The truth. The truth is I’m, despite my best efforts to slow down & recapture a lost way of doing thing, wildly, inextricably modern in so many ways. I drive my car to run banal errands daily. I answer emails (in theory). I’m addicted to my ipad. And I resent the way the seasons give and take. Most especially tomatoes. I have a difficult time accepting the fact that I can only have them fresh in the summer. They come. They go. And it seems to happen in a flurry, and I hate it. I never get enough. I grew up with the false belief, as most children of the 80’s, that I could in fact have it all whenever I wanted it. Asparagus in February, strawberries in November, tomatoes in…never. I hated them growing up. Because even though I didn’t know the first thing about eating seasonally, I knew those watery, mealy facsimiles that the whole of creation seemed intent on slapping on sandwiches and slicing on pitiful salads were not good. The thing is, I had no idea there was anything else.
I would oft reminisce about how strange it was that, as a child, I’d eat tomatoes at my grandmothers like apples with salt sprinkled on them. I figured I’d just grown out of my taste for tomatoes. I think I was nineteen before I discovered them again. Real tomatoes. Summer heirlooms. The kind a southern grandmother might happen to grow in her backyard. When I did, I became a vegetarian for two whole years simply because I was all at once impressed with the vegetable kingdom. Okay, so I was a lousy New Orleans vegetarian that slurped oysters and sucked the heads of crawdads and therefore not a vegetarian at all. But still, other than those two surreptitious vices, I was strict. In the end, I think I just wanted to say, sounding slightly bored & with an air of superiority, “I’m a vegetarian.” Which is not just a little hilarious given my taste for gin, cigarettes, and narcotics back then. But regardless of the fact that it was an unstable identity that motivated me, I explored vegetables in those years in a way I never had. And for that I’m grateful.
A few things… Ireland! I’m teaming up with Imen of Farmette and acclaimed food stylist Susan Spungen for Lens & Larder, a food styling + photography retreat in at the Ballynahinch Castle in Connemara. Get more information and register here!
Steller. I’m obsessed with it. You will be too.
For years now, I’ve obediently eaten with the seasons. And while I’m not a vegetarian, I choose my food based on how it was raised & grown. We eat good meat, but when we don’t have company, we largely eat vegetarian. With the odd slice of local belly bacon or country ham thrown in from time to time, naturally. But despite loving & being used to eating this way, that doesn’t mean that I don’t, each year, mourn the passing of my favorites. This rhythm is the ancient rhythm. The one that birthed the idea of maiden, mother, and crone. In the image of the triple goddess forever flowering, blooming, and wilting, I find so much inspiration. Contained within the idea that everything passes is the idea of eternal return, and so I celebrate the waning of summer. In its end is also the promise of its return.
I’ve met few fruits that didn’t take kindly to a great pie crust, and these tomatoes are no different. When you have produce as gorgeous as these, you don’t need to do much to them. Crust, pesto, a good local cheese, and a few thin slices of shallot are plenty. There’s no need to over-complicate anything. And that’s why I was willing to brave the suffocatingly crowded Sunday market for these jeweles. They’re that good. Simple food is the natural conclusion of fresh, seasonal produce. And that’s what our southern suppers look like. On a Wednesday of no particular import, this is what finds its way to our plates. So, from my southern table to yours…I hope you get the chance to make this flavorful tomato pie before the season recedes. The lemon balm & almond pesto really ads something else, and the finished dish is far more than a sum of its parts.
- 113 grams 1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
- 125 grams 1 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons ice cold water
- 1/2 cup lemon balm packed
- 1/2 cup basil packed
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons almonds chopped
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese + 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
- 1/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3/4 pound assorted heirloom tomatoes sliced 1/4″ thick
- 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1 shallot thinly sliced on a mandolin or ceramic slicer
- 1 egg beaten with a fork, for brushing
- flaky sea salt & freshly grated pepper for sprinkling
- Make your crust. In a mixing bowl combine the flour and salt. Cut the butter into the flour with your fingers or a pastry cutter (I much prefer my hands) until no pieces larger than a pea remain. With a wooden spoon stir in the water until the dough comes together. Form into a ball, flatten into a disc, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour before rolling out. It will keep up to 24 hours like this.
- While the dough chills, make your pesto. Combine the lemon balm, basil, almonds, garlic, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a small food processor and pulse to combine. It should be well chopped but not completely smooth; you want a bit of texture for your tart. Add in the 1/4 cup parmesan and vinegar and pulse. Then slowly add in the oil and pulse to combine.
- Alternately you can make it in a mortar & pestle. Grind the garlic with a pinch of salt to form a paste, add in the lemon balm & basil and pound & grind until the leaves are broken down. Add the nuts and grind until combined. Then add in the 1/4 cup parmesan, the vinegar, and half the oil. Grind to combine, then add in the other half of the oil and continue to mix with the pestle until homogenous but still a little chunky. The former, naturally, takes a lot less time than the latter, but I personally prefer the experience & chunkier texture of mortar & pestle pesto despite the extra effort.
- Heat oven to 425° F.
- Now it’s time to roll out your pastry. Place the disc on a well floured surface, flour your rolling pin, and roll the pastry into a rough circle about 1/8-1/4″ thick, flouring your pin as needed and rotating the dough clockwise every few rolls to prevent sticking. Transfer rolled out crust to a parchment lined rimless sheet pan and stick in the fridge for 10 minutes to chill.
- Now is a good time to slice your tomatoes. After slicing them, lay them on a paper towel lined plate, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, and allow to drain while your crust finishes chilling.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge, and spread the pesto over it, leaving a 1 1/2″ rim. Place a layer of tomatoes over it, sprinkle with half the shallot and goat cheese, top with a second layer of tomatoes and sprinkle with the remaining shallot and goat cheese. Fold the edges up to seal the galette. If it’s too cold, the pastry will break when you try to fold it. If it seems to be too cold, just wait a sec.
- Brush the crust lightly with the egg, and then sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Sprinkle the entire tart with the remaining 2 tablespoons of parmesan.
- Bake 25-35 minutes or until the galette is golden brown.
- Let cool for about 15 minutes, sprinkle with a few fresh leaves of lemon balm & basil, slice, and enjoy! Along with a bright green salad this makes an excellent locavore, vegetarian supper. And it’s great warm or at room temp, so it’s perfect to make ahead for a get together.
My name is Beth, Elizabeth Evelyn to be exact. A native Tennessean, I was born in the South.
I am the author behind Local Milk Blog.
Local milk is a journal devoted to home cookery, travel, family, and slow living—to being present & finding sustenance of every kind.
It’s about nesting abroad & finding the exotic in the everyday.
Most of all it’s about the perfection of imperfections and seeing the beauty of everyday, mundane life.