A green tomato tart to fall in love with

Dear Lynne,
 
I am in love with a green tomato tart and it is driving me nuts. It is the season to try again.

Two years ago I ate this dessert tart of green tomatoes at a farm place in Italy. I cannot get it out of my head. Of course English wasn't spoken there, so no recipe exists. The tart was crunchy, with a soft filling of spicy green tomatoes and something creamy. 

Baking isn't my thing, but I tried baking green tomatoes like apple pie and serving them with a whipped topping. No luck. A sweet-pizza style wasn't a winner either. Have you seen this dessert in your Italian travels and do you have a recipe?

-Jon

Dear Jon,

There is a tart we can create that might be your answer. I haven't come across your tart in Italy, but I suspect the topping is much like a spicy-sweet green tomato jam I found in the Puglia region (the heel of the Italian boot).  

A stash of it in the freezer is like money in the bank. (Because it is low in sugar you can't can it, but you can keep it up to 2 weeks in the fridge or freeze the jam up to 6 months.)  

People in Puglia eat this as a fruit compote -- that is on its own, on toast, over yogurt and cheese, on grilled polenta, or with meats and poultry (think Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas ham). But for you, it could be close to what you fell in love with. This tart has crunch, creaminess and spiced green tomatoes.

-Lynne

Green Tomato Jam Tart

Makes a 9-inch tart for 6 to 8


Don't be daunted by the way this recipe goes on ... and on. Each of its three components -- Spiced Tomato Jam, Almond Pastry Tart Crust and Vanilla Ricotta/Cream Filling -- is easy, and each one could be done 1 to 3 days ahead. Assemble the tart about an hour before you want to serve it.  

A sweet Riesling or hard apple cider is a good pour here. 

Use organic ingredients if you can.

Spiced Green Tomato Jam 
Makes about 2-1/4 cups and doubles easily. 20 minutes prep time; 24 hours standing time; 40 minutes stove time

Two techniques take this jam beyond the ordinary green tomato spread. 

First, having the tomatoes and sugar stand for 24 hours before cooking allows the sugar to draw out the tomatoes' juices so they stay crisper in cooking and their syrup is more flavorful (a good trick for any fruit dessert). 

Second, you ensure bright flavors of tart-sweet fruit and spice by cooking the jam only long enough for it not to run when spooned onto a chilled plate (210 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer is what to look for; this is your insurance policy that the jam is done). Beyond this temperature, flavors flatten.

  • 3 pounds green tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (don't peel, seed or juice the tomatoes)
  • 2-2/3 cups sugar
  • 3 medium lemons 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 4 inches of cinnamon stick, broken
1. In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, toss together the tomatoes, their juices and seeds, and the sugar. Lightly cover with plastic wrap. Leave them at room temperature 24 hours. Then scrape everything into a 6-quart pot.  

2. With a zester shred the yellow skins of both lemons into the tomatoes. Cut away the white pith. Seed and cut up the lemons' flesh into small pieces. Stir that into the tomatoes with the salt, pepper and cinnamon stick pieces.  

3. Bring the tomatoes to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Reduce the heat so the jam cooks at a moderate simmer. Simmer, uncovered, 40 minutes, or until a candy thermometer set into the jam reads 210 degrees Fahrenheit. Test by spooning a little jam onto a chilled plate. It should not run. Do not overcook. Turn jam into a bowl to cool. Remove the pieces of cinnamon stick and refrigerate or freeze. 

4. For the tart you'll need 1-1/2 to 2 cups of jam close to room temperature. Save any extra for breakfast yogurt.

Almond Pastry Tart Crust
Makes a 9-inch tart. 15 minutes prep time; 30 minutes rest time; 25 minutes oven time

Cook to Cook: For this recipe measure the flour by dipping the measuring cup into the flour sack, pulling up a heaping amount and leveling it off with a straight knife blade. This yields about a 5-ounce cup.

  • 1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) blanched whole almonds, toasted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ice-cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 chunks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons ice water
1. Butter a 9-inch, fluted, false bottom tart pan that is about an inch deep. In a food processor combine the flour, almonds, sugar and salt. Process until the almonds are ground very fine. 

2. Add the butter and pulse until it's the size of large peas. In a cup, beat together the egg, extract and 1 tablespoon of ice water. Add to the dough and pulse only until it forms many clumps. If it is very dry, sprinkle it with another 1 to 2 tablespoons of ice water. Pulse until you get many clumps. Gather the dough into a ball. If it is very soft, wrap the pastry in plastic and chill.

3. Generously flour a countertop. Roll out the pastry to about 1/4 inch thick and 11 inches in diameter. Line the bottom and sides of the tart pan with the pastry and press it into the sides. If it breaks apart, cut it into 4 pieces, and pat each one into the bottom and sides of the tart pan to about 1/4 inch thick, sealing the pieces together. Chill 1 to 24 hours.

4. To bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the cold pastry with foil and fill it with dry beans or rice to weight down the crust. Bake 15 minutes or until the crust looks dry and pale. Gently lift out the foil and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until pale gold. Cool on a rack and store at room temperature.  

Vanilla Ricotta/Cream Filling
Makes enough to fill a 9-inch tart; 15 minutes prep time
 
  • 1/3 cup cold heavy whipping cream or 1/2 cup soft mascarpone cheese
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, high-quality ricotta
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split, or 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1. If using the cream, whip it in a chilled food processor until it forms soft peaks. Scrape the cream out of the processor bowl into a container and refrigerate it. If using the mascarpone, have it handy.

2. Add the ricotta to the processor, scrape the inside of the vanilla bean into it or add the extract along with the sugar. Pureé until smooth and taste for sugar, adding more if you'd like. Then fold in the whipped cream or mascarpone and chill the filling until you are ready for it.

Assemble the Tart

About an hour before serving, spread the ricotta filling over the bottom of the tart. Top it with about 1-3/4 to 2 cups of the green tomato jam. Chill for about 40 minutes. Let the tart sit 20 minutes out of the fridge and serve.

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