I read a new novel, The Margot Affair, last month and loved it. It’s not about about food, but every time a meal comes up, I was riveted by how good it sounded.
“The salt-cured cod was layered with cream mashed potatoes and presented in a small cocotte… the mussels bathed in white wine and garlic sauce.”
“Caramelized slices of pear hid beneath the custard, and the top was sprinkled with shards of toasted almonds.”
“She made it with whole milk and a dash of cream and pieces of dark chocolate. I dipped a piece of buttered toast into the chocolate.”
Because I buy and read books completely blind — I don’t like reading reviews or even the backs of books or I find I’m always waiting for [something that is mentioned that’s not a spoiler, sure, but still a thing I now know will happen and I only want to know when] and it’s not as fun. I also didn’t know anything about the author, Sanaë Lemoine going in and hadn’t realized she is, in fact, a Food Person, a former cookbook editor from Phaidon and Martha Stewart. No wonder every time a character cooks, you want to be in the kitchen with them. After I mentioned on Instagram how much I’d enjoyed the book, Lemoine emailed me to ask if I’d like recipes for any of the dishes mentioned. A real recipe from a fictional character? Is it too bizarre? Even more challenging was choosing between the clafoutis with caramelized pears (above) and other dishes but in the end it’s tomato season and I had no chance resisting the recipe behind this passage, which sounds like the only kind of August I want to have:
“For dinner Mathilde made a tomato tart with fennel salad. She had bought the tomatoes at the market and they spilled juice onto the cutting board as she sliced them open. She always made her own crust and shaped it like a true pâtissier, leveling off the edges until it was flush against the mold. Beneath the tomatoes, she added a layer of parsley pesto and grated cheese.”
I used heirloom tomatoes but you do not need to — I try to limit my fussing over heirlooms here, anyway, because it feels like hagiography — any good field-grown tomato will work, or even smaller tomatoes, halved or sliced. Inspired by Mathilde, I did indeed make my own crust and leveled off the edges, but I won’t tell anyone if you use a storebought crust or sheet of puffed pastry instead (for the latter, I’d bake it flat, as we do here). The result is exactly as good as it sounded in the book, an abundantly flavorful, very summery light meal. We had it with a green salad with a vinaigrette I snuck a spoonful of mayo into, also inspired by Mathilde, but next time I’m going to make my favorite fennel salad — do you want the recipe? anyone? (I always get tumbleweeds when I talk about fennel, it’s okay, sigh, more for me.) However you serve it, I hope you love it as much as we have for lunch this week.
Six months ago: Pina Colada
One year ago: Black Pepper Tofu and Eggplant
Two years ago: Foccacia Sandwiches for a Crowd
Three years ago: Blackberry-Blueberry Crumb Pie
Four years ago: Summer Squash Pizza, Peach Melba Popsicles, and Chile-Lime Melon Salad
Five years ago: Raspberry Crushed Ice
Six years ago: Cold Noodles with Miso, Lime, and Ginger and Apricot Pistachio Squares
Seven years ago: Charred Corn Crepes, Burst Tomato Galette with Corn and Zucchini and Strawberry, Lime, and Black Pepper Popsicles
Eight years ago: Pink Lemonade Bars and Charred Pepper Steak Sauce
Nine years ago: Sugar Plum Crepes with Ricotta and Honey
Ten years ago: Everyday Chocolate Cake and Zucchini and Almond Pasta Salad
Eleven years ago: Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons and Sour Cherry Slab Pie
Twelve years ago: Cantaloupe Salsa and Plum Kuchen and Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad
Thirteen years ago: Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad
Fourteen years ago: Huevos Racheros, Blueberry Crumb Bars, Napa Cabbage Salad with Buttermilk Dressing, and Quick Zucchini Sauté
Mathilde’s Tomato Tart
- 1 3/4 cups (230 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams), cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 3 large very ripe tomatoes, heirloom or other, sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick (about 1.5 pounds)
- Coarse or kosher salt
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1 cup (15 grams) basil leaves, loosely packed
- 2 cups (25 grams) parsley leaves, loosely packed
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard (double if it you like mustard; skip if you don’t)
- 2 ounces (55 grams) hard cheese, thinly sliced or coarsely grated (see Note)
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the crust (pâte brisée)
For the filling
Bake shell: Preheat the oven to 375ºF with rack in center. Place the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Weigh the crust down with parchment paper and pie weights, dried beans, or rice (that you don’t plan on using for anything else). Bake crust for 20 minutes. Remove parchment and weights. If there are any cracks or breaks, you can patch with the remaining dough. Bake for 5 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool.
Make the filling: Meanwhile, place tomato slices on a rimmed baking sheet and lightly sprinkle with salt.
Combine garlic, parsley, basil, and ½ teaspoon salt in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add olive oil and pulse until a spreadable paste forms. You might need to scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times. If making the herb mixture in advance, store in the refrigerator with plastic wrap pressed against its surface.
Blot tomatoes with paper towels to remove excess liquid.
Using a small spoon or offset spatula, spread Dijon mustard evenly on the bottom of the crust. Evenly distribute cheese on top. Dollop with herb mixture and gently spread to cover in a thin layer. Top with tomatoes, overlapping. Cut smaller pieces of tomatoes to fill gaps. The tomatoes shrink while roasting, so keep them snug and the tart pan full. Lightly brush tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.
Bake tart: Until tomatoes are softened and the crust is golden, about 50 minutes and up to 1 hour, until the tomatoes are deeply roasted. Allow to cool slightly then serve warm or at room temperature.
Do ahead: You can make the dough a few days in advance and refrigerate. You can also bake the crust one day and make and bake the filling another, as I did. Leave at room temperature; no need to wrap. Leftovers of the finished tart keep in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.