I have to say; I think I had the most perfect brunch ever this past Saturday. The sixteen of us who were present, ranging from a precocious two year-old blondie to my 68 year-old Dad, enjoyed tons of great food, delicious drinks, and most of all each other’s company. It was the ideal fall day - crisp but not too cold, drenched in golden sunshine from an impossibly blue sky. There were lots of excursions across the yard with the Polaroid Land Camera (courtesy of my jack-of-all-cameras, Nick). There were homemade doughnuts, and goetta. There was a walk, a “senior photo” shoot, and an amazing sunset in a coastal field, where we were all certain we had walked into a Dan McCarthy print. Later, after a lot of hot buttered bourbon-spiked cider, there was this. And there was honestly a lot of love. I think most of us are still reveling in it. It’s nice when a bunch of friends from different parts of your life all behave like they’ve known each other forever, and just click. More than nice, actually.
This brunch is my new tradition – to gather the friends that I may not see over the holidays and create our own new holiday, before we all step onto that slippery yet festive slope leading us into the next year. I try to keep the guest list small, but it’s hard, and it always ends up growing. Making brunch for sixteen is certainly a lot of work and a definite challenge (just ask my husband about the Great Custard Deluge of 2010), but it doesn’t stop me from trying to do crazy things like make homemade doughnuts, or serve four kinds of brunch cocktails. Whatever. I am definitely nuts when it comes to menu planning and entertaining and will likely never change.
I was thinking of sharing my swiss chard, mushroom and cheddar quiche recipe with you, but that is a ridiculous amount of work (see Custard Deluge). And though it was undeniably delicious, on the morning that I was running around like crazy trying to get everything done for my guests, I was much more thankful for simple recipes, that I could kind of put together and not think much about.
Enter the Roasted Tomato Tart: Thyme and olive oil oven roasted tomatoes rest on golden puff pastry with just the right amount of fresh parm-reg - it's the lil' slice snuggled onto the right hand side of the dish above. This is a fantastically delicious savory brunch component, which goes great alongside an egg dish or two, some sweet bits like scones or mini muffins, a killer fruit salad…and some bacon or sausage, of course. And more fantastic still is that it is super duper easy. If you can roll out store bought puff pastry and roast a few tomatoes, you are golden. This is definitely the recipe my guests asked me to share most after the brunch, so here it is darlings. Actually, all of you readers are just darlings. Thanks for reading my blog. See? The love still hasn’t worn off.
Roasted Tomato Tart
By Paul Grimes, via Gourmet, July 2006, with my notes
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17 1/4 ounce package), thawed
2 pounds plum tomatoes (8 large) halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme (dry is totally fine if that's all you have, but cut amount in half because dried herbs go further)
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings plus additional for garnish
Put oven racks in the middle and lower third of oven and preheat to 400˚F. Line a large shallow baking pan with foil.
Roll out pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into an 11-inch square, about 1/8 inch thick. Either cut a 10-inch round, or fold in the corners and roll again. (I usually just fold in and it works fine - no sense wasting delicious dough. It doesn't have to be perfect - the tart can be more "rustic"). Chill round on baking sheet until ready to use.
Toss tomatoes in the foil lined baking pan with 2 tablespoons oil, 2 teaspoons thyme, a 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper then roast, cut side up in one layer on the middle rack, 1 hour.
Brush pastry round with 2 teaspoons oil, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of thyme. After roasting tomatoes for 1 hour, move tomatoes in pan to lower rack and put pastry on baking sheet on middle rack. Bake pastry and tomatoes until pastry is golden brown and edges of tomatoes are slightly browned but still appear juicy, about 15 minutes.
While pastry is still warm, scatter 1/2 cup cheese shavings evenly over it. Top shavings with warm tomatoes, cut sides down and in one layer, then sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, salt and pepper to taste, and additional cheese shavings.
*Group photo by Michael Burkardt
*Tree photo by Seth Marois