I was going to write this post about the last days of summer, which are ebbing away from us faster than it takes us to hum Gershwin’s Summertime. I was going to write about the food stalls at nearby Marché Atwater, in which piles of beautifully-arranged squash are threatening to take over the last holds of summer berries and plum-shaped local tomatoes. I was going to write about how it’s hard to believe it’s all coming to an end, when just this weekend was one of the hottest Montreal has experienced in a long while. I was going to write about how easy it is to hold on to summer for just a little bit longer, in the form of a tomato tart with an olive-oil crust that is full of tangy (vegan) mayonnaise, sharp, grainy mustard, and the summer’s last tomatoes. But instead, I think I’m going to have to write about disappointment.
I just got an email telling me I didn’t get yet another job I applied for. And yes, I know that is a silly problem to have, to be blessed with the ability to live in a beautiful, exciting city, spend your time working on building a career out of your passion for writing and food, and to have a cuddly cat in your lap as you do so. I know I am stupendously fortunate to have a brilliant, supportive partner who manages to find time to hold my hand in the middle of studying for this silly little thing called law school. I am lucky in so many ways, and I know it.
But there are other parts to this, parts that are not photogenic enough to put on a blog. There are the strangers in this lovely city who spit on me as I walk by the street (granted, they are likely battling mental illness, and this has only happened once, but still). There are the telemarketers who make fun of my French on the phone. There are the times I struggle to say ‘these ones’ in French because I can’t figure out if the object in question is masculine or feminine.
There are the hours spent with your camera covered in flour, trying fruitlessly to find a new way to shoot a white soup on a white table in a very dark kitchen, with the dining room table pressed against the wall because that’s the only place even a little bit of light gets in. There are the frantic runs to the store to buy vegan margarine in the middle of making a recipe, because your last container just ran out, and you’re worried the batter will deflate. There are the times you spill ground coffee all over the kitchen, minutes after you washed the floor because you had, earlier, spilled all of your uncooked quinoa grains.
There are the times your cat meows because you forgot to feed him as you sat in front of your computer for two hours, first thing in the morning, commenting on other blogs and sending work inquiries around. There are the times your boyfriend is mad at you because it’s 11:20pm on a Sunday and you’re still clocking in your 12th hour in front of a computer that day, because you have self-imposed deadlines. There are the times that supportive partner tells you that’s. just. enough. whining. for the day.
And yet, we bounce back up. Because the fortune of doing what you love, even if no one is paying you for it, or paying attention, or even telling you it’s working, does not come cheap. And because you know that nothing good comes easy. And because your mom tells you that what is yours, will come. And because you have nice, long dreams about Victorian-aged girls singing proud, heartfelt songs about conquering what is theirs, and it’s gotta mean something, dammit.
And because at the end of the day, there is that summer’s last tomato tart on the table, beckoning you with its tangy siren call. The result of several attempts to capture the essence of those last summer tomatoes just one more time, and fusing recipes by Chocolate & Zucchini, La Table de Nana, and Smitten Kitchen, this tomato tart tastes just like the best tomato sandwich. It can also be made vegan or just vegetarian, crowned with cheese or left to bask in all of its tomato-sandwichy glory. This tomato tart is what makes your grateful boyfriend spring up in joy and say, “wow, you made pizza pie!”. And it, too, reminds me of my grandmother, but that’s a story for another day.
And if even that tomato tart fails to cheer you up, there’s always tomorrow.
Summer's last tomato tart
- For crust:
- 1.5 cups whole-wheat flour
- 1/2 cup corn flour NOT corn starch
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 TB chopped fresh thyme
- juice of half a lemon
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 cup ice cold water
- For filling:
- 2 TBs vegan mayonnaise
- 1 TB grainy mustard
- 3 large tomatoes or more smaller ones
- 3 tsps chopped fresh thyme or more (to taste)
Preheat oven to 375F.
Mix flours, salt, and chopped thyme in a large bowl. Create a well in the middle, and pour in olive oil, ice water, and lemon juice. Mix liquids into the flour with a fork just until the liquid is absorbed and large clumps are created. Knead lightly 4-5 times, but no more, forming the dough into a ball.
Turn out dough onto a floured work surface. With a floured rolling pin, and working in quick, decisive movements, roll out the dough into a tart shape that is big enough to cover your tart form. Do not overwork the dough, just roll it out enough to ensure it'll cover your pan. When ready, gingerly lift the dough from the work surface and drape it over the tart shell. Cut off excess dough and discard (or roll it out, sprinkle with sea salt and herbs, and bake into a few crackers).
Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix vegan mayo with grainy mustard and 1 tsp of chopped thyme. Slice tomatoes into thick slices (about 1/2 an inch in thickness), and remove the seeds and excess juice from them (otherwise, your tart may get soggy - but you don't have to be too diligent about this, because you still want your tomatoes to keep some of their juiciness). Smear mayonnaise, mustard and thyme spread onto tart shell, and cover with tomatoes arranged in concentric, slightly overlapping circles.
Top with an additional teaspoon of chopped thyme, a pinch of salt, and some freshly ground black pepper.
Bake at 375F oven for 15 minutes, followed by another five minutes at 400F on the grill/broil setting (where the heat will crisp up your tomato a bit from the top). Serve hot, or even cold from the fridge - the tart keeps beautifully for a couple of days (just don't reheat in the microwave, please).