You would think the Coastside Farmers’ Market would provide a guilt-free hour of virtuous, pretentious healthiness for gathering ingredients for a Tomato Pesto Crostata recipe. Oh no, not for the Slackers!
Long ago the markets were little more than communal farm stands, with all manner of veggies and maybe some eggs. “There is no food! Just ingredients to make food!” But today’s markets trend toward finished goods, offering everything from rotisserie meats to chocolates to baked goods, even soaps and handcrafts. Homer Simpson would be relieved.
The traditional veggies and conversations with farmers may be the attraction for The Geek, but That Donut Girl and her tender, luscious pastries in both traditional and unique flavor combinations have become a major distraction. What to try? Blueberry Crumble? Black Cherry Granola? Traditional Plain Glazed? … OK, one of each. Homer would be proud.
Last week, after feeding her donut monkey, The Geek got busy on gathering goods for that Crostada recipe, zigzagging past bonbons and lavender soaps to find luscious blueberries from Rainbow Orchards, Basil from Fly Girl Farm, tomatoes from Thao Family Farm and zucchini from Farmer John. Success! Homer would be aghast.
The endless piles of vibrant, plump produce look so good you risk getting too much and wasting some, so The Geek usually goes with a plan. This time she was inspired by a Tastemade video of a simple tomato pie. It looked gorgeous but sounded less than palatable, so she invented her own improved version.
Go to the recipe.
Her Tomato Pesto Crostata combines the goodness of fresh basil and tomatoes with the decadence of buttery pie crust. Too busy to make your own pesto? See if you can find some at the Farmers’ Market, no doubt between the organic free-range beeswax candles and the artisan gluten-free vegan bucatini.
Mixed sizes and colors of cherry and grape tomatoes make this crostata both interesting and beautiful. Multiple farmers had a nice selection of small tomatoes, Thao Family Farm seems to specialize in these tiny wonders, so the Geek bought enough for the pie and a week of snacking … just for Homer.
Here are the ingredients and the recipe:
Fresh pesto sauce is a marvel. Fly Girl Farm in Pescadero had a wonderful selection of basil. Their cut flowers are also amazing.
The Geek likes making her pie dough by hand, but a food processor is definitely the faster way to go. The amount of water you need varies wildly, depending on the local humidity and the brand of flour you use. Here is what the dough should look like after blending and after rolling.
It’s hard to keep from devouring all the crostata ingredients before assembly, but the cooked product is worth the wait.
And the mouth-watering result. Serve with extra pesto.
Tomato Pesto Crostata
Tiny tomatoes join fresh pesto in an irresistible rustic pie.
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups roughly chopped basil leaves
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 18 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6-8 tablespoons ice water
- 1 cup grated gruyere or fontina cheese (or a combination)
- 2 lb grape and cherry tomatoes, various sizes and colors
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs, plus more for garnishing
- Large-flake sea salt
- 1 egg, beaten
Prep the butter
Cut the cold butter for the pie dough into 1/4 inch cubes and separate the pieces onto a plate. Freeze the butter for 15-30 minutes while you make the pesto sauce.
Make the Pesto Sauce
I like the NY Times Recipe for pesto sauce, however I simplify the method and omit the salt. And it turns out great.
Pulse the pine nuts and garlic in a food processor fitted with a chopping blade until finely chopped. Add the olive oil, basil and parmesan and pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl 2-3 times until the basil is chopped fine. Don’t over process the basil or it will brown.
Make the Pie Dough
Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter, separating the pieces. Toss with your hands to completely coat the butter. Rub the butter and flour together using your fingers until the mixture resembles course meal. You can also use a pastry cutter if you’re into gadgets. It’s ok if there are a few larger lumps, just make sure they are no larger than baby peas.
Drizzle 5 tablespoons of ice-cold water over the mixture and toss with a fork to incorporate. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time and mix with the fork, just until the dough holds together well when you squeeze a handful. It should not be sticky, but should also not be crumbly. Knead 3 or 4 times, shape it into a thin disk. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Assemble and Bake the Crostata
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into an 16-18″ circle. Roll the dough loosely onto the rolling pin and transfer it to the parchment lined baking sheet.
Cut the tomatoes in half, and leaving the really small ones whole. If you have any tomatoes that are larger than 1″ or so, cut them into quarters.
Spread 1/2 cup pesto sauce onto the pie dough, leaving a 2-3″ border. Sprinkle Gruyere and/or fontina cheese over the pesto sauce. Arrange the tomatoes on top of the cheese. There should be enough tomatoes for a couple of layers. Sprinkle the tomatoes with sea salt and thyme leaves.
Fold the edges of the pie crust over the tomatoes. A crostata is a rustic pie, so the edges should be jagged. Seal any cracks in the base or sides, otherwise the filling may leak. Brush the crust with the beaten egg. Bake 30-35 minutes until the crust is golden.
Allow the crostata to cool for 15–20 minutes. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs. Serve warm, with a bowl of extra pesto sauce on the side.