French Tomato Tart

kate's tart

This week I saw the first promise of tomato season. A few brightly colored cherry specimens were brought home from the local market, as well as the more standard varieties. I was down in Gascony visiting my friend Kate Hill, and her photographer friend Tim Clinch was there preparing to lead a photography workshop. Looking for something tempting and colorful, tomatoes seemed the obvious choice as willing subjects.

cherry tomatoes erika

In addition to the profusion of flowers plucked from the lush garden by the canal du Midi, the tomatoes had their moment in front of the camera. But once the participants stopped clicking, we grabbed them and put them where they rightfully belong: In the kitchen.

In France, tarts are not considered “special occasion” fare, and if you’re invited to someone’s house for a meal, even the most inept home cook will make a quiche or tarte salée, which will surprise you when they present a stunning tart à table, looking just about as good as anything whipped up from the local bakery.

farine colombe

True, some cooks here cheat a bit and use pre-purchased pâte brisée, which you can buy in the supermarket refrigerator case where it’s sold rolled up and boxed like plastic wrap. However I will concede that it does make quick work of making a savory tart and on more than one occasion I’ve been duped by someone, whose tart I’ve complimented, which prompted what I call “The Garbage Can Confessional”: when someone has to fess up and extract an empty box from the poubelle, usually from Picard, France’s popular frozen food chain.

tomato

I’ve not bought or used the pre-made stuff, however tempting it might be (!) but this dough is as easy as pie to make and roll out. And by the time it takes to go to the store and buy the dough, you can make this. I haven’t tried it with the French tart dough recipe but Kate assured me it would work with either an unbaked or pre-baked tart shell.

montage 1

Unlike other savory tarts, such as the Herbed Ricotta Tart, this one has no custard or cream added; it’s just sliced tomatoes, fresh herbs, and sliced rounds of soft goat cheese, which get browned on top. Without a rich custard, the taste and texture of the tomatoes doesn’t get lost. But the fresh goat cheese is wonderful, especially when it gets all crusty-brown on top, and warm and creamy-soft inside. You could swap out another cheese that you like, such as comté, haloumi, or fontina, or another favorite fromage which melts well.

tart dough

Ditto with the fresh herbs. A few steps outside of her always-buzzing kitchen are big bunches of herbs growing in verdant, leafy profusion. Thyme, variegated two-color sage, lovage, and savory are well-represented, but I was especially pleased to find fresh oregano, which for some reason is elusive in Paris.

tarte aux tomates

So when she wasn’t looking, I clipped a few sprigs (ok, more than a few sprigs), which I squirreled away in my suitcase. Along with the homemade red wine vinegar and foie gras that she did give me. Plus I had some bitter chestnut honey that I picked up at the market in Cahors. (And, of course, a trip to the local antique market yielded me a few vintage wine glasses and Kate scored three gorgeous old French jam jars for just €5 a pop.)

honey honey on tart

I’m not a fan of sweet-savory cooking—with a few exceptions, most notably glazed Korean chicken wings, but when I saw the sticky jar of brusque miel de ronce (wild blackberry honey) on her counter, I suggested drizzling a bit over the tart just before baking. We had a bit of dough leftover, so it got rolled out and we made a mini-tart to give it a try. And it was a big hit.

tart

But the real stroke of genius, I think, is the layer of mustard you spread on the tart, which provides a spicy back-bite to the baked tomato slices. You can go as easy or as generous as you want. The French love their Dijon mustard so don’t be shy: a layer that’s a thick as what you’d spread on a sandwich is just about right.

rose & Blt's (blog)

Perfect hot from the oven, or mighty good at room temperature as well, this is perfect summertime fare. You could pair it with the proverbial leafy green salad or go whole hog and serve it on a buffet with PLTs (Pig, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwiches). But in my mind, the best accompaniment are glasses of rosé over ice. And from the number of bottles we went through that afternoon, no one seemed to disagree.

french lunch

French Tomato Tart

One 9- or 10-inch (23-25 cm) tart

Adapted from A Culinary Journey in Gascony

Because this is ‘country-style’ fare, this tart is open to lots of interpretation. For those of you with tart dough “issues”, you can make this either free-style or in a fluted tart ring with a removable bottom. Kate didn’t let the dough rest, but simply rolled it out, transferred it into the tart ring, and ran the rolling pin over the dough to neatly shear away the edges.

If you wish to make a free-style tart, roll the dough out to about 14-inches across, then transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Assemble the tart, leaving a 2-inch (5 cm) border, which you’ll then fold up to enclose the tart.

Depending on the size of your pan, you may have a bit of dough leftover. We used it to make a few mini-tartlets, which we enjoyed later than evening with our aperitifs.

Tart Filling

  • One unbaked tart dough (see recipe, below)
  • Dijon or whole-grain mustard
  • 2-3 large ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • two generous tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, chives, chervil, or tarragon
  • 8 ounces (250 g) fresh or slightly aged goat cheese, sliced into rounds
  • Optional: 1 1/2 tablespoons flavorful honey

Tart Dough

1 1/2 cups (210 g) flour
4 1/2 ounces (125 g) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2-3 tablespoons cold water

1. Make the dough by mixing the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and use your hands, or a pastry blender, to break in the butter until the mixture has a crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.

2. Mix the egg with 2 tablespoons of the water. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the beaten egg mixture, stirring the mixture until the dough holds together. If it’s not coming together easily, add the additional tablespoon of ice water.

3. Gather the dough into a ball and roll the dough on a lightly floured surface, adding additional flour only as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.

4. Once the dough is large enough so that it will cover the bottom of the pan and go up the sides, roll the dough around the rolling pin then unroll it over the tart pan. “Dock” the bottom of the pastry firmly with your fingertips a few times, pressing in to make indentations.

If making a freestyle tart, simply transfer the dough to a prepared baking sheet (see headnote); no need to make indentations with your fingers.

5. Preheat the oven to 425ºF (218ºC). See note.

6. Spread an even layer of mustard over the bottom of the tart dough and let it sit a few minutes to dry out.

7. Slice the tomatoes and arrange them over the mustard in a single, even layer. Drizzle the olive oil over the top.

8. Sprinkle with some chopped fresh herbs, then arrange the slices of goat cheese on top. Add some more fresh herbs, then drizzle with some honey, if using.

(If baking a free-form tart, gather the edges when you’re done, to envelope the filling.)

9. Bake the tart for 30 minutes or so, until the dough is cooked, the tomatoes are tender, and the cheese on top is nicely browned. Depending on the heat of your oven, if the cheese doesn’t brown as much as you’d like it, you might want to pass it under the broiler until it’s just right.

Note: Kate indeed does cook her tart in a very hot oven. You might wish to check the tart midway through baking and turn it down a bit in case the top is getting too dark, before the crust and tomatoes appear to be cooked.

flowers

Related Recipes and Links

Eggless Chervil Mayonnaise

Camp Cassoulet

Preserved Tomatoes

French Pear and Almond Tart

Herbed Ricotta Tart

Summer Tomato Salad Recipe

Panzanella

Easy Jam Tart

Tim Clinch Photography

Kate Hill’s Kitchen at Camont Blog



139 comments

  • Chère David

    I wonder if my oven has a mind of its own, but really, don’t you think the crust needs pre-baking? The taste was SUBLIME even though we don’t really have summer tomatoes here yet. But if the crust had been really done, I think I would have swooned. We’ll be in Paris on July 7 and I can bring a bouquet of my oregano to you. Want it?

  • Hi Sharon: The tart that Kate made, in the photos, has a well-done bottom crust, which was due to the high baking temperature. I am the kind of person that usually pre-bakes a crust, but doing it this way saves a step and also you don’t need to weigh the dough down or anything with pie weights.

    When she was making it I asked about pre-baking the crust, which she told me she doesn’t do. So I presented the recipe pretty much as she did it, although I did mention in the post that one could use the French tart dough recipe on the site, which is indeed a pre-baked crust.

    (And thanks for the oregano offer, but I loaded up at Kate’s!)

  • I made this for my Memorial day party and it was SO easy and everyone loved it. I used good quality store bought pie crust, Dijon, tomatoes, thyme and mozzarella and provolone cheese. I baked it the whole time at 425 and it was perfect served at room temp. Assembly took less than 10 minutes. Thanks David!

  • I’m really looking forward to trying this tomato tarte – We should be seeing the first heirloom tomatoes here in Philadelphia soon. Though I am tempted just to use plum tomatoes from wherever simply to give the recipe a try.

    This may become a fall back recipe for me when I don’t have time to produce pizza dough.

  • This looks really good. Hope to make it one day :)

  • like a few other commenters, i made this this weekend. it was yummy! i used a frozen, vegan, organic prepared crust [sounds horrible, but actually quite tasty]. i made it exactly to the recipe, including the honey. the only thing i would do differently, is that i would fan the tomato slices for a nicer presentation and no exposed bottom crust. but this is a winner and will be come a summer standard in my house.

  • Re: prev. comments on wet crust. I did drain the slices for a while. I think an hour, but not intentionally that long, 30 min would work fine. And the bottom wasn’t nearly as wet.

    Great recipe.

    Thanks

  • I just whipped this tart up for my blog with Paule Caillat’s crust, and it was delicious! So simple, yet the perfect balance of flavors. Thank you for sharing another winning recipe!

  • I am with Sharon, the tart was awesome but next time I would pre bake the shell

  • David – the tomatoes are just coming out in North Carolina, so I made this for dinner tonight. It was fabulous…..thank you!!!!

  • I made this using gruyere and chives. Thank you for another delectable, approachable recipe using just a few ingredients. I will also try this mixing gruyere with Boursin cheese. Can’t wait til the tomatoes are ripe here on the ranch to make this with lovely Black Krims!

  • How gorgeous is that! Wonderful post. It’s getting summer, I guess.

  • Made this and it was as easy to do as it looks and the taste was fabulous. We’re not getting much summer around here, in The Hague, and this dish sure brought a taste of summer to our palletes!!

    Thank you for this recipe, I’ll be adding this to my repertoire.

  • The tomatoes are still crud, but there’s a pretty good chevre from a local farm at the market here. I think I’ll buy some Camparis at the supermarket and give it a go. It’ll be more of an Italian Tomato Tart because my basil plant is overgrowing. Thanks!

  • Thank you for the tart recipe! I have pots of various cherry, grape and other small tomato types growing on my patio. I seriously plan to dive right into trying this tart recipe.. is there anything more lovely or delicious than a vine ripened, sun-warmed tomato?? (we will be in Paris in September for the first time ever!)

  • i wanted to make a tomato tart for my dad’s birthday tomorrow and went ahead, bought the ingredients i thought i’d need.
    then i came home and started looking for recipes (yes, i did it that way around :D) and i was sure to find a good recipe on your site . and i was right^^
    thanks, good to know i can count on your website as an eternal source of inspiration :)

  • I made this tart last night and it was, needless to say, perfection! Thank you so much for the great recipe.

  • I finally got around to making this tart (three of them, actually) for a Sunday lunch party yesterday. I did the pastry a day ahead (tripled it, which worked fine), put it in the tins and froze it. I took it out an hour before I set up the tarts (it was a rare hot day in SF so it thawed out in perfect time). It was so simple and yummy–the flavor of the tomatoes intensified and the goat cheese was like little warm clouds. Everyone loved it!

  • Thank you, David – I just made it, and it was every bit as delicious as I hoped it would be! We even had some rosé brought back with us from Provence to go along with it. It made us feel like we were back there again..
    Marie (Oslo)

  • I just made the tomato tart for dinner and it was DELISH!! Thanks for sharing an awesome recipe. All of the tomato pie recipes I’ve eaten have mayo involved and this was much “cleaner.” I peeled the tomatoes and they all merged into each other. I recommend the recipe to all! The crust was easy and so good, too…

  • We made this last weekend. After a day of moving house on a hot summer’s day, the tomato tart was so yummy! Am telling all my friends this will be my favourite summer recipe this year (with lots of chilled rosé of course!). Thank you for posting this fab dish.

  • Iris: Yes, it definitely needs the chilled rosé~!

  • David, would a nice aged balsamic vinegar work in lieu of the honey? I had this beautiful tomato tart last time I was in Paris (but it didn’t have cheese and was drizzled with BV) and this recipe reminds me of that!!! I dream about it sometimes…

    Anyhoo, your pictures are always so wonderful!!! Thanks for the post!

  • I made this yesterday for guests and everyone went absolutely crazy over it! It was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made. I can’t wait to make it again and again! We used fresh farmer’s market tomatoes and I got the thyme from our herb garden outside. I can’t even describe how amazing it was!

    I am going to start adapting the recipe for other vegetables – was thinking it would be yummy with a mixture of yellow squash and zucchini slices instead of the tomatoes. I also think the crust would be great as a quiche crust.

    I am so excited I found this recipe – it’s going to go in my regular repertoire for sure!

  • Salut David!

    Merci beaucoup pour la recette! C’etait très délicieux! I spent this last year studying abroad in Montpellier, France and read/ took advice from your blog religiously. Now that I am experiencing the reverse culture shock of the USA, your recipes have become a great comfort. Thank you for feeding my appetite for good food.

  • I made this tart last night for my friend’s 12-year-old vegetarian son, with Fontina instead of goat’s cheese. And he loved it. Thanks for another fantastic recipe David.

  • I love love love a tomato tart. It was far too hot here to put the oven on, so I did it in a tart pan on the grill, which worked great (next time, I might even try a pizza stone) – no sogginess, no over-cooking, and best of all, no hot kitchen on a 90 degree night. . But I was surprised at how much I did not care for the dijon-tomato combination – perhaps my mustard did not cut the mustard? – even so, the rest was fabulous. Like the idea of the caramelized onions as a base.

    Still, I think I might go back to my favorite combo from Clothilde’s tarte tatin a la tomate recipe – olive tapenade.

    Thank you for reminding me how wonderful tomato season is!

  • David, HELP! PLEASE!

    I have made this tart 5 times and loved it each and every time. I live in your former home area, SF Bay Area, so I have access to amazing fresh heirlooms and am loving this. However! I can’t find amazing goat cheese. I used to live in France and remember how easy it was to find lovely slightly aged goat cheese with a thin rind. The one you are using looks like it has a very thin rind and a more crumbly (less glossy) interior texture. The goat cheese I last tried I picked up at Berkeley Bowl and had a rind, but the interior had too fresh of a “goat” taste with too much of an oozing texture. Is there a certain variety or name of goat cheese I can search for? Closest I came to what I was looking for was Cowgirl Creamery fresh goat cheese, no rind but I shaped it to look similar to yours and it baked perfectly. Thank you so much David and safe travels!

    Abby from SF

  • Hi Abby: Since I haven’t live in the Bay Area for many years, I don’t know any particular brands of goat cheese that are similar, but would check out the Ferry Plaza farmer’s market as there are a few producers who set up shop there and they could likely help you find one. But those soft goat cheese do work well, as you’ve found out.

  • What a beautiful combination, I will definately try the delicitios recipe.

    Thanks.

  • It looks so beautiful – I am making it tomorrow with the best tomatoes in the world. New Jersey tomatoes from my husband’s garden – he grows them with a passion and they are wonderful this year.

  • A friend shared the link to this recipe. I bought local heirloom tomatoes from a local farm (2 miles), a local garlic goat cheese, and herbs from right outside my back door. I did modify the recipe and used puff pastry. I used cornmeal instead of flour to roll out the dough. It added a bit of crunch. It was wonderful!! My cousin saw my photo of it and will be making it soon.

    I have to make it again soon while I have fresh local tomatoes.

  • Well, I know it’s September but we didn’t get a lot of sun this summer, even in sunny Southern California and my BIG tomatoes didn’t ripen until recently.

    I tested tonight two mini versions, trying to decide which I like better. A traditional Dijon versus a German beer mustard ground on 700 year-old millstones (or something)? With a Piedmont chestnut honey or without? The German mustard with honey was the winner, hands down.

    I spent some time agonizing over how to swap out American flour measurements or come up with an alternate tart recipe before I realized I had a bag of King Arthur Flour’s Perfect Pastry Blend that was perfectly adequate for a straight swap. (Duh!).
    Problem solved.

    Thanks! I hope to make some folks very happy at a dinner party tomorrow.

  • I’m an American studying French in Tours, and I’m living with une mere d’accueil. I made her the tomato tart last night and she loved it! It always feels good to impress a French person with food. Thanks David!

  • Hello David, I made this tart free-style without the Dijon mustard (as I didn’t have any on hand). It turned out fabulous. This was the first time that I made a tart base. I feel confident about trying out other tart recipes too. Do you think I can add other fillings to the same base?

    Yes, you likely can, although I haven’t tried it personally. But if you do try it, let me know how it turns out! -dl

  • Hi David!

    I made this tart with the Paule Caillat crust which honestly completely astounded me with its simplicity. I may never cut cold butter into flour ever again!

    I added a layer of sautéed onions beneath the tomatoes which on hindsight provided a teeny bit too much sourness (balsamic) to the mustard, though it still tasted good. Next time I’ll sauté the onions without balsamic.

    Also the Paule tart crust was barely enough to fill my 9″ pan. My resulting crust was light and flaky but also crumbled very easily and I thought it might be because my crust was too thin. Any tips for increasing the tart dough recipe?

    I also used fresh mozzarella (a bit too melty but still tasty) and camembert rather than goat cheese (friends didn’t like the flavor of goat cheese). In Singapore we’ve got a limited array of fresh cheeses and I couldn’t find any of the substitutes you mentioned. Are there any other cheeses you can recommend that would melt the same way as goat cheese? That will stay round and melty inside while browning outside?

    Thank you for a truly delicious recipe and for making me look good at the dinner party!

  • JoBeth: That’s interesting because I was at Paule’s and made her French tart dough this week and it was generous enough for a 9-inch tart. If you need to increase the amount, though, you can do it proportionally.

    If you can get a cheese like Haloumi, an Arabic cheese, or even Provolone, those are melting cheeses that have a bit of a tang to them.

  • David, I know this isn’t your tart recipe, but I want to thank you deeply for posting it.

    That’s because this dough has changed my life.

    I always hated making pastry, and even baking generally because of the exactitude required. I do cook a lot but limit the baking to brownies and cookies — easier sweets — and Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread.

    Yet since I tried this recipe a few months ago, I’ve been making it almost every weekend. (I live in Los Angeles, so delicious tomatoes are just barely still in season.) People go nuts for it, and it’s made me so happy to present something so beautiful — and so secretly easy.

    I am delighted to be able to incorporate this tart into my regular cooking rotation. If you have any suggestions more broadly for savory tarts that use this dough, I would love to hear them. Again, thank you. (And thanks to Kate Hill!)

  • Ah! Of course, it’s the mustard that’s missing.