Fresh tomatoes: If you've got ’em, flaunt ’em. In tarts

Tomato envy.

It’s everywhere.

From Norwich, Vermont, to Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, to Ashland, Oregon, the annual Tomato Competition is in full swing.

“How big are your tomatoes?”

“Oh, well, they’re coming along pretty good. How big are your tomatoes?”

Frankly, I’m a newbie tomato grower. I basically have no clue about tomatoes. I know there are big tomatoes, and little tomatoes (cherry? grape? Don’t confuse me here!). And there are tomatoes that are kind of oval shaped and bland, and tomatoes that are big and juicy and full of seeds. After that, I’m lost.

But, thanks to my Tomato Success Kit from our fellow Vermonters up at Gardener’s Supply, for the past two years I’ve grown really good tomatoes.

And, like any timid newcomer to gardening, once I’ve found success growing one particular thing one particular way, I’m terrified of change.

I can grow Sweet Millions tomatoes in my Tomato Success Kit. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

Except this year, I waited too long to buy my Sweet Millions. Well, heck, we were still having frost just before Memorial Day. So when I finally got around to planting, the first weekend in June – no more Sweet Millions. Sold out.

Panic. Uhhhh…. now what?

“Oh, just get some big tomatoes. I like them better anyway,” said my husband, the guy who grew up on a farm and started weeding and hoeing and being sprayed with DDT at the age of 7.

I ventured to the farmstand. “Big Beef.” Well, that sounds… robust. OK – sold!

In the meantime, my friend Kathy, up at Gardener’s, gifted me with some Sungold cherry tomato plants. “You’ll love these,” she reassured me. “They’re my favorite.”

Well, who am I to argue with the Director of Gardening at Gardener’s Supply? It would be like telling Julia Child I didn’t think I’d try her recipe for duckling à l’orange, thanks just the same.

So the tomatoes have been growing for about 5 weeks. They’re nice and tall. Lots of leaves. They look great.

But where are the tomatoes?

I see a couple of discouraged-looking yellow blossoms. And a total of TWO – count ’em, two – tomatoes on my SIX tomato plants.

Now granted, up here in New England, it’s rained every day since who knows when. Pretty soon I expect to see the animals, two by two, filing down the street in search of Noah.

My pansies are frowning. My morning glories are far from glorious. My baskets aren’t hanging, they’re drooping.

And tomatoes? Zilch, zip, zero, nada, nothing.

So I’ve been asking people around the office, “How are your tomatoes?”

And the answer?

Well… let’s just say no one is growing any prize-winners this year.

The competition is off. A draw has been declared. We’re all in the same boat… er, Ark.

If, by some happy chance, the sun finally starts to shine and round about September I can finally pick some tomatoes, I know just what I’ll do with them:

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Fresh Tomato Tarts.

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We’ll make the crust first. I like to use buttermilk powder in my pie or tart crust; maybe it’s just my imagination, but I think the acid tempers the gluten, yielding a more tender crust. Also, it brightens the flavor just a tad.

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This particular crust recipe also uses cream cheese. Again, it adds flavor. Low-fat cream cheese works fine.

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First, mix 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons buttermilk powder, till the mixture is thoroughly combined and evenly crumbly. Can you leave out the buttermilk powder if you don’t have it? Yes, you may; you have my permission.

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Add 10 tablespoons cold butter, cut in pats.

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Work the butter in till the mixture is crumbly, but leave some of the butter in larger, visible pieces.

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Next, add 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water, enough to bring the dough together.

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You should be able to grab the dough easily, without it falling apart. It shouldn’t look dry.

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Decide how many tarts you want to make. This recipe wil make four small (4 1/2”) tarts, plus one large (9”) tart. Or two large tarts. Or eight small tarts. Or wrap and freeze half for another time. Lots of options.

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Divide the dough however you choose, flatten each piece into a rough disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, to make it easier to roll out. Can you refrigerate it longer? Sure. Just let it warm at room temperature till it’s pliable; if you try to roll it out and it cracks, it’s too cold; wait 15 minutes or so, then try again.

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Let’s make small tarts first. Get out four small tart pans. Removable bottoms are a nice touch. Place one piece of dough on a lightly floured work surface.

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For small tarts, you’re going to roll the  dough into a circle about 6” in diameter. That’s because the tart is 4 1/2” across the bottom, and 3/4” up each side – so 4 1/2” + 3/4” + 3/4” = 6”. Don’t worry if you don’t get it exactly right; better to roll a tiny bit larger…

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…so that there’s a bit of overlap.

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That way, you can roll the rolling pin across the top of the tart pan…

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…and cut off any excess. Take these trimmings and bake them along with the tarts; they’re a delicious, flaky snack. Baker’s treat!

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Prick the bottom of  the tart shell.

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Repeat with the remaining shells.

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Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes.

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The bottoms of the shells will puff up, and the sides will probably sliiiiiiide down the edges of the pans a bit. Don’t worry; all will be well in the end.

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Take about 8 cherry tomatoes, halve them across their equators, and place them in a tart shell. Repeat with the remaining shells. Sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons of shredded or crumbled cheese. Here I’ve used 1 tablespoon of blue cheese…

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…and 1 tablespoon of cheddar.

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Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for about 20 minutes, till the crusts are brown and the cheese is melted.

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Serve warm, or at room temperature. These make a delicious first course, or a nice summer lunch, served with a salad.

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Now, for the larger tart, select a 9” x 1” tart pan. For nicest presentation, a removable-bottom pan is best. Can you use a 9” pie pan? Sure. Just the look will change.

Roll the dough to about 12″ in diameter.

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Run the rolling pin over the top to cut off any excess. No need to prick the bottom of the crust.

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We’ll make a cheese-scented custard filling for this tart. For each 9” tart, combine 3 large eggs, 3/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup shredded cheese (again, cheddar or blue are good choices), 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk till thoroughly combined.

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Pour the custard into the crust.

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Slice a tomato into 1/4” slices; one 6- to 7-ounce tomato should be sufficient. Lay the tomato slices atop the custard.

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Bake the tart in a preheated 425°F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 10 minutes, till the crust is golden and the filling appears set. Remove from the oven, and wait about 15 minutes before serving.

Got tomatoes? You’re lucky! Now you know what to do with ’em.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Fresh Tomato Tarts.

Buy vs. Bake 

Buy: Hanover Coop Food Store, Hanover, NH: Asparagus and red pepper quiche, 9”, $10.99; $7.33/lb.

Bake at home: Fresh Tomato Tart, 9”; $4.54, $1.82/lb.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Trisha

    That looks so yummy!! BTW, my tomatos in NJ are way behind as well. But they will ripen eventually. Question: can I refrigerate the dough overnight? How long will it keep in the fridge? Can’t wait to try this one.

    Sure, Trisha, refrigerate overnight, just be sure to let it warm enough before rolling – 15 minutes or so. I’d keep it about 3 days in the frigde, max; any longer, best to freeze it. PJH

    Reply
  2. Gin

    Every year I shoot for ripe tomatoes by the first of July. This time, along with the other varieties, I bought one Early Girl bush and gave it a try. First ripe tomato came on June 16th! Now the Better Boys and Romas are in and we’re wallowing in tomatoes. (Hey! Put that rolling pin down!) Been eating a bunch and drying some of them for use in tomato herb breads, but I’m still left with more than I can use. Thanks for the ideas for what to do with them. BTW, I love the laid back, sometimes-things-aren’t-perfect tone of your blog. Miss seeing the entries on those days when you don’t post.

    You’re lucky, Gin – congrats! Tomorrow’s blog will tell you something else to do with fresh tomatoes… PJH

    Reply
  3. Claire in France

    Very appetising!
    If I may, I would suggest spreading some sharp mustard on the cooked shells before adding the filling…

    Nice touch-Joan@bakershotline

    Yes, someone else suggested this to me, too, Claire. I’ll have to try it, thanks. PJH

    Reply
  4. AJ

    We now have a nice crop of tomatoes after a rather watery Spring.
    They aren’t “State Fair” as far as overall looks but they are very tasty
    and that’s what counts! Can this dough be rolled out, put in pans and
    then frozen? That way we can make extra batches to thaw and bake while making the filling. We have limited counter space and must shift
    things around when rolling out doughs. This sounds like something
    we’d want to have often!

    Absolutely, go ahead and roll/freeze this dough, A.J. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  5. BigSis

    Wowee! I’m putting those on the “must make” list before our good Texas summer tomatoes are gone. I’ve made a tomato tart before, but my recipe had shredded cheese pre-baked directly on the bottom of the crust, so that the moisture from the tomatoes didn’t soak through and make it soggy. It seemed to work out well.

    I’ve done it that way, too – works very well. Also, I like the idea of mustard brushed on the bottom crust that another reader suggested. I really appreciate all the sharing that goes on here! PJH

    Reply
  6. Sue

    Overall it’s been a cool spring and summer here. Our cherry tomatoes haven’t ripened yet, so it might be August before we get any slicing tomatoes out of the garden! I’ll file this one away for later use. It looks like a good one. Thanks!

    Reply
  7. Sue

    I was just re-reading this post and I’m wondering why you pre-bake the little tart shells but not the 9″ shell. Maybe you said it and I missed it. I’m tired.

    Sue, because the larger shell, with the custard filling, has to bake longer to set the custard, anyway. The smaller shells, without custard, bake fast and hot, just to soften the tomatoes and melt the cheese, so the crust has to be at least partially pre-baked. (Sorry you’re tired!!!) PJH

    Reply
  8. Kari

    Oooh, now I really can’t wait for tomatoes! I have a feeling this dish will be mine, all mine…hub doesn’t like cooked fresh tomatoes, except as sauce. Here in WA state I have big beautiful plants with lots of flowers but no fruits yet. (we’ve had an amazing spring, one for the record books) but I grew from seed and got a little behind schedule.

    Reply
  9. Margy

    We got a late start because of a cool, rainy spring; some green tomatoes in our garden, but no ripe ones yet, not even at the farmers market or the CSA, although I did buy some green ones to bake a green tomato cake. My cherry tomato is producing red fruits; the problem is, they never make it as far as the house, because my favorite way to eat them is sun-warmed straight from the vine! Can’t wait for tomato sandwiches, yum!

    Reply
  10. Marcia

    My recipe for tomato tarts has ricotta cheese mixed with minced garlic; spread on the bottom after pre-baking the shell. I always drain the tomatoes and often squeeze out the seeds if it is especially juicy. Spread the tomato slices and bake. I love the individual size pans.

    Tomatoes do not set blooms until it gets hot. GA has been hot and we’ve had fresh home grown tomatoes since early June. I am waiting on more yellow ones. I think red and yellow tomatoes will make a lovely tomato tart.

    That sounds really good, Marcia – I love ricotta, but never thought to use it in a quiche-like way. THANKS- PJH

    Reply
  11. dina

    Here in Oregon the number of sunny days has been dismally few, as well. But we don’t really usually expect to see a bunch of ripe tomatoes until well into August – and then – watch out!

    I’ve had some amazing tomato dishes in Spain – and I’ve tried the past couple of years to duplicate them.

    I think your larger custard-based tart may be similar to one of the dishes I’ve been trying to duplicate. I’m definitely going to have to give this a go (even with store bought tomatoes – egad!) and see if it’s what I’ve been trying to do!

    Thanks so much!

    Let us know if it mimics your Spanish dish, Dina – thanks. PJH

    Reply
  12. Becca

    Oh, don’t even get me started about tomatoes. I mean, I expected it to be a while since I’m growing in a pot on my terrace in NYC, but the plants are nearly 5 ft tall and its only been in the last couple weeks that I’ve been seeing lots of lovely little branches with wee green cherry tomatoes on them. I’m only just now getting to the exciting part where I expect tomato BOOOM! And then…. tarts!!!

    Reply
  13. Matt

    Cream cheese is a no-no on my diet—could I substitute ricotta in the crust?

    I don’t think so… the consistency of the cream cheese contributes to the structure. You could substitute maybe 3 tablespoons of butter and some extra water? Or try the ricotta – but you’d need to cut back or eliminate the water, I think. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  14. Jen Schall @ My Kitchen Addiction

    These tarts look beautiful… although I doubt I will be getting any tomatoes on my plants this year thanks to a few furry friends (groundhogs) in my back yard. I think I will have to pick up some tomatoes at the farmer’s market to make these tarts.

    Reply
  15. Rachel

    I just love this blog! It’s so friendly and “down-to-earth”! I can’t wait to try this! My dad and I loooove quiche type dishes! Now I just have to buy a tart pan! =;)

    ~Miss Rachel~

    Reply
  16. Mary Swanson

    I’m in Florida and my tomatoes – which were excellent this year – are all done and gone, except for a few straggler cherry types. Wish I’d had this recipe a couple of weeks ago. Tomatoes are very hard to grow in Fla (The ones you get in the supermarket are picked green and are a weird variety that doesn’t even seem to be tomato.) This was my best year for tomatoes, mostly due to a Gardener’s Supply product called Rot Stop that makes up for the calcium deficiency in our soil. Please ask your friend to continue offering that product in the concentrated form. We use gallons of it! You will LOVE Sun Golds if and when they fruit for you. The flavor is unique and they are beautiful.

    Reply
  17. Bernie

    I tried to grow tomatoes this year, too, in Phoenix AZ. Of course I didn’t have to worry about frost or rain. However, I do get javelinas who love the tomatoes – plant and all! I am still trying to find some kind of a repellent to keep them out of my yard. They are very destructive and I still would like tomatoes. . . It just goes to show, be happy with the problems you’ve got! Molly @KAF

    Plantskydd deer repellent from Bonide – Over 50 field tests in the US and Canada produced “unmatched plant protection efficacy.” PJH

    Reply
  18. Marcia

    I know this will sound like sacrilege, but I don’t like tomatoes . . . the rest of the recipe looks delicious. How about substituting green beans or spinach or another vegetable for the top? Love the custardy quiche tart idea.

    Hey, even though it’s completely un-American to NOT like tomatoes – :) – how about some oven-roasted onions? Sautéed zucchini or summer squash rounds would be nice. Roasted peppers? Spinach would work, though it might shrink a lot and look icky (but still taste good); not sure how green beans would do. I’d err on the side of pre-cooking most vegetables. Speaking of, roasted potato chunks? YUM – PJH

    Reply
  19. J.B.

    PJ:
    Recipe looks divine, and I LUV tomatoes. With a nod to Bernie in Phoenix; I’m here in Tucson, & growing tomatoes is a challenge. I’m having minimal success with a small orange Sugar Tomato, but it’s a struggle. I don’t have to bother about javelinas, because my plant is in a pot in the back yard under a citrus tree. Unfortunately, with temperatures in the triple digits, daily, the tomatoes struggle. Thankfully, when the weather cools down into the low 90′s and 80′s in late Aug./Sept. we can get revived plants. So, Bernie should fence in his plants, continue to water them and hope for a reasonable crop later.

    My self imposed challenge is attempt to pre-bake my tart shells in an Advantium oven. This is a dual microwave with a Speedcook feature utilizing Halogen lights to cook. I’m experimenting with it (came with the house) to save turning on the big oven. Anyone had any experience with this machine?

    I’d love any feedback.

    Best,

    jb

    I’ve heard of Advantium ovens… but that’s the extent of my experience, sorry. Can anyone help J.B. here? PJH

    Reply
  20. Pat K.

    If you enjoy the combination of hot and cold, try putting cold sliced tomatoes on top of the tart as soon as it comes out of the oven.
    Delicious.
    I would like to know why the egg and milk mixture is not used on the small tarts. Was this direction left out in error?

    Pat K., West Chester, Pa.

    Nope, Pat, not left out. The small tarts are so shallow that the custard layer would have been so small as to be insignificant – I was afraid it would cook too fast and become rubbery. If your crusts don’t slip down the sides as you pre-bake them, you could probably pour about 3 tablespoons custard into each small tart. PJH

    Reply
  21. J.B.

    P.J.:
    Here’s an update on my posting yesterday. Made the larger tart (1/2) recipe in plopped it into an 8″ tart pan then pre-baked it for about 8-9 minutes in the Advantium oven – gorgeous, beautifully browned and nicely flaky result. My experiments with the machine have been quite satisfactory, I’m getting good with the darn thing and not just using it as a microwave. Day before I cooked a tasty pork tenderloin in it which was more than satisfying. AND bet of all, I don’t have to heat up the big oven. Guess I should pass this information on to Generous Electric (GE)? My food tester, critic, DH loved it. I should buy the small tart pans. Lovely tasty stuff, but wish I had BEEEG tomatoes!

    Best,

    jb

    Thanks for the report – glad to hear the Advantium isn’t all flash, but substance, too! PJH

    Reply
  22. Cherie Wagner

    Can I use the wheat flour the same as I would the unbleached flour? Sorry, I’m not a very educated baker. Thank you.

    Whole wheat flour, as it contains bran, will need a bit more liquid to make a soft workable dough. Keep an eye on it as it comes to tegether and adjust as needed. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  23. Gina

    These look great, although like you, I am still a long way from seeing ripe tomatoes from my garden (across Lake Champlain from you, neighbor!). But if I ever harvest any, here’s my favorite tomato tart:

    I pre-bake my crust for about 12 minutes at 400 degrees, then schmear some fresh, homemade pesto in the bottom of the crust, then add a generous layer of shredded aurrechio cheese on top of that (=sharp/aged provolone). I place different kinds/colors/sizes of heirloom tomato slices on top of the cheese, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. It needs another half hour in a 350 degree oven, then can be served hot or even at room temperature (if you can wait that long!). YUM!

    Reply
  24. lemonfair

    Mary Swanson – Have you thought of putting ground limestone on in the fall? You’d be able to give up the rot stop if you had a supply of Calcium in the soil – I even get by with adding a handful of lime in the planting hole in the spring.

    The other contributor to blossom end rot is uneven moisture, so anything you can do to see the moisture supply is more even would help, such as mulching and watering on a very regular basis. This will also help keep the tomatoes from splitting after a heavy rain.

    Reply
  25. non

    do these freeze once baked?

    Not very well… the custard gets watery. You’d have a beter shot at freezing the minis without custard, but still, the tomatoes, even though baked, might get very mushy and watery… all in all, I’d say these aren’t good candidates for freezing, sorry- PJH

    Reply
  26. Chelsey

    I have never made tomatoe tarts. Does the skin on the tomatoes present any problem after baking? Has anyone removed the skin before baking? I love BLT’s with the skin off… This recipe sounds yummy and I can’t wait to try.

    I didn’t have any trouble with the skin, Chelsey, but you sound like someone who prefers it off. Go ahead and peel them if you like – just be sure you use nice firm tomatoes, so the slices stay in one piece. PJH

    Reply
  27. Trina

    If I were to double the pastry recipe, use one now and then freeze the second recipe, which would be the best way to do it? I have a 1.5 hr commute to and from work so I try to plan ahead on my days off. I like to make/bake double for those days I simply don’t have the time to serve wonderful meals otherwise. Should I freeze it in a ball or would it be better to roll it out, cover it with waxed paper or parchment paper fold it in half and then vacuum seal it before putting it in the freezer for another day?I’ve found that it thaws much faster if it is rolled flat. I often keep a stack separated by parchment then slipped into a plastic bag, in my freezer. Just pull out the number you need put them on the counter and by the time I’ve assembled my ingredients, they are thawed. Mary @ KAF

    Reply
  28. JoniMacaroni

    We have been picking tomatoes 2-3 a couple of times for the last two weeks, our plants have been doing well even with all the rain. The eggplant which we didn’t think was coming along has finally begun to produce. We have exhausted our purple string beans, more then plentiful. Our Jalapeno’ pepper plants seem to be lagging only three on four plants. Oh, well you can’t have everything next year is another story!

    Reply
  29. Barbara

    My tomatoes here in Indiana got a late start, but I have had quite a few really LARGE one ripen–the range from 4 to 5 inches in diameter and are DELICIOUS! I have many more on the vine, but the weather has not been warm enough in the last week to ripen them–come on higher temperatures! I want to try the tarts.

    Reply
  30. Sharon "no baker" Moore

    Hi!I am no baker, so don’t laugh at my question. I can not eat wheat, so how can you sub the wheat flour for corn flour?

    Sharon – You cannot solely substitute corn flour for wheat flour. The protein in wheat flour develops into gluten which helps the rise and to provide a lighter texture. Please call our Bakers’ Hotline, 1-802-649-3717 or email a baker at bakers@kingarthurflour.com

    Reply
  31. Linda B

    For those of you who have harvested tomatoes….Congratulations. We in Minnesota are still waiting for good tomatoes. So far this year they have all cracked and have been few and far between pickings. Maybe it’s the tomato season that won’t be! Have only had 2 BLT’s!

    Reply
  32. Joanne

    Bad gardening year for me too!! First week of Sept and I just started to get some big tomatoes to turn red. The plants are just about kaput, but the tomatos are hanging in there. My Roma varieties did awful – no canning this year. Grape and cherries were not very prolific and they are usually very plentiful. I got some really huge ones this year – GIANTIQUE – from Gary Ibsen seeds – maybe 6-7 inches, but most are still green. Had our first “B”LT tonight (vegetarian bacon) with one of these tomatoes that did ripen and it was yummy. Will try this tart over the weekend at our garden community’s picnic.

    This was THE worst tomato growing year ever here in Maryland. I planted almost 50 plants – about 5 pooped out with a fungus, but the rest are still just “there” with a few tomatoes on them – mostly still green.

    WOW, 50 plants… I only did 6 (limited sunlight), and got a total of two – count ‘em, TWO – ripe tomatoes before they all turned slimy/gray with blight. Oh well, hope springs eternal, right? We’ll be right back at it next spring… PJH

    Reply
  33. Carolyn Hughes

    I very much wish you had a print function to print JUST the recipe and direction without all the fluff and comments. I just want the recipe! Thanks you.

    Carolyn

    Hi Carolyn – You can easily link to JUST a printable recipe from the end of the blog – scroll down to the start of the comments, and you’ll see this:

    Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Fresh Tomato Tarts.

    The Fresh Tomato Tarts is an active link. From the recipe, click “printable version” just above the picture. PJH

    Reply
  34. Audrey

    These look wonderful! I’ve seen some pretty quiches baked in a rectangular (e.g. 13×4 inch) fluted tart pan – could I adapt the 9-inch version or the mini version for that presentation?
    The 9″ version would be the best place to start experimenting. Have fun! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  35. bilbetw

    Can these be made ahead and frozen?
    Unfortunately neither the tomato and cheese or the custard tart would be good candidates for the freezer. Fresh tomatoes do not freeze well. ~Amy

    Reply

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