Thursday, October 8, 2015

Tomato and Feta Phyllo Tart - Cathy

It's still tomato season in Utah!  In our garden we are fortunate enough that they're still going strong.  But I know from some of the food blogs and Instagram accounts that I follow that in some parts of the country tomato season is officially over.  Even if your season is done, perhaps the cherry tomatoes are hanging in there--if not at your house, then definitely at the farmer's markets.  Erin and I went last Saturday to Salt Lake City's huge downtown farmer's market, and the stands there had so many cherry tomatoes in all colors and shapes.  They were all so beautiful! 

Here at my house, we definitely still have plenty, though...

But you won't catch me complaining.  No way!  Not even when all of my counters, bowls, everywhere--are covered with tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.  And even though I keep canning them, supplying all of my friends with them, and we keep eating them, we still seem have so, so many tomatoes! But they are gorgeous, organic, and bursting with ripeness and flavor.  These are the treasures that Farmer Kevin carefully tends and works so hard to fend off (very carefully) all of our beautiful but destructive deer visitors and other invaders to protect. 

These visitors are too pretty to chase off, so we have to use other measures to save what we can of our garden.  They sure do lots of other damage to our yard though!  But even our dog, Molly knows that she is not to chase them, so she lies down carefully in the grass and watches them wistfully.

  Then there's these guys that showed up one day while I was drinking my coffee and reading the paper.  Pretty sure they don't eat the tomatoes, though...

But I digress...back to those tomatoes!  As many as we have right now--and they will continue on until the first frost, we are happy to have our precious tomatoes.  We will have lots of fresh Tomato Soup (coming someday here), BLTs, Caprese Salad, Panzanella Salad, Spaghetti alla Margherita, Heirloom Caprese Pasta, and just straight off the vine, still warm from the sun, maybe with a little salt and pepper, juice dripping off your chin... So many ways to eat wonderful summer (and fall) tomatoes!

Here is one more way, and a quick and easy dinner or lunch. Really! I promise! Even if you've never worked with phyllo before, this will make you totally lose your fear of it.

I tore out this recipe many years ago from a Sur La Table catalog because it was so gorgeous.  Much to my delight, I had all of the ingredients at home so I made it right away and have made it often since.  It's great for when you have a ton of cherry tomatoes to use up, but works great in the wintertime too, with those sweet grape tomatoes from the store. 

I know that phyllo can seem intimidating, but as long as you buy it from a store that has a good turnover of product so that it's not too old, and you don't try to rush thawing it out from its frozen state, it's easy to work with.  I like to buy brands that separate the phyllo into two packages per box so that you can only thaw out half the package at one time and save the rest for later.  Make sure to defrost it in the plastic package in the fridge or at room temp.  As you work, keep the phyllo covered with a damp towel as it dries out very quickly--especially in ultra-dry Utah!

You just lightly brush the layers of phyllo with a mixture of olive oil and butter, sprinkle them with a bit of a cheese/herb mixture, keep adding a few more layers (and no big deal at all if they tear, really--there are so many layers!), then top it all off with more cheese and tomatoes. 

It all turns out to be crispy-brown, light and delicious!  Nice crusty edges, with just a bit of cheese and herbs and some sweet and tart tomato flavor and juiciness.  So good.  It would be great on its own, or with a salad (like Summer Zucchini Noodle Salad, or with soup (like Butternut Squash and Sage Soup, Elephant's Tomato  Orange Soup, or Spinach and Fontina Soup).

Serves 6 as an appetizer or side
or maybe 4 for a meatless meal

One year ago: Spinach and Fontina Soup
Two years ago: Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal, Mushrooms on Toast
Three years ago: Hungry High Schooler Beef Sandwiches, Pumpkin Spice Creamer
Four years ago: Hearty Lasagna, Snickerdoodles, Coffee Cake Muffins

what you will need: 

20 sheets 9 X 12" size phyllo dough (this is what comes in 1 out of the 2 pkgs. in the box that I used.  Some brands may come in larger sheets that may simply need to be cut in half.)
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4  cup coarsely grated mozzarella cheese (about 3 ounces)
3/4 finely crumbled feta cheese (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried oregano
salt, to taste (maybe about 1 tsp.?)
4 green onions (or scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced)
1 pint (2 cups) yellow, red, orange, green or whatever color you've got cherry tomatoes, halved vertically

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan over medium-ish heat.  Remove from the heat and mix in the oil.

In a small bowl, mix together the mozzarella cheese, the feta, Parmesan cheese, oregano and salt to taste.

Lightly oil a large baking sheet with the butter-oil mixture. Place one piece of phyllo in the center and very lightly brush it with the butter-oil.  It doesn't need to have every single bit covered--leaving some areas bare is okay.  Place another piece of phyllo directly on top.  Brush again with the butter mixture very lightly.  Repeat with one more layer.  You will now have three layers of phyllo in the pan.
Sprinkle with a scant 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture.  This will seem like a crazily insufficient amount, but don't worry!  All will be well!  Also, please ignore the fact that my feta is clumping.  It was kind of a soft feta this time, and it wouldn't crumble nicely.  It all turned out just fine, though.

Continue with three more layers of phyllo, brushing very lightly with the butter-oil mixture between each layer.  Sprinkle with another scant 2 tablespoon of the combined cheeses.  Continue until you have used up all of the phyllo.  If the butter-oil mixture starts to get too cold and thick, give it a quick warm-up on the stove or microwave (depending on what kind of container you have it in).  

Brush the top layer with the butter-oil mixture.  Sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese.  Leaving a 1-inch border around the edge, sprinkle the tart with the green onions and then the gorgeous tomatoes, spreading evenly over the top of the tart.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Step back and admire your handiwork.  Isn't that beautiful?

Bake on the top shelf of the oven until the phyllo is nice and golden brown and crisp on the edges, and the cheese is melted, about 20-30 minutes. 

Cut into serving-sized squares with a sharp knife and serve while hot or warm.  If made ahead, reheat in the oven for at least a few minutes to heat through.  Crispy, juicy, cheesy, deliciousness.

One year ago: Spinach and Fontina Soup
Two years ago: Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal, Mushrooms on Toast
Three years ago: Hungry High Schooler Beef Sandwiches, Pumpkin Spice Creamer
Four years ago: Hearty Lasagna, Snickerdoodles, Coffee Cake Muffins

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