Tarte Tomate à la Provençale

As autumn will soon be fast approaching we are enjoying the last days of summer, the warmth of the still generous sunshine and the end to the bountiful harvest it brings with it.  With Provence thriving in the summertime these months have been filled with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables bought at the weekly markets, all grown within this region and all bursting with love from the strong Provence sun ever present throughout the season.  Spending time with Eric’s mom during the month of August, or summer holiday as they say in France, eating has been nothing less than delicious.  Born, raised and having lived in Aix en Provence for most of her life, Simone is a true Provençale at heart with a library full of authentic recipes of this region.  Although the food may not all be fancy, as opposed to more traditional French cuisine, it is brimming with aromas and flavors from the ripest of ingredients, with the sunshine, terroir and love of the local farmers shining through in each bite.  Tarte tomate à la Provençale, is one of my favorites and has become a staple in our summer cuisine.  Thank you Simone for sharing. 

The first time I ate this tart was during a vacation in Provence for my wedding, which will be 5-years ago this weekend.  With a slew of family here for the occasion, Simone hosted a lunch for my mother, sisters and I while we spent the day shopping at the local market in Aix.  Sitting around the table in her beautiful Provençal apartment, we sipped on rosé wine and nibbled on olives, tapenade, creamy cheeses and crispy baguettes, cooling from the hot, end of summer heat.  Basking in the joy of the day, sharing stories while enjoying our aperitifs, Simone retreated from the kitchen with a tomato tart, perfectly browned , the soft aroma of grilled herbs filling the apartment.  The sight of elegant Simone carrying the beautiful tart adorning a platter made by her local potter friend was a sheer vision of Provence!  We all relished the tart with its tanginess, sun-drenched tomatoes and thin, crisp crust.  Accompanied by a fresh green salad drizzled in local olive oil and salt from Camargue, I could not have asked for a more perfect lunch.  The taste of Provence introduced to my family.  A dish made of seasonal and local ingredients, fresh from the market, basic but flavorful, simple but elegant.  

Reflecting back on that day, I was completely saturated in happiness.  The realization that I was getting married in a few short days but also that I was sitting in Provence with my mother and sisters, sharing that special time and place with them, my soon to be husband and his family.  I remember that moment like it was yesterday.  Each time that I make this tart, I am reminded of that lunch and those weeks spent in Provence 5-years ago.  It never ceases to amaze me how a smell, sight or sound can transport you back to a different moment or place in your life.  The power of our memory and our hearts is often the vehicle to remind us that the simple joys of life are often the most rewarding.

The beauty of this tart lies in its simplicity, from its ingredients to the ease in making it, its flavor from hints of the spicy Dijon enhancing the sun-ripened tomatoes and to its understated elegance.  Whichever type of tomato you choose, the fleshier the better to make a truly flavorful tart.  Experiment with different herbs or cheese if you opt for it. Whether served warm or cold, with rosé, white or red, this tart is versatile and just as lovely served as a starter, a main dish with a side salad, or even as an appetizer by cutting it into small squares. 

Although tomato season is almost over, it seemed fitting to share this recipe now.  As I head into my wedding anniversary weekend I look forward to celebrating with my husband, reflecting on our life.  I will be filled with nostalgia of the past 5-years but also for the current one, my year in Provence.  I do hope that you still have some ripe tomatoes waiting patiently for you in your kitchen so that you can enjoy this tart, pour a glass of your favorite wine, taste a little flavor from Provence and create your own nostalgia just as I did for the first time 5-years ago…. Bon appétit!

Provençal Tomato Tart

1 puff pastry (or standard flour crust if preferred)

6-8 medium-large ripe tomatoes, ideally heirloom or coeur de boeuf/beefsteak

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1-2 teaspoons thyme, herbs de Provence, or basil (or herb of your choice)

Salt and pepper to taste

Cheese, suggested Parmesan or Gruyere, optional

Olive oil for seasoning

Baking sheet lined with parchment paper

1.  Wash and dry all tomatoes.  Cut into thin slices and place into a colander for 45-60 minutes to drain the juice.  Peeling the tomatoes before slicing them is also an option if you prefer no skin.

2.  Flour your work surface and let the puff pastry sit at room temperature for about 5-10 minutes.  Roll the pastry (or dough) to fit the pan or until about 1/4 of an inch thick.  I usually use a small rectangular baking sheet but a pie or tart crust can also be used, if preferred.

3.  Place the rolled dough onto the parchment paper.  Fold the edge of the dough over to form a small crust.

4.  Spread the Dijon mustard on the dough just to the edges of the crust.  Spread evenly making sure to cover the entire tart generously, but do not drown the tart in mustard either. 

5.  Place the sliced and drained tomatoes directly onto Dijon mustard covering the entire dough.  Slightly overlap the edges of the tomatoes to make sure the whole surface is covered.  You don’t want the tomatoes to overlap too thickly otherwise the dough can get soggy.

6.  Season the tart with salt and pepper as desired.

7.  Finely chop the herbs as necessary and sprinkle over the tart.  Dust lightly with grated cheese, if using.  Drizzle the entire tart lightly with olive oil.

8.  Bake at 350F for about 30-45 minutes.  The tart should be lightly browned and bubbling.

9.  Cool on cookie rack. 

10.  Cut tart into slices (scissors work great) and serve either warm or cool.

I would like to call out that the beautiful wedding and location photos shared in this blog post were taken by Tim Perceval, our wedding photographer.