Tomato, Basil, and Goat Cheese Tart combines the perfect savory flavors of the season in a buttery cornmeal crust. Good hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
While the modern grocery store gives us the ability to make almost any dish regardless of the time of year, it’s always nice to cook up a recipe that takes full advantage of the bounty of the season. For me, a quintessential summer combination is tomato and basil. I’m sure that’s hardly unique, but it conjures up memories of eating dinner out on the deck as the sun was setting over the mountains. And while this Tomato, Basil, and Goat Cheese Tart can certainly be served with dinner, it is versatile enough to pull duty at just about any meal, or slice it up small for a colorful appetizer. (Liz has also been known to eat it bite by bite straight from the fridge.)
It starts with that cornmeal crust…
Juxtaposing the rich, creamy custard it cradles, the cornmeal crust provides a nice crunch (as well as some buttery flavor). Best of all, it comes together in the food processor in a matter of seconds. Be judicious with the ice water to bring it together. Much like pie dough, you want it to bind just enough to work with, and you don’t want to overwork the dough. However, with the high ratio of cornmeal to flour, this is not nearly the concern you have with normal pie dough.
While you can make the Tomato, Basil, and Goat Cheese tart in a normal pie pan or other dish, I highly recommend you use a pan with a removable fluted rim. It will make de-panning much easier, and the fluting makes it look extra fancy. Give the pan a good dose of cooking spray, and then press the dough into shape. As I’ve mentioned in previous recipes, if you have hot hands, rubber gloves might be your friend here. Once you’ve got that done, place it in the fridge and pre-heat the oven. You’ll need to blind bake the crust (like with the Blueberry Crumb Pie), but you don’t need to worry about docking the bottom. You can make the crust a day or so ahead of time, and keep it at room temperature.
Go Go Goat Cheese
The tomato, basil, and goat cheese filling is about as easy as the crust. Whisk everything but the tomatoes together in a big bowl. This is a case where you really should plan ahead and set the butter and goat cheese out to soften. If not, you can just do what I did and brute force it, but that can bruise the basil a bit. Better to prepare properly.
Once that’s put together, pour it into your pre-baked cornmeal crust, and add the tomatoes. I find cherry tomatoes to be the perfect size for this dish. In addition, I think they make the dish rather attractive with the bright red popping out from the pale filling. Push the tomatoes down until they are just about flush with the surface. You don’t want to submerge them. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and then it’s back to the oven for 15-25 minutes. You want it to be set, but still jiggle a little when you shake it. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Tip: slide a cookie sheet under the pan to avoid dislodging the rim from the bottom.
The Art of the Tart
I’d recommend you leave the tart in the pan until you plan to serve it, as it will help protect the crust from crumbling. It will also make it easy to re-heat in the oven if you so choose. This dish is tasty at pretty much any temperature from a little out of the oven to straight out of the fridge, but is probably best at room temperature or above. It’s easily made a day ahead, making it perfect for breakfast, brunch, or any meal where you want to get something made ahead of time. When it’s time to remove the fluted rim of the tart pan, get something like a cereal bowl, and lower the pan by the rim over the bowl, so that the bottom of the pan remains elevated. Then you can drop the rim under the bottom for easy service.
So take advantage of the bright summer flavors of tomato and basil, mix in the luscious goat cheese, and hold it together with a delicious crust. Happy eating.
- 1½ sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons ice water
- pie weights or raw rice for weighting crust
- ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 7 ounces mild soft goat cheese, softened
- ¾ stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, well softened
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ pound vine-ripened cherry tomatoes (preferably red)
- Combine the butter, flour, cornmeal, and salt in a food processor and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal.
- Sprinkle the water over the mixture, and pulse until the dough just holds together when you squeeze it in your hand. Add more water if needed.
- Push the dough into the bottom of your buttered pan (we recommend you use a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom). Make sure you push it all the way up the sides.
- Chill the crust for 20 minutes as you pre-heat the oven to 375.
- When the crust is done chilling, line the crust with aluminum foil, and add rice, beans or pie weights.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the foil and weights, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove to a wire rack to cool.
- Chop the basil.
- Whisk together the basil, cheese, butter, sour cream, and eggs until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour into the crust.
- Half your tomatoes, and press them down into the custard. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until the custard is just set.
- Serve warm, or at room temperature.