Black Pepper Cornmeal Tarts with Heirloom Tomato Salad and Sea Salt

I just got back from a beautiful weekend in Del Mar California.  We stayed at a little place right on the water just steps from the sand.  I could have just stayed on the balcony all weekend breathing in the salty fresh air and listening to the pounding strength of the waves crashing against the shore. I have always adored the ocean and can remember each season of my life attached to some memory of the beach, the sand, or the smell of bonfire in my hair. Each memory is a part of who I am, and being there with my feet in the sand felt like I was visiting an old friend…me. This weekend was no different- spent lazy days in bed eating cheese and crackers, drinking wine, reading cookbooks and watching Lifetime drama with my best friend, my hubby.  The only flaw to the whole weekend, was salt and pepper.  Yes, salt and pepper… We dined out, as you might imagine. and with eager anticipation tried out some really interesting spots with well written menus and coastal seasonal offerings.  And the experience would have been incredible— had anyone just ever so simply seasoned the ingredients with… SALT & PEPPER!  Drives me nuts, such a shame when all the components are there- paired up and waiting to become something inspirational. You see, food wants to be good, has the potential to be great, and with salt and pepper would grow up to be a meal that would make you proud.  In the end, I sent dishes back and pushed plates away- the disappointments were nothing more than drop outs.  I came home inspired to cook creative, seasonal food that was highlighted with nothing more than … you guessed it—SEA SALT.
When I bought these plump -interestingly odd – yellow, orange, and green Heirloom tomatoes … I was immediately reminded of fried green tomatoes from the South.    I decided to keep the idea of the cornmeal crusted tomato and run with it a little differently.  I made a extra crunchy flaky black pepper cornmeal crust in a dainty fluted tart pan. Then filled it with a wonderfully fragrant lemon herbed ricotta  and topped the cheese with arugula and Heirloom tomatoes dressed  in flaked sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Heirloom tomatoes have an amazingly sweet deeply concentrated flavor of pure tomato.  If you’ve never had one, your missing out. They are like any other fruit or vegetable – at their best in season and best when seasoned with salt and pepper. This is why I thought it  best to bake the tart alone and leave the tomatoes raw.  The tart is so colorfully impressive and is perfect for breakfast or brunch with friends.  Since the Heirlooms are dripping full of juicy summer goodness, it’s better to enjoy this tart soon after it is assembled so your crust doesn’t have a chance to become soggy. The crunch of flaked sea salt in your mouth with the sweet juice is more than mouthwatering … here let me hand you a napkin.

Black Pepper Corn Meal Tarts with Fresh Heirloom Tomato Salad

Makes 2 -9 round inch tarts

Crust
2 cups all purpose flour
¾ yellow stone ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
8 oz unsalted cold butter – cut into small cubes
½ cup ice cold water
Plastic wrap
6 cups dried beans or rice

Filling
1 Davidson’s Safest Choice Egg
15 oz low fat ricotta cheese
1/2  teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 clove of garlic-minced
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Pound heirloom tomatoes- cut into ¼ inch slices
3 cups arugula
1 teaspoon olive oil
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Sea Salt/ cracked black pepper

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees adjust the rack to the middle
• In a bowl of a food processor combine flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper- pulse to blend
• Place butter on top of the dry ingredients and pulse until it resembles coarse chunky sand
• Through the top of the food processor slowly add in cold water as you pulse
• Continue to pulse until dough forms and begins to gather together in the middle
• Do not over mix- take the dough out and flatten into two discs of equal size-dough will be crumbly
• Wrap discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
• Remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature on the counter
• Line counter with a large piece of plastic wrap and place disc in the middle and cover with an equal size piece of plastic wrap
• Roll out dough to a circle ¼ inch thick
• Remove top piece of plastic wrap and invert onto tart shell
• Lightly form dough into tart shells by pressing gently with fingers, remove excess dough over the edge by pressing down, using the edge of the pan as a knife
• Look over tarts to make sure all edges are even in thickness
• Line tarts with plastic wrap large enough to leave a 6 inch overhang

• Fill tarts with beans or rice- gather the excess plastic wrap and gather in the middle to form a bundle
• Bake for 20 minutes then carefully remove rice/beans and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until center of crust is firm when tapped
• Cool slightly before filling with cheese mixture
• In a small bowl combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly
• Spread into baked tart shells (as little or as much as you choose)
• Bake in a 325 degree oven for 20 minutes- cool
• In a small bowl toss arugula with salt and pepper, lemon juice and olive oil
• Top tarts with arugula and then sliced tomatoes
• Sprinkle tomatoes with sea salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper

Recipe makes enough for two 9 inch tarts- unused dough can be wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months

11 comments… add one
  • Mary July 1, 2010, 8:22 pm

    These tarts are wonderful. I think I can fit them in with our meal on Sunday. I love to visit here. Have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  • cdcooks July 4, 2010, 12:15 pm

    I love this idea! Genius. Beautiful pictures, too!

  • Melissa July 29, 2010, 5:10 am

    Just saw this on Tastespotting, it looks delicious! I was wondering, is the filling for one tart or two? I assume one and crust for two, but the post was a little ambiguous. Thought I'd ask before I pick up ingredients. Thanks!

  • Joanna July 29, 2010, 7:43 am

    Your tart looks great and must be sooooo delicious

  • melaniemusings2 July 30, 2010, 1:04 am

    Beautiful and delicious!

  • Steve July 31, 2010, 9:53 am

    Louise,
    Just found this via FoodPorn. Spectacular, as are your other entries. Here in the NE, heirlooms are just appearing. Tomato tart is an annual event, this year more special with your recipe for the cornmeal crust. Can't wait to continue to follow – you have a permanent spot on my bloglist. Steve
    http://www.myfavoriteflavours.com

  • Carolyn Jung September 6, 2010, 4:20 pm

    What a beautiful way to showcase the last of summer's heirloom tomatoes. Sigh, I sure will miss them when they are gone.

  • Paula September 7, 2010, 9:25 am

    I looove these colours!

  • claire September 7, 2010, 6:22 pm

    these are beautiful! I love the pics and the way you used all different colors of the heirlooms!

    http://www.clearlyclaireblog.blogspot.com

  • LunaCafe October 10, 2010, 12:52 am

    What a wonderful idea and beautiful execution. The cornmeal black pepper crust is inspired. I can taste that cornmeal flavor and crunch with the heirloom tomatoes. Wow!

    I'm working on an Heirloom Salad this weekend as well — after sampling several just okay restaurant versions in San Diego and Scottsdale. How to make it sing, that's the challenge.

    Best…Susan

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