Thursday, December 3, 2009

When Caramel and Tomatoes Get Together, Beautiful Savory Tarts Are Born

In edible chemistry news this week, the Tomato Federation sent a delegate to the people of Caramel on Tuesday.  The aim of this mission was to help these two cultures better understand one other thru an exchange of good will - therefore ending a centuries-long feud between their nations.  The good citizens of Onion and Rosemary were kind enough to mediate this meeting, and reported this momentous occasion a great success. 

As a symbol of their newly forged peace, the nations created a tart... a tart so delectable that one might wonder if tomato and caramel have stayed apart this long in order to preserve us humans from the catastrophic possibility of tearing apart our own society - battling each other for just another slice of this heavenly invention.  What the future holds for these two races is hard to say, but one thing is clear... it's a little brighter now.

So, OK, a while back I read an article in the New York Times about a caramelized tomato tart Tatin.  I'm not normally the sort of person that likes major collides between sweet and savory (I mean, the bread and butter pickle is gross, come on), but I was intrigued by this recipe.  Maybe it was just the high praise Melissa Clark had for this dish, and her mouthwatering descriptive powers, but I couldn't get this notion out of my mind.  Tomato and caramel... caramel and tomatoes...

So here's my own version of this lovely dish.  I've made a few key changes for the sake of something different - this is not a Tatin, as there is no puff pastry dough, but instead a pâte brisée dough - the sort used for traditional savory, flaky tart crusts.  The recipe for the crust can be found at very talented Erika the Pastry Chef at Home's website.  I laced in some fresh rosemary during the incorporation of the butter step, but if you're using a store bought crust, you can leave it out or add it to the bottom of the shell when you're filling it.  I like both versions of this tart, but the pâte brisée version has a nice flakiness to play off the juicy tomatoes that I love.  I also take out the step of the separate caramel sauce prep and create the sauce with the onions in the pan (since my version isn't inverted for baking).

Please don't let the idea of the caramelizing throw you off on this one, it's not a cloying-ly sweet dish whatsoever - if it were, I would not like it.  Instead, the caramel lends a pleasant, binding gooey-ness to a lovely toothsome filling.  I hope you enjoy it - just not too much, we don't want to start any civil wars over a tart...

Recipe: Caramelized Tomato Onion Tart with Rosemary Crust

What to get (adapted from this recipe)

1 premade pie crust, or use the recipe found here to make your own and add 1 TB fresh chopped rosemary

1 pound of cherry or grape tomatoes (I used the mini heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe's)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 red onions, sliced thin
1/3 cup of white sugar
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh minced thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional add ins:

1 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup pitted, chopped Kalamata olives

What to do with it all...

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees
Shape your pie crust to a 9 inch tart pan and refrigerate, covered, until ready to fill
In a medium skillet, heat your butter and add onions and salt and pepper to taste - cook on low for 15 - 20 minutes, or until translucent
Stir in sugar and vinegar and thyme and allow to dissolve, stirring
Cook on low until bubbling
Remove your tart crust from refrigerator and add your whole tomatoes - also olives/cheese if you choose to use these

Top with onion/caramel mixture and bake in oven for 25 mins, or until crust is browned and tomatoes are softened and caramelized by the sugars

Thanks for reading and please vote for my Vietnamese Moo Shu Recipe over at Foodista!


  1. Mae, The story at the begining is awesome. It is wonderfully written...wonderful and the pictures are great too! You rock girl. Absolutely my kind of person :)

    about the is so intriguing that I wanna make this myself. I am not a huge fan of tart..but the fact that caramel and tomatoes together...itself is enough to take curiosity take a hold of me...will keep you posted on this...but girl you got me!

  2. Mmmmmmmm This looks delicious! & the first pic! made me chuckle! Really great posttt!! :D This reminds me of something my headchef at work makes! good work!

  3. Jhonny, you rock. For you to say it's good writing, I'm in heaven. *proudest smile*

    Bigarade, I just realized you're a commis chef, which is so awesome. I'd love to know more about the similar dish! I'm always popping by your site, so I'll see what I can find there ;).

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Wow, I LOVE the main pic... very creative and of course, beautiful. But I expected nothing less from you, Mae!

    I really enjoyed reading this and have voted for you on Foodista, lovely lady! x

  6. I read this over about four times. I was thinking, 'Where are the caramels?'. I am glad they don't actually go in there. That would be gross!

    I bet it's delicious. And I recently inherited a pie dish. Well, I saved it from being thrown out...

  7. I love the tomato in the caramel wrapper, and the caramels with their stems -- conceptual food photography at its best. And, the tart looks damn good too!

  8. i bet it tasted as good as it looks! the acidity from the tomatoes would be balanced wonderfully by robust caramelised onions. we used to dry our cherry tomatoes, halved, scattered over rock salt and left overnight in the plate warmer and they would be so soft, sweet and succulent the next day. absolutely gorgeous in amuse tarts filled with whipped chevre

  9. First photo is so clever and CUTE! That was an imaginative intro as well.

    I really like the photo of the unbaked rosemary laced pâte brisée - it looks so beautiful.

    You are officially the unhip savory pastry goddess! I am very proud.

  10. this looks like a keeper..should put this bout on pay per view

  11. sounds like a great combination of flavors. i voted for ya at foodista, love your moo shu turkey recipe!

  12. Very creative on all fronts: lead, photos and recipe. If you had my home-canned bread and butter pickles, you might change your mind. :-)

  13. Love your photo with the tomato in the cellophane wrapper and tomato stems on the caramel - genius! Great post, and wonderful tart!

  14. I love the whimsical opening photo...and am obviously not alone on that front!

  15. I at first was very skeptical of the caramel part as I too am not a huge sweets person, but I love how this all came together and I can just imagine that it lends the right amount of gooey-goodness! Awesome story & recipe, blog twin :D

  16. I enjoy your take on the world. It's great to smile when I eat if it is a bit messy.

  17. I gave you a blog award that has to do with your edible chemistry although you can't tell by looking at the award itself. Come by and pick it up!

  18. hi Mathea
    yes great recipe I love the mix of sweet and salted food !! cheers from Paris (it rains today!)Pierre

  19. This looks too interesting to ignore.. hmm...I may have to put this on the to-do list!

  20. Great recipe and love the idea of using tomatoes... First time here and you have awesome of collection of recipes.. will be back often and glad to follow you.



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