are ready, remove from stove to a separate bowl or plate.
- Pull your ball of dough out of the oven and set on a floured surface. I placed mine right on the baking sheet after tossing flour on top; you could do this on parchment and then slide parchment onto your baking sheet if preferred. Press and flatten the dough into a rustic shape that’s about 9 or 10 inches wide.
- Top with Robusto cheese slices, then the prepared sauteed onion, then the whole Early Girl tomatoes, just plopping them right in the crust. Toss dried thyme all over the top and add a few shakes of salt (the tomatoes won’t absorb the salt now, so they will stay sort of unsalted as they bake; the tart will be a little extra salted to make up for this, in part thanks to the cheese; together, the blend will be perfect!). Fold up the edges of the tart around the sides so you have a tart that is roughly 8 or 9 inches in diameter.
- Place tart in oven and bake for about an hour, until crust is golden and tomatoes have wilted and burst. We ate ours in slices, alongside a giant salad.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.