Friday, July 2

pie in the sky

we’ve been baking again. on sort of a roll, actually, thanks mostly to alex, who’s responsible for dropping this week’s temps by twenty degrees. ... it’s humid enough to steam the winkles from a linen suit, and my hair is like "whoa!," but I’ll take it! because it's july second, and 78 degrees in austin, texas!

last week it seemed the kitchen would be closing for summer, until the average temp could drop below 95. it appeared that unless divine intervention stepped in, there would be no jam made this year, even as the fig tree bows low under its burden and farmers’ tables are heaped with gorgeous peaches. as of last week, there was no way in hell I would willingly stand over a spattering cauldron of 212 degree fruit pulp (I'm crazy, but not crazy).

it’s not the random 100 degree day that stills all interest in cooking, but rather the interminable nature of summers here. you see, unlike the desert, there is no relief in the night. coastal breezes do not sweep through — like in the california central valley — nor fog. in fact, there is a point at twilight, when the breeze halts entirely, allowing mosquitoes to emerge (searching for my ankles). nighttime slumps into a sultrier version of the summer heat — because at least in daylight, there is the relative relief of shade to take off the edge. perspiration dissipates. in central texas evenings, the only semblance of relief is cool condensation from a drink, held to your forehead. icy watermelon. night swimming. air. conditioning.

even texas tomatoes succumb to doldrums and stop producing around mid-summer, until night temps fall a little in september.

I’ve been researching the purchase of a larger toaster oven, thinking if I can find something capable of consistent
baking temps at half-size, we might be able to avoid some of the takeout urge. there’s not much on the market between the $65-ish and the $300 price points (the cook's illustrated pick from 2007 bears numerous amazon reviews noting explosions. um hrmmm.). is a $300 convection toaster oven totally insane — is making toast in it akin to lighting birthday candles with a blowtorch? is sacrificing that much counter space a fair trade for a handy gadget that prolongs baking season? should I just get over myself and get cooking in my bikini? I can’t decide.

anyhow, back to baking! this week our kitchen produced two (two!) main course cheese-and-vegetable tarts. the first
may become a summer standby, certainly as long as we continue seeing such gorgeous tomatoes. the second one (for which there is no photographic proof — but there are witnesses!), came from deb, and was far more involved/labor intensive. delicious though it was, it may go into the stack of weekend-type recipes … mayhaps with a flag denoting deceptively rich recipes. a light salad is all the accompaniment deb’s squash galette needs. the tomato tart, though: perfectly balanced, flavorful, and the tender crust is the quickest ever, with no resting time. if you can stand to turn your oven on, get thee to the market for some chevre and make this one tonight!

david lebovitz' summer tomato and goat cheese tart
found here

tart filling

dijon or whole-grain mustard

2-3 large ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp 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
1 1/2 tbsp flavorful honey

tart dough
1 1/2 cups (210 g) flour
4 1/2 ounces (125 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, and chilled again1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg2-3 tbsp ice water

for dough:
mix flour and salt in a bowl. add the butter and with hands or a pastry blender, break in the butter until the mixture has a crumbly, cornmeal-like texture. mix egg with 2 tablespoons of ice 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 doesn't come together easily, add an additional tablespoon of ice water. turn dough onto parchment-lined counter, and collect into a ball, then roll the dough, adding additional flour only as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. transfer dough to a prepared baking sheet preheat the oven to 425ºf (218ºc).

to fill:
spread an even layer of mustard over the bottom of the tart dough and let it sit a few minutes to dry. slice tomatoes into half-inch, horizontal planes and arrange them over the mustard in a single, even layer. drizzle olive oil over the top. sprinkle with some chopped fresh herbs and freshly ground black pepper, then arrange the slices of goat cheese on top. add some more fresh herbs and drizzle with honey. gather dough edges to envelope the filling, overlapping where necessary. bake the tart for 30-ish minutes, until the dough is cooked through, the tomatoes are tender, and the cheese on top is nicely browned.


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