Tomato Tarte Tatin

There is a beautiful neighborhood café called Les Philosophes right across from my old apartment in Paris. I started going there to meet friends for a drink or a casual meal merely out of convenience.  But it quickly became a favorite of mine because of their tomato tarte tatin.  A tarte tatin is a classic French upside down tart made out of apples and caramel and topped with puff pastry.  When the tart is inverted, the apples are caramelized and the remaining caramel oozes onto the buttery puff pastry.  In this savory twist, the tomatoes, preferably in season, take center stage.  The balsamic vinegar and honey delicately caramelize the tomatoes and bring out their natural sweetness.  I recommend using pretty firm tomatoes so they retain their shape.  Served with a simple mixed green salad and glass of light bodied wine, this tart is a crowd pleaser in any late summer luncheon!

Serves 4-6

3 pounds medium tomatoes (about 12 tomatoes)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoons salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

1 sheet of puff pastry

3 basil leaves for garnish

Preheat your oven to 425°F and set a rack in the middle of your oven. Line a nine-inch cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil.  Also prepare an ice water bath by filling a bowl half way with ice and water.

Rinse the tomatoes and remove the core (the small center where the stem is attached).  Make an “x” cut on the bottom of each tomato.  Place the tomatoes in the boiling water for 45-60 seconds, or until you start seeing the skin of the tomatoes peel away from the flesh.  With a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and place them in the ice water bath to stop the cooking.  When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel the skins off.

Slice each tomato in half and remove the seeds.  Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet with the cut side down and allow any remaining juices to drain out for about half an hour.  If you don't drain the tomatoes, the dough will become soggy pretty quickly after inverting on the plate. In the meantime, if the puff pastry is frozen, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for about 30 minutes.

Mix the balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the sauce until it becomes slightly thick and syrupy, about one to two minutes.  Pour this thickened sauce in the bottom of the cake pan.

Drizzle the tomatoes with the olive oil and sprinkle half the salt and pepper and place them with the cut side up in a one even layer.  Squeeze in as many tomatoes halves as possible.  Sprinkle the remaining salt and pepper on the cut side. 

In a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry dough.  Cut a circle in the dough about half inch wider than the cake pan.  With the aide of the rolling pin, lift the dough and gently drape it over the tomatoes.  Tuck the excess dough into the edges of the cake pan.

Place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden brown in color.  Allow to cool down for 10 minutes.  Run a paring knife along the inside of the cake pan to loosen the pastry from the pan.  Invert a large platter over the cake pan and quickly flip the tarte tatin onto the platter. Garnish with the basil leaves and serve either warm or at room temperature.