It's that time of year where pretty soon we're all going to be knee deep in tomatoes. I've already started to see the flux of tomato laded recipe roaming the web, and I am completely grateful for the creativity, because there are only so many bocconcini salads a girl can take. A shame really, that we get a massive dump of tomatoes in August, and then it's back to the old store bought bland versions for the rest of the year. I am planning a visit back home during the last 2 weeks of August and first of September. Each day I meticulously count each tomato growing on my patio, and pray that they ripen before I leave. I even thought about postponing my trip, but how ridiculous would that sound - 'sorry mom, I'm going to have to postpone due to this tomato obsession that I can't seem to get under control'.
Cherry tomatoes are always the first to turn red. We've been eating them for a couple weeks now. A few here and there, mostly snacking. Truth be told, I picked these ones up from the market, because I have yet to leave my plants alone long enough to produce more than 5 tomatoes at a time. I guess it's when the big fellas show up, that planning seems necessary. We currently have 50 large tomatoes waiting to turn red, so if you've got any suggestions that don't involve basil and mozzarella, send them my way would ya.
Last week, I did a big freezer clean-out, mostly trying to make room for an inordinate supply of cookies and ice cream. I found a few sheets of puff pastry left over from our winter crush - veggie pot pies. I'm always looking for new and interesting appetizer/snack ideas that involve little to no preparation, and can be easily assembled with a glass of wine in one hand. Almond basil pesto, goat cheese, tomatoes and wine are basically staples around here, which makes it handy for those unpredictable pop-up dinner parties. Turns out that when you pile them all (minus the wine) on top of delicious buttery puff pastry and bake if for 15 minutes, the goat cheese melts, the tomatoes roast, and the flavors from the basil pesto absorb into the buttery pastry, that is busy doing it thing - getting deliciously golden, brown and crispy. A drizzle of good quality olive oil and a few specks of crunchy salt, and you basically had me at buttery puff pastry. If you are feeling extra ambitious you could make the puff pastry from scratch, but like I said, wine in one hand. It's a must.
TOMATO, GOAT CHEESE AND BASIL PESTO PUFF PASTRY TARTS
makes 6 tarts
1 sheet of puff pastry (9x11")
1/3 cup basil almond pesto
2 oz soft goat cheese
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 egg + 1 tbsp water
olive oil for drizzling
sea salt to taste
micro greens, pea shoots, basil or green onions for garnish
Remove a sheet of puff pastry from the freezer and thaw on the counter. If you are having difficulty unfolding the sheet once thawed, place it into the fridge to cool. It should then come apart easily.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Cut the puff pastry into 6 pieces (3.5" x 4"). Score a 1 cm border around each square. Spread a tbsp of pesto onto each square, followed by a few pieces of goat cheese, and enough cherry tomatoes to cover the top. Whisk the egg and water in a bowl. Brush the outside border of the tarts with the egg wash. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on top, and then sprinkle with sea salt. Place the tarts onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 16 minutes or until the pastry has browned.
Remove from the oven and garnish with greens. Serve immediately.
TOASTED ALMOND BASIL PESTO
makes 1 cup
notes: you can substitute pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, walnuts, or cashews in place of the almonds. If you want to save time, you can purchase roasted almonds and cut out the first step. Pesto tastes best, when fresh basil is used, picked from the plant that day, also a good olive oil is important to the flavor. A quick tip for storing pesto - fill a ice cube tray with the pesto and then freeze. Remove a cube when you want to use.
1/2 cup whole raw almonds, unsalted
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup Pecorino cheese, grated
1/2 - 1 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Place the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. In a food processor, pulse the almonds, garlic, basil, and cheese until crumbly. While the processor is still running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until a desired consistency is reached. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for 6 months.