Savory tarts are an incredible way to showcase seasonal vegetables any time of the year. For this recipe, I used sautéed onions, fresh oregano and basil, beautiful heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese.
It has a Margherita pizza vibe, so people are always happy to see it on the table.
The tomatoes really shine in this recipe. I use various colors and sizes to make it more visually interesting. If you don’t love fresh mozzarella, then I suggest using feta or goat cheese in its place.
This is a fun recipe because once you get the basics down, you can get super-creative with your pairings, changing up the herbs, vegetables and cheeses. I recommend store-bought pie crust to make life easier and keeping fresh pots of herbs on hand, which is much more economical than buying herbs at the grocery store.
I serve this for brunch with salad, but it’s also a beautiful appetizer and a lovely dish to take to a party.
1 store-bought pie crust
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Half a large, sweet onion, sliced thin
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ cup fresh herbs, divided; I used a mix of basil and oregano
2 cups tomatoes, sliced
3 ounces fresh mozzarella, or cheese of your choice
¼ teaspoon sea salt, divided
Freshly ground pepper
Set your oven to 400 F and place the oven rack in the middle slot.
Thaw the pie crust according to its instructions. It should still be cool to the touch when you unwrap it. I suggest running a rolling pin over it a few times to make sure that it fits the size of your pan.
Gently lift the pastry and place it over the pan, then use your fingers to press the pastry into the corners and edges. Use kitchen scissors or a sharp knife to trim any pastry that flows over the edge of the pan. If you don’t have a tart pan with a loose bottom, you can use a 9-inch pie plate for the pastry, but only pat the pastry about halfway up the side of the pie plate. My dairy tart pan is square, so I roll the dough as much as I can, trim the edges and use any extra dough to build up edges where the dough cracks or looks sparse. With square pans, the corners usually need a little extra work. Just take a little strip of pastry and use your fingers to smooth it into any cracks. Pastry is pretty forgiving. If it tears, you can almost always repair it.
Pre-bake the crust for 15 minutes at 400 F. Pre-baking is an important step to ensure that the center of the tart is not soggy from the vegetables and that the dough doesn’t remain raw after baking.
Sauté the onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes — just olive oil and onions, no salt yet.
While the onion is cooking, mince the garlic, slice 2 cups of tomatoes and tear the fresh herbs into pieces. The more natural and organic it looks, the better.
Tear or cut 3 ounces of fresh mozzarella. I like the mini balls for this size tart.
Once the onion is soft and starting to brown, remove it to another dish and add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil to the pan with the garlic and ¾ of the fresh herbs. Sauté on low for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant, but be careful not to burn the garlic.
Remove the pastry and turn the oven temp to 425 F.
Pour the garlic and herb oil over the crust, using a pastry brush to spread it evenly and into the corners and edges of the pan.
Spread the onions evenly over the crust and sprinkle them with salt.
Arrange the tomatoes as you please, sprinkle them with more salt and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Remove the tart quickly from the oven, sprinkle it with cheese and put it back into the oven for 3-4 minutes, until the cheese starts to melt.
Allow it to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Garnish with the rest of the fresh herbs. Mozzarella cheese has very little flavor on its own, so I usually check to see if it needs a little more salt. If you’re using a different cheese, you may not need much added salt, if any.
This makes 4 nice-size portions for a light meal paired with a salad. I usually cut 9 squares if I’m serving it as an appetizer or on a mezze table. Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC
Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.