I’m writing to you from the middle of the late summer coda it didn’t look like we would to get this year – September ablaze with sudden sun that has us all pouring out of our houses, blinking in disbelief.
In the past two days I have decorated my shoulders with mosquito bites and garlanded my neck and arms with faint sunburn. There is a bittersweetness to this moment and its brevity, but for now, the only thing there is to do is to soak it all in one last time.
That’s just as true for what’s on your plate. Tomato season is almost over, but it’s not too late to make the most of it while you still can. Assuming you’ve already had your requisite number of caprese salads and BLTs, saucy pasta dishes and plates of bruschetta, there are yet more ways to take advantage of this narrow window of bounty. Allow me to introduce the cherry tomato tarte tatin.
For many, “tarte tatin” evokes caramelised, stewed apples and vanilla ice cream, and it’s true that apple is still the most common version of this dish. But really, you can make this tart – which, like upside-down cake, is traditionally baked with fruit at the bottom before being flipped onto a serving plate – with anything from plums to mushrooms. Or, in this case, a rainbow of heirloom cherry tomatoes.
Those tomatoes aren’t alone, though: they’re roasted, then mixed with slivers of garlic and sprigs of thyme, as well as caramelised shallots that cook down until jammy in a mixture of butter, honey and sherry vinegar. All that’s left to do is to top it off with a sheet of all-butter puff pastry, pop it in the oven until golden, and then work up the nerve to flip it in one seamless swoop.
While this vibrant late summer dish seems like it’d be a fit with a lighter, citric white wine, the savoury punch provided by the shallots needs to be matched by a wine of similar intensity. Enter Arndorfer’s Schlehe Amber Wine, a coppery marvel hailing from Austria’s Kamptal region.
A period of skin contact yields a richer body, and lick of tannin, but this wine is still velvet with stone fruits and peppery with ginger – a note that seems to jump out even more alongside the tarte tatin. Its plum and apricot aromas signal that, predictions of its early demise aside, summer perhaps isn’t over quite yet.
Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin
800g cherry tomatoes (I used a mix of colours and varieties)
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
30g unsalted butter
10-12 small shallots, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (preferably Valdespino)
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6-8 sprigs thyme, plus additional to garnish
1 320g roll all-butter puff pastry
125g goat cheese
Large handful fresh basil leaves, to garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and arrange the cherry tomatoes in an even layer. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle over the cumin seeds, and season generously with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, pausing halfway to rotate the pan, or until the tomatoes have all burst (but aren’t too darkened). Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the caramelised shallots. In a small frying pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat and add the shallots. Season with salt and pepper and turn the heat down to low. Stir frequently for 20-25 minutes, or until softened and starting to turn golden. Add the honey and vinegar and raise the heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes more, or until the shallots are softened, darkened and jammy. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
3. Fetch an oven-safe, 9-10-inch frying pan (preferably cast-iron or another non-stick option). Using a slotted spoon, separate the cherry tomatoes from their juices and arrange in an even layer over the surface of the frying pan (doing so ensures the tart doesn’t get too soggy). Next, add the caramelised shallots, followed by the garlic slices. Strip the thyme leaves from their stems and sprinkle over.
4. Roll out the puff pastry and cut into a rough circle that’s large enough to slightly overlap the tomato layer (if the pan is wider than the pastry sheet, trim off an end of the dough and use it to patch any gaps). Tuck the puff pastry snugly around the tomato layer, and pierce all over with a fork or small knife so it doesn’t rise too much. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden, slightly puffed up, and the tomatoes are starting to sizzle around the edges. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
5. Slip a knife or spatula around the edge of the tarte tatin to loosen it. Place a large serving plate over the pan and – using oven mitts or a towel if it’s still hot – gently flip the two together, so the tart slides onto the plate. Rearrange any of the tomatoes that have slipped out of place before topping with the remaining thyme sprigs, crumbling over the goat cheese, and finishing with the basil leaves. Serve warm.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription box.