My mother and I gave her a bath, dressed her in a comfortable onesie that I had brought with me from California, and we waited for the other families in our travel group to come say hello — she was the first baby to arrive. We heard shy knocks at the door as the other families heard about The Bug’s arrival. As the room filled with my travel companions, she smiled, she giggled, she charmed all of us. The memories are vivid and telling. This happy baby grew into a happy child. Kind and funny, too.
And, what does all of this have to do with a rustic, savory crostada? It is one of those dishes that makes my Bug smile with anticipation. I never make it the same way twice — different cheeses, different varieties of tomatoes, different herbs — but however I make it, she eats it with gusto and happiness. And, when I told her I was thinking about writing a post marking our 10 years together, she suggested I share this recipe.
Whether I’m baking savory or sweet pastry, it always begins with Melissa Clark’s Perfect Pie Crust recipe, which also can be found in her last two books — In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite and Cook This Now. The dough comes together quickly and predictably, rolls out easily, and yields a buttery, flaky crust. For last Friday evening’s crostada, I took inspiration from this elegant puff pastry tart from Martin Picard, featured in the Wall Street Journal Off Duty section in March. While my crostada would be more rustic in feel, I wanted to duplicate the flavors Picard put together: nutty and sharp Gruyere cheese with a pungent Dijon mustard “cream,” that is lightly brushed on the bottom of the pastry. That small amount of mustard deftly tames the richness of the melted cheese layer above it. A thin layer of caramelized onions, one of The Bug’s favorite ingredients, is spread on top of the grated Gruyere.
Plum tomatoes began making their appearance at our Farmers Market last week. While I’m not wild for them raw, roasted in the oven, they deliver a completely different experience, developing an intense flavor as their edges curl inward and juice is released. More importantly, they’re heartier than sun-dried tomatoes that can’t withstand nearly an hour in a hot oven without burning.
After placing the tomatoes on top of the onions, I did a rough chop of fresh basil and scattered it over the tomatoes before baking. I folded the crust over, making sure to pinch any areas that might sprout a leak, and brushed an egg yolk wash over the crust. Then, a quick drizzle of my best, peppery olive oil over the tomatoes, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, before placing the crostada in the oven to bake for about 45 minutes.
While I typically serve crostada for dinner with a salad, The Bug enjoys the leftovers for breakfast. So, I think this would make a colorful and flavorful savory brunch entree, too. My recipe incorporating elements of Chef Picard’s tart is below.
|Plum Tomato and Caramelized Onion Crostada with Gruyere for My Bug||
- 1 9-inch pie crust (I use Melissa Clark’s Perfect Pie Crust)
- 2 large, sweet onions, sliced through the ends, and then cut in thin, half-moon slices
- 1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 Tablespoon heavy cream
- 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
- 2-3 plum tomatoes, cut in 1/4-inch slices
- 1 Tablespoon chopped basil
- 1 egg yolk, whisked
- Make your pastry and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours to firm up.
- Saute the sliced onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When they begin to soften, 3-4 minutes, sprinkle them with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and fresh pepper (to taste). Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring every several minutes. After 30 minutes, if there is still liquid in the bottom of the saute pan, increase the heat to medium, and stir until the liquid evaporates and the onions become lightly golden (about five more minutes). Remove from pan and let them cool in a bowl while you prepare the crostada.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- While the onions are cooking, combine the mustard and cream in a small dish until mixed well; set aside.
- Grate the Gruyere cheese; slice the tomatoes and chop the basil. Set each of them aside
- On a floured surface, roll the pastry until thin, moving the pastry around so it doesn’t stick to your counter or board (I don’t measure the pastry circle — or oval, in this case –, but my guess is it will about 12-inches in diameter). This is a rustic crostada, so don’t worry about the shape or size too much. Carefully lift the pastry and place it on the parchment paper-covered cookie sheet.
- With the back of a spoon or a brush, spread a very thin layer of the mustard-cream mixture on the bottom of the pastry, leaving a 2-3-inch border (you’ll fold over that section of the pastry).
- Sprinkle the grated cheese over the mustard-cream mixture and then spread the cooled onions on top of the cheese. Place the slices of tomato on top of the onions and sprinkle with the chopped basil.
- Moving around the pastry “circle,” fold the the 2-3-inch dough “border” towards the center, creating a “frame” around the cheese, onions and tomatoes. Pinch any areas that are exposed, so the crostada doesn’t leak too much. Brush the whisked egg yolk over the exposed pastry, and then drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil (if you have good finishing olive oil, use that) and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the cookie sheet in the oven. Check at 35 minutes. It is done when the pastry is golden brown. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and let is rest for at least five minutes before serving.