Friday, August 23, 2013

Tomato Crostata with Honey Thyme Glaze

First it was a Panzanella, now it's a Tomato Crostata with Honey Thyme Glaze. I guess you could say I am keeping a bit of a tomato theme this month. But even though this is the second recipe using tomatoes this month, the two could not be more completely different from one another. The Panzanella being a salad dish while the crostata can be a main course, a dish to serve before dinner or all its' own with cocktails. It is versatile, it has an incredible flavor and it is beautiful to look at. This is the trifecta of all crostatas! And as Ina Garten might say 'Does it get any better than that?'. But this recipe does not come from the Barefoot Contessa, instead it comes from the equally amazing Melissa Clark, cookbook author and food writer for the New York Times. It is she who is responsible for creating and sharing this incredible recipe.

It is one of those recipes I came across by chance as I was not looking for another tomato or another savory crostata recipe. But once I read it I knew that I had to make it now, while tomatoes are in season. And I promise, really promise, that if you serve this crostata to your family and friends it will disappear quickly. It is so good that you might almost wish you had made two of them (because you might not even get a slice). And maybe depending on how many people you are serving, you probably should. The recipe said it could be served warm or at room temperature. It tasted absolutely divine room temperature and unless I was making it for a lunch, I think that is how I would serve it again.

A few weeks back I switched out an ingredient without success so it was with a little trepidation that I switched out an ingredient in the dough recipe. However, in switching out the fine cornmeal with corn flour I could not have been happier with the outcome (not to mention having the added benefit of a boost of confidence). Not only is the crust incredibly delicious, the layers of garlic, cheese, thyme and tomatoes make this a rather sinful savory crostata.

The look of the crostata will vary depending on the colors of tomatoes you use. Whether you use all of one color or a combination of colors, it will still be a feast for the eyes. There were some beautiful locally grown tomatoes at the farm stand I go to and I couldn't resist getting them. And since I have rather monochromatic tendencies anyway, it really wasn't that surprising that I made this crostata with all red tomatoes.

The tomatoes are sliced to a 1/4 inch thickness and placed on a baking sheet lined with two layers of paper towels. A teaspoon of Kosher salt is sprinkled over the tomatoes and they are let to sit for at least one hour or up to three hours. I let them to for two hours as this was the same amount of time the dough needed to be refrigerated. The sliced tomatoes will be brushed with a honey-thyme mixture right before the crostata is assembled.

Awhile back I shared my aversion to making dough, however, it seems I have now gotten (or as still getting) past this unfounded reluctance. I am not sure whether I have just come across some really great dough recipes, ones that help to boost one's dough making confidence or if I am just getting better working with dough. I think its' probably a combination of both. What makes this dough just a little different or a little more savory is the infusion of grated New York extra sharp cheddar cheese. It is a d dough made in a food processor and once made, it is rolled into a ball, flattened, covered in plastic wrap and allowed to chill for at least two hours.

Once chilled the dough it is rolled out on a floured surface to a 1/4 inch thickness. You should end up with a 12 inch circle, not a perfect circle as this crostata is meant to be just a little bit rustic. After it is rolled out, it is placed on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerated for 20 minutes.

The recipe calls for both a honey-thyme as well as an extra-virgin olive oil-garlic mixture. Both are easy to make and each takes less than 5 minutes. For the honey-thyme mixture, you put the cider vinegar, honey and sprigs of thyme into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Once made the mixture is placed in a bowl and set aside. Using the same saucepan (wiped out), the extra virgin olive oil and garlic are placed on stove cooking only until the garlic is golden and lightly caramelized. The garlic cloves are removed from the olive oil, chopped and set aside. The remaining garlic infused olive oil is also reserved.

When the crostata is ready to assemble, you will begin by placing one cup of shredded New York extra sharp cheese (I bought a block of cheese and shredded it myself), one tablespoon of chopped thyme and the chopped garlic on the dough, making sure you leave a 3 inch border. Before layering the tomatoes, you will sprinkle some freshly ground pepper over the cheese layer. After layering the tomatoes, the remaining one tablespoon of thyme and the reserved garlic infused olive oil is drizzled over the top.

The crust is gently folded up and brushed with an egg wash. Before placing in a 425 degree preheated oven, the crostata is sprinkled with sea salt. Oh, and don't forget to place the sprigs of thyme that were cooked with cider vinegar and honey on top.

The crostata is baked for 30 to 35 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown. I took my crostata out of the oven after 30 minutes. If serving warm, allow the crostata to set for at least 15 minutes before cutting.  To cut the crostata into wedges, a pizza cutter worked perfectly.

Tomato Crostata with Honey-Thyme Glaze (very slight adaptation to the recipe created by Melissa Clark)

1 cup all purpose flour (plus more for rolling out dough)
1/2 cup corn flour (or 1/2 cup fine cornmeal)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
4 to 6 Tablespoons ice water

1 1/2 - 1 3/4 pounds of tomatoes (can use a variety or all of the same), sliced to 1/4 inch thickness. Note: If using cherry or grape tomatoes need only 3/4 pounds.
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (divided)
4 to 6 sprigs of thyme
Black pepper
1 large egg plus 1 teaspoon water
Maldon sea salt

1. Add flour, corn flour and salt to food processor. Pulse to blend.
2. Add butter and cheese pulsing until mixture forms chick-pea size pieces.
3. Add ice water 1 Tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture is just moist enough to hold together.
4. Form dough into a ball and flatten. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

1. Line a baking sheet with two layers of paper towels. Place tomato slices and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Let sit for at least 1 or up to 3 hours (I let sit for 2 hours).
2. In small sauce pan, mix cider vinegar, honey and thyme springs. Bring to a simmer. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
3. Wiping out the saucepan, add olive oil and garlic. Cook garlic for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden and caramelized. Remove garlic and chop. Reserve the garlic oil.

1. On a lightly floured surface roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. The dough should form a 12 inch circle. Place rolled dough on a parchment lined baking pan and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
2. On the chilled dough, sprinkle cheese, chopped garlic and half of the chopped thyme leaving a 3 inch border of dough. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
3. Pat tomato slices dry with a paper towel and brush each slice with the honey thyme glaze.
4. Layer tomatoes over cheese/garlic/thyme mixture in an overlapping pattern (leaving a 3 inch border of dough). 
5. Over the tomatoes, sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon of chopped thyme and drizzle with reserved garlic flavored olive oil.
6. Gently fold crust up around tomatoes, leaving a inch border.
7. In a small bowl, whisk egg and 1 teaspoon of water. Brush egg wash over the dough. Season top of crostata with sea salt and the reserved sprigs of thyme (the ones cooked with the cider vinegar and honey).
8. In a preheated 425 degree oven, bake crostata for 30 to 35 minutes or until pastry in deeply golden brown.
9. Serve warm or at room temperature. Recommend serving at room temperature.

I have always loved finding gifts for family and friends, not just birthday and holiday gifts, but you know those impromptu, just for the fun of it gifts. I can be at an antique show, in a store or browsing online and think 'that would be a perfect present for.......'. There is something about sending (as well as receiving) an unexpected gift that is just fun. More fun than sending the sometimes expected birthday or holiday gifts. Sometimes I have sent a gift to someone to let them know I have been thinking about them or because their words or actions made me smile or laugh or even to strengthen a connection.

But regardless of the reason, truth be told, the fun for me is not just in the purchase of the gift but in the reaction of the recipient. Seeing my niece or nephew wear clothes or jewelry I have bought them or having someone listen to a CD, read a book or watch a DVD sent to them are the best kind of reactions one could hope for or that I could hope for. Because when I send a gift to someone I am sharing with them a part of myself. And sometimes just a little validation is the best kind of gift to receive in return.

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