A Long Weekend and a Pesto Tomato Tart
It’s been a long, hot summer. The temperatures are still climbing towards ninety each day, yet there are signs that fall is waiting just around the corner. Our drought-stricken grass is peppered with cottonwood leaves from our hundred-plus-year-old tree—a bittersweet harbinger. I love fall: the flavors of sage and roasted squash, the warm, brilliant tones of the falling leaves, and the break it offers after endless weeks of watering, weeding, and tending the gardens. Yet I know that before the last mum blooms, Old Man Winter will be coming for me. This fear fills me with a premature sense of nostalgia that smacks of desperation for all things summer—breakfasts under the trees, long evening walks, tandem bike rides, warm peaches, and the freshest tomatoes just a few steps from our back door. The nearly leafless, skeletal remains of our tomato vines, looking too frail to carry the last few paltry looking Brandywines and Green Zebras, feed my desperation.
This was the soundtrack playing in my head as Labor Day Weekend—a “long” weekend—approached. How then to make the most of what always feels like the last weekend of summer? My idle time of the week prior was spent fantasizing about the leisurely weekend Greg and I would while away together. There were notions of decidedly uncharacteristic spontaneity—maybe we’d go see a movie. When was the last time we saw a movie in a theater? We’d go for a long run, winding through our favorite city parks. The house would be alive again with music, Greg plinking away at the piano, while I sat on the deck with my guitar. The dream grew even as I deadheaded the basil plants that were screaming to be turned into pesto and Greg pulled out the honey extractor. I debated our movie and theater options despite the pepper plants that had fallen over under the weight of their unusually bountiful crop. Pickling peppers wasn’t part of my long weekend fantasy.
As for Greg’s weekend plans, well, let’s just say our to-do lists didn’t exactly mesh together. Greg likes to end a weekend, any weekend, with a feeling that he has accomplished something and those somethings usually don’t include movies and long breakfasts on the deck drawn out over a Times crossword puzzle.
By Monday afternoon of “Labor” Day we’d extracted a record-setting three gallons of honey from our hive, stocked the freezer with ten, quart bags of cheese-less pesto, and added fifteen jars of pickled peppers to our basement larder. Long runs? Zero. The Dark Knight Rises or The Possession? Neither. It was finally time to celebrate the long weekend beginning with lunch under the maple tree. I pulled a sheet of puff pastry from the refrigerator while Greg went to check on the bees. My flip flops smacked as I walked across the kitchen to fetch the tomatoes for the tart. Unfortunately, not all of our honey made it into the jars, but I fought back the urge to run for the mop and bucket. The floor could wait. An unhurried lunch in the yard on a summer day couldn’t, not this time. My tart and wine lunch was the only part of my dream sequence that had a chance of crossing over into the reality of our weekend.
“What are you up to?” Greg asked when returned to the kitchen.
“I’m making a tomato tart,” I answered while I rolled out the dough.
“Now?” He asked, glancing at the clock. It was almost one. “We could just have some yogurt and the last of the chocolate granola instead.”
Yogurt and granola are regular weekend staples, our go-to lunch move when we’re pressed for time on our regular hurried and harried weekends. I started slicing tomatoes without acknowledging his offer. Greg’s to-do list was far from complete and sitting under a maple tree with a tomato tart and a glass of wine wasn’t on it, but something in my voice or on my face kept him from resisting. An hour later golden flakes of puff pastry were sprinkled across the table under the tree and Greg was fast asleep in his chair. I ran back to the house for the crossword puzzle and slid into my seat without waking my prince. The weekend had arrived at last.
Pesto Tomato Tart with Taleggio and Thyme
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for finishing
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup pesto
3-4 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
6 ounces Taleggio cheese, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- On a Silpat or piece of parchment paper, roll the pastry sheet into a 10 by 14-inch rectangle. Use a sharp knife to score a 3/4-inch-wide border around the pastry rectangle. Prick the dough with a fork inside the score line and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the garlic and breadcrumbs and stir occasionally over moderate heat until the crumbs are golden brown and toasted. Let cool at room temperature.
- To assemble the tart, sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the pastry dough inside the score line and dot them with teaspoons of pesto. Lay the tomatoes on top. Follow with the Taleggio cheese slices. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the edges of the tart are golden and the cheese is bubbly. Sprinkle with the fresh thyme leaves and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Serve hot or warm.
Serves 2 as a main course, or 6 as a starter.