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Delicious, Delightful, Dynamic Duo

Summer Tomatoes and Versatile Cheese

Posted: August 3, 2011 - 10:02am
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Lower right, King Arthur Flour, www.kingarthurflour.com
Slice cheese while it is cold, but for optimal melting, bring cheese to room temperature before using it to make tarts, quiches or grilled cheese sandwiches – delicious served alongside a bowl of homemade cream of tomato soup. Vintage Campbell’s Soup salt and pepper shakers and soup bowl from the collection of Jim Conforti, Sound Beach, New York.

Stringy, elastic, mozzarella cheese is as much a hallmark of pizza as the tomato sauce that is swirled on top of it. The combination of cheese and deep tomato flavor, baked on a bread-like crust is addictive. We adore the combination of cheese and tomatoes so much , in fact, that we eat them every chance we get from omelets for breakfast, quiches and tarts for lunch and grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup for supper. No matter how we enjoy cheese and tomatoes, it is important to consider what cheese will be used, where. While mozzarella cheese is ideal for pizza, cheeses that melt smoothly, such as Cheddar, Fontina, Gruyère, Havarti, Monterey Jack or Muenster, is what you’d want to put into a toasted sandwich.

And, for folks who like the taste of cheese and tomatoes in cold salads, a non-melting cheese, such as Feta, for instance, would be the way to go. Farmers markets and home gardens are bulging with vine-ripened tomatoes. Though getting cheese throughout the year is never a problem, the same can’t be said about the availability of locally grown, farm fresh tomatoes. Enjoy them while they’re here and in as many ways, you can.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

Mmm - Soooo Good: Fresh Cream of Tomato Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 pounds fresh tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1½ teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 sprig fresh thyme
½ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup heavy cream, plus more for serving
Finely sliced basil leaves, for garnish, optional

In a non-reactive 6-quart saucepot, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. When butter melts, add onion and cook until onion becomes translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until garlic softens, being careful not to let garlic burn. Add the flour, stirring to coat the vegetables. Add the broth, tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 40 minutes, or until tomatoes are tender.

Remove pot from heat, discarding thyme. Allow soup to cool for about 15 minutes, then, working in batches, ladle the soup into the container of a blender and process until smooth. Place a fine mesh sieve over the saucepot and pour soup from blender through the sieve back into the saucepot; let stand for about 35 minutes, then press on what solids are left in the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible. (Skim what solids have collected on the bottom side of the sieve into the pot, as well.) Discard the vegetable matter that remains in the sieve – you are done with it.

Slowly add ½ cup cream to the soup, gently whisking to blend well. Reheat over low heat, but do not allow to boil. Adjust seasoning and serve with additional cream. Garnish with sliced basil leaves, as desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Fresh Tomato Tarts

Recipe and photograph courtesy King Arthur Flour, www.KingArthurFlour.com (1-800-827-6836)

Crust
2 cups King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
½ cup cream cheese
½ to ¾ teaspoon salt*
2 tablespoons buttermilk powder, optional (may be purchased from King Arthur Flour, www.kingarthurflour.com)
10 tablespoons cold butter
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
*Use the lesser amount of salt if you use salted butter

Filling for large tarts**
6 large eggs, beaten
1½ cups milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon salt
2 medium tomatoes, sliced in ¼-inch thick slices
**To make one large tart rather than two, simply halve all of the ingredients

Filling for small tarts
32 cherry or grape tomatoes
1 cup shredded cheese, blue cheese or Cheddar***

To make the crust: Put the flour in a bowl, or in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the cream cheese, salt and buttermilk powder. Mix together until everything is evenly crumbly. If you’re using a food processor, just a few quick pulses are all you’ll need. Cut the cold butter into pieces and work it into the flour, leaving some visible pieces. Sprinkle the dough with the cold water and toss. Squeeze the dough to determine if it holds together. If it’s too dry, add water 1 tablespoon at a time, using just enough so the dough will hold together.  Divide the dough in half, to make two 9-inch tarts. Or, divide it in eight pieces, to make eight (4½ -inch) tarts. Or make one full-sized tart and four small tarts.

Flatten each piece of dough into a disk, wrap well, and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer.

If you’re making two large tarts: Roll each piece of dough to a 12-inch diameter.

For small tarts: Roll each piece to a 5½-inch to 6-inch diameter.

Gently place the rolled-out pastry in the tart pan, smoothing it over the bottom and tucking it into the sides. Roll your rolling pin across the top of the pan to cut off the excess pastry. Peel the pastry away from the edge of the pan. You can bake these trimmings along with the tarts, for a crunchy/flaky snack.

If you’re making small tarts: Prick the bottom crust all over with a fork. Bake them in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes; they’ll probably puff up a bit, despite the pricking; and their sides will slide down the edges of the pan. That’s OK.

Remove the tarts from the oven, and set aside while you make the filling.

If you’re making two 9-inch tarts: Refrigerate the crusts while you prepare the filling.

To fill the mini tarts: Place about 8 cherry tomato halves in the bottom of each tart shell. Sprinkle each tart with 2 tablespoons of your favorite shredded cheese; we like a combination of blue cheese and cheddar.

Bake the tarts in a preheated 425-degree oven for about 20 minutes, until their crusts are brown and the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven, and serve warm, or at room temperature.

To fill the standard tarts: Whisk together the eggs, milk, cheese, herbs, and salt. Divide the mixture between the two chilled shells. Lay the sliced tomatoes on top. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is brown and the custard is set. Remove from the oven, and serve warm.

Yield: 2 large or 8 small tarts.

***Kitchen Ade Note: In case you’re wondering,  blue cheese will melt – around the mold.

Mini Quiches

Recipe adapted from a recipe appearing in “Babycakes Cupcake Maker Recipe Book,” www.selectbrands.com

1 prepared uncooked (9-inch) pie crust
1 large egg
1/3 cup half and half
1/3 cup shredded Swiss cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash nutmeg
2 teaspoons grated fresh onion
1 small tomato, skinned and seeded (reserve tomato skins for garnish)*
1/3 cup thinly sliced basil leaves, plus more for garnish
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

To make filling, whisk together egg and half, and half in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in Swiss cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and onion. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut pie dough into 8 disks. Fit pie discs into 8 wells of an ungreased, nonstick muffin tin. Evenly divide the tomatoes and basil among the cups. Pour filling into each of the cups, filling almost to the top. Sprinkle tops with Parmesan cheese.

If using the cupcake maker, bake for about 10 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

If baking in a conventional oven, bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until filling is set and puffed. Remove from oven and allow to set 5 minutes before serving.

Garnish with rolled pieces of tomato skins and strips of fresh basil.

Makes 8 mini quiches.

*Kitchen Ade Note: Tomatoes are easily skinned by plunging them into boiling water for about 10 seconds. When cool enough to handle, just slip off the skins. To seed a tomato, cut tomato in half horizontally, then gently squeeze out seeds and pulp, over a bowl. If any seeds remain behind, just coax them out gently with your fingers.

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