An odd and unusual thing happened to us this summer in our garden. Something almost out of science fiction. [Cue otherworldly music.]
Let me back up. Before this year, The One’s and my vegetable garden took up all of a 10-foot circle around an old tree stump. We would dutifully divide it into quarters and fill it with herbs, tomatoes, kale, and a few nasturtiums. That was it. Nothing to write home about. And, since Papa Leite is a consummate gardener, I literally never did write home. The last thing I wanted was for him to raise a grayed eyebrow and wonder, did my boy learn nothing during those long summers at Silvia’s Farm where he worked as a teenager? But this year, overcome by some deep yearning to be real men of the earth, The One and I broke ground on a garden that was more than five times the size of our old garden. In total, four raised beds, all filled with our yard guy’s organic soil.
Here’s where it gets a little weird. In no time, the plants were off and running, even though we got them into the ground more than a month late. I mean, they were ALIVE! The cilantro, which never, ever survived our hands, was huge. The five parsley plants—we planted five because at least half always die—burst into bushes more than two feet tall. Same with the potatoes, squash, cantaloupes, watermelon, cucumbers, broccoli, heirloom tomatoes, carrots, beets, and the rest of the herbs. I finally did write home to my father and send him photos. He kept saying, “I have no idea what you’re doing, son, but keep doing it.” The thing is: We did nothing!
The most peculiar were the cherry tomato plants. The One loves those yellowy Sun Gold tomatoes, and this spring he bought five plants, which was down from 10 plants a few years ago, thank you very much, because we were always inundated with baskets and baskets of cherry tomatoes by season’s end, no matter what we did. But this spring, as The One was digging in the new organic soil, he realized he accidentally bought five red cherry tomato plants. When he discovered his mistake, he looked like an investment banker who just lost his four-million-dollar bonus. I felt so sorry for him that I went back to the garden store and picked out six Sun Gold plants. I figured we’d lose half of everything anyways, as we always did, so the 11 plants would net us five in the end.
No such luck. All 11 suckers grew. And grew. And grew. In no time, they were up to my waist. Then my shoulders. The stakes we have are only six or so feet tall, so then the plants began growing downward. And, ultimately, across the white gravel paths. I measured one monster, and it was longer than 10 feet! I was starring in my own version of “The Attack of the Killer (Cherry) Tomatoes!” They were insatiable!
I walked out back several times, hedge clippers in hand, determined to cut these behemoths in half.
“Oh, no you don’t!” The One said, blocking the gate with his body.
“But this is unnatural. We have to do something. They’re overtaking the garden.”
“But look at the kale,” I said, pointing to the northernmost plant nearly consumed by the tomatoes. “It looks like a bridal bouquet compared to the others.”
“I don’t care.” He had a mad glimmer in his eyes. Something was amiss. The One would never forsake kale. He’s too much in love with it.
I had no choice. It was either them or me. That’s when I sprung into action. I harvested as many tomatoes as I could—we’re talking three or four gallons some days—and turned them into purée, sauce, and paste.
AND STILL THEY GREW!
I mixed and matched, making red, yellow, and orange versions of everything.
AND STILL THEY GREW!
I foisted them on friends. I insisted that Annie, my lovely assistant, take home bagfuls for her family.
AND STILL THEY GREW!
I cower inside now, afraid to walk in the garden. “What the hell else do you want from me? I’m exhausted!” I scream at them. Looking out the back window, I swear I can see them waving.
Next year, we grow nothing but potatoes.
Cherry Tomato Tart
One of the ways The One and I tried to fend ourselves against the Great Tomato Attack of 2015 was with this tart. It only calls for a few dozen cherry tomatoes—that’s not enough to put a dent in even the most modest of gardens, but it’s a start. I chose to use only red tomatoes, but Sun Golds or a mix of both red and gold will work just as well. The yellow tomatoes just don’t show up as well against the filling. Oh, and make sure to use fresh soft goat cheese. And don’t even think of using pre-grated Parmesan cheese. I have a few hundred thousand bloodthirsty tomatoes I will sic on your lazy ass.–David Leite
LC What Folks Are Saying About This Recipe Note
“A perfect cherry tomato tart.” “Beautiful, flavorful, and delicious.” “What a great way to use all those cherry tomatoes that come flooding in at the end of summer.” That’s what folks are saying about this cherry tomato tart recipe.
Special Equipment: 11-inch tart with removable bottom
Cherry Tomato Tart Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 2 H, 30 M
- Serves 6
- For the tart crust
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon minced rosemary leaves
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 tablespoons (6 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 4 to 6 tablespoons ice water
- For the roasted cherry tomatoes
- 3/4 pound cherry tomatoes (about 35)
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the cherry tomato tart filling
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- Handful basil leaves, thinly sliced, plus a few small ones for the garnish
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 3 ounces soft goat cheese
- Make the tart crust
- 1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the flour, rosemary, thyme, and salt until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with noticeable chunks of butter no bigger than small peas, somewhere around 13 to 15 one-second pulses.
- 2. Dump the tart crust mixture into a large bowl and drizzle with 4 tablespoons ice water. Using a fork, mix until the mixture forms a “shaggy” dough. Squeeze some of the dough in your hand. If it doesn’t hold together, add enough of the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough does hold together when gently squeezed. Form the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Roast the cherry tomatoes
- 3. While the dough is in the fridge, position the oven racks in the middle and lower thirds of the oven. Crank the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- 4. Toss the tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in a single layer and roast on the lower rack until they’re split, wrinkled, and spilling some of their liquid, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of your tomatoes. Let cool on the baking sheet.
- Make the filling and assemble the cherry tomato tart
- 5. While the tomatoes are roasting and cooling, roll out the dough into a 13-inch circle on a lightly flowered surface. Ease it into an 11-inch tart pan, fitting it snugly against the sides and bottom, and trim the excess. Prick the bottom with a fork and cover with parchment or foil. Fill the tart with pie weights or beans. (If the tomatoes aren’t done, slip the shell into the fridge.) Bake the tart crust for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment and bake until pale golden, 5 to 10 minutes more. Let cool slightly.
- 6. Whisk the eggs, cream, sliced basil, half the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a pinch each salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour the filling into the baked tart crust and distribute the tomatoes equally in the tart crust. Pinch off bits of goat cheese and place them between the tomatoes. Sprinkle the filling with the remaining cheese. Bake on the middle rack until set and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool until warm. When ready to serve, dot with the smallest basil leaves you have.
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Cherry Tomato Tart Recipe © David Leite. Photos © 2015 David Leite. All rights reserved.
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