Last of Summer’s Bounty: Rustic Heirloom Tomato and Caramelized Onion Tart

finishedslice1Although Summer isn’t my favorite time of year…mainly because it gets so darn hot and muggy where I live, I do really enjoy the fruits and veggies of the season. The end of summer always brings a tearful time saying goodbye to the last of the peaches, corn, peas and tomatoes of the season. Fortunately, we do have a longish summer here, and I could still find an heirloom tomato or two in our local farmer’s markets last week.

Having procured three fine heirloom tomato specimens, I felt bound to make a dish in their honor. This rustic tomato tart has a few steps, but it’s easy to make. Use some of your own pie crust you may have on hand, or purchase some good quality crust at the grocer. The juicy-ripe tomatoes join with their BFF’s—sweet onion that’s been caramelized to really enhance the flavor, some fresh basil and thyme, and three fantastic cheeses—to create this delightful ode to tomato goodness. It’s sweet, it’s savory, it’s gooey, it’s delicious.

To keep your tomatoes from making this tart too soggy, I recommend slicing them, sprinkling them with a little sea salt and allowing them to drain a bit before you compose the tart. Save the resulting “tomato water” and use it to flavor cooked rice, or add to a pasta sauce. The tomato water essence is so flavorful that it deserves to be used and enjoyed…just remember that you are adding some salt to your dish via the tomato water, so adjust your seasonings accordingly. You can find the recipe below towards the end of this post. It’s so good, I’ll be out looking for tomatoes again this week!

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Warning! Here comes the long part of the post.

So for those of you keeping track, you may ask where have we been lately on our weekly hiking treks? In addition to some hikes further afield, we’ve actually completed eight out of the Top Ten Atlanta hikes. And, I might add, most of them were on days where the temps were in the upper 90 degree range. Honestly, if anyone had ever told me I’d be out hiking in the heat of summer I would have laughed in their face…but here I am and it’s been great, if a bit steamy! Here are some snippets from six more of those top ten Atlanta hikes to share with you, and again, if you live in the area or are visiting, these sites and hikes are well worth your time to enjoy and investigate. Be sure and run your cursor over any image to see a caption, or click to see a larger image.

We’re now entering prime hiking season in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Fall and Spring are great times of the year to “get some nature on,” take in some “forest bathing” and see the leaves turn—or the flowers start to bud and bloom, depending on where you are. And it’s so much more fun than going to the gym. So do yourself a favor and GO TAKE A HIKE!

Panoramic view from the Indian Seats, Sawnee Mountain.

Panoramic view from the Indian Seats, Sawnee Mountain.

#3 Sawnee Mountain Trail to Indian Seats: I don’t think I can describe this one better than the website I’m linking to here: “The Indian Seats Trail hikes over and around the sheer face of Sawnee Mountain to breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the mountain’s overlook. The trail is part of the 5+ mile network of hiking, walking and running trails at the Sawnee Mountain Preserve, a 900-acre stretch of beautiful coniferous and deciduous forest just 40 miles north of Atlanta. Sawnee Mountain’s history spans from a sacred site for the local Native American Cherokee and Creek tribes to a mining site in the 1800s search for gold in Georgia.” It’s a super trail and involves a 500+ foot elevation change.

#4 The Sope Creek Trail: This very in-town (it’s actually in a residential neighborhood) and relatively short trail at 1.5 miles, meanders through young forest and past the ruins of a Civil War paper mill. This is part of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area merges with the longer Cochran Shoals bike and running trails, and is very popular with mountain bikers and runners. Once you come off of the initial creek trail, you have many choices of how to extend your hike. One small trail leads to Sibley Pond on the way back out of the area. The trails are well marked with signage along the way showing you where you are, and if you are on a bike trail. If you ARE on a bike trail, keep a wary eye out as bikers can be upon you before you know it.

#5 The East Palisades Trail at the Chattahoochee River: Our first attempt at this really fun trail earlier this summer was aborted by a very strong lightning storm that came up quickly, encouranging us to head back down and home as fast as we could go! Fortunately we decided to give it another try before Labor Day, and it delivered a great hike with stunning views of the Chattahoochee River, which runs around and through Atlanta metro. There are about 3 plus miles of hiking trails on this side, with strong elevation changes and views above and alongside of the class 1 and 2 rapids. This trail begins in the Buckhead area of Atlanta…hard to believe it’s in the middle of town.

#6 The Kennesaw Mountain Trail: With more than 16 miles of trails to choose from, this Civil War Battlefield area is definitely one to visit multiple times. As long as I have lived here, this was my first visit to Kennesaw Mountain and it was a 98 degree day and unbearably hot and humid. Couple that with storms coming in, and we didn’t hike as long as we might have. We did hike the actual Kennesaw Mountain trail, which can get steep at some points, but provides a pretty nice view of Atlanta in the distance. There are many more trails to choose from in the area that cross mountains, battlefields and creeks, and pass through many historic sites. Each includes different access points if you don’t wish to trek the multi-mountain and over 16 miles of trails in full. Something to aspire to, I think, and maybe in the Fall.

#8 The Vickery Creek Trail in Roswell: This was one of the first of the Top Ten trails we hiked, and it is very pretty. The hike is about 3 miles through forest area and alongside the steep banks of Vickery Creek. There are two dams along the way, one is modern and the other is the historic Vickery Creek Dam from the Civil War era. Save a little time after your hike to enjoy the fun shops and restaurants in downtown Roswell.

#9 The Yellow River Trail at Yellow River Park: This 3.2 mile hike is an easy one through beautiful forested areas and alongside the Yellow River shoreline. The area has about 13 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. My only complaint was that while there were a lot of trail markings, they were somehow not very clearly marked. Still, a great place to get in a hike without driving very far, and some parts closely resemble North Georgia.

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Rustic HeirloomTomato and Caramelized Onion Tart
Serves 6

1 Medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 – 9-inch ready made and thawed rolled pie crust 2 Large red, purple or pink tomatoes cut into 1/4″ thick slices (I used Cherokee Purple), sprinkled with a tiny bit of sea salt and placed in a colander or fine meshed sieve over a bowl to drain. Reserve the “tomato water” for adding to rice or pasta at another date.
1 Large yellow tomato cut into 1/4″ thick slices
3 oz. sliced buffalo mozzarella
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/4 cup packed basil leaves cut chiffonade
1 clove garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cut finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Flour to roll out crust
8-10 Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat the 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat and add the onions. Sprinkle with a pinch of fine sea salt and some freshly ground pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have turned golden and caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Sprinkle about a tablespoon of flour on a work surface, and roll the pie crust into a 10 inch diameter circle. Transfer the crust to the baking sheet.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, thyme leaves, chiffonade of basil leaves, garlic and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and mix well. Spread the ricotta mixture on the pie crust in a circle, leaving about a 2 1/2″ border. Layer the caramelized onions on next, spreading evenly to top the ricotta mixture. Layer the tomatoes in a single layer, overlapping each slice and altering colors decoratively, and placing a slice of mozzarella in between each tomato. Fold the edges of the crust up over the edges of the tomatoes and pinch gently to seal the folds. Brush the edges of the crust and the tops of the tomatoes with a little olive oil. Sprinkle the top of the tart with some freshly ground black pepper and the parmesan cheese.

Bake the tart at 375 degrees F for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the cheese and the crust are a golden brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 3-5 minutes, then slice into 6 pieces and serve with basil leaves strewn on top.

Just out of the oven and it's a night shot...Gee, it's starting to get dark earlier and earlier!

Just out of the oven…gee, it’s starting to get dark earlier and earlier!

A Year Ago…

What makes one start a blog? There are so many answers to that question that it boggles the mind.

For some, it’s a way to express their passion about what they enjoy doing most. For others, it’s a means to an end in pursuit of a writing career. And maybe for all of us, it’s a way to reach out of the loneliness that our human existence can sometimes have, and share common interests and conversation, while learning a thing or two in the process. Whatever one’s reason may be for starting a blog, the end result is exposing yourself to a whole new world. And that’s actually what I like about it the most! Continue reading

Cool as a Cucumber

A cup of coolness, cucumber soup.

Mmmmm. This past weekend brought us some much needed rain, a few breezes and a very slight breather in the heat wave we’ve experienced this summer. But it’s still in the 90’s, and anything that has the word “chilled” as part of its name, gets my attention. We had some very pretty little cucumbers in this week’s CSA box of summer goodness, and I’ve made a quick, easy and delicious Chilled Cucumber Soup. And since my mission is to come up with delicious ways to use up all of that goodness, I made another tomato pie Saturday night—a variation on my last one that I’ll call Tomato Pie II—using a pound of red and yellow heirloom tomatoes and some beautiful organic red onions, along with some fresh basil and thyme, a little wine and some gooey-good soft goat cheese—and we had some leftover pie along with the soup, since tomatoes and cucumbers go together so wonderfully well. Continue reading

Savoring Summer’s Tomatoes

Summer Tomato Caprese Pie

Tomatoes. Let me count some of the ways these wonders of summer can be used. There are BLT’s, roasted tomatoes, pastas, Caprese salad, salsas, a slice on your favorite sandwich or burger, and just plain sliced by themselves with a little salt and pepper—the versatility of the tomato is endless. Continue reading