Plum Tomato and Caramelized Onion Crostada with Gruyere for My Bug

by Carol Sacks on May 22, 2012

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Ten years ago today, in a high-rise hotel, in a noisy city in southern China, I became a mother. The director of the orphanage, where my baby had spent the last eight months and three weeks, placed The Bug in my arms, and despite the fact that she must have been uncomfortably warm — dressed for a snow storm on a hot and humid day — and had never seen me before, she didn’t resist and she didn’t cry. Her hands rested on my arms as she studied my face with a serious, unblinking expression. Fine, wispy black hair stuck out of her head in all directions. All I could do was stare back into those dark eyes.

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.

5.0 from 4 reviews
Plum Tomato and Caramelized Onion Crostada with Gruyere for My Bug
Recipe type: main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
A rustic and savory crostada with caramelized onions, gruyere and plum tomatoes
  • 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
  • ½-3/4 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ 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 ¼-inch slices
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped basil
  • 1 egg yolk, whisked
  1. Make your pastry and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours to firm up.
  2. Saute the sliced onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When they begin to soften, 3-4 minutes, sprinkle them with ¼ 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.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
  4. While the onions are cooking, combine the mustard and cream in a small dish until mixed well; set aside.
  5. Grate the Gruyere cheese; slice the tomatoes and chop the basil. Set each of them aside
  6. 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.
  7. 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).
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.




{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Winnie May 22, 2012 at 7:52 am

I love everything about this post Carol. Happy adoption day 🙂


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 7:53 am

Winnie, what a lovely thing to say. Thank you so much!!


Gail May 22, 2012 at 7:55 am

I’m not sure whether it’s the Burt Bacharach White House tribute I have playing in the background, or envisioning you & your mother with the baby that would be Bug, but, the tears are rolling.
Crostada looks good, too!!!!!
Happiest of special days to you, Carol!!! xoxo


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 7:56 am

Gail, thank you so much! I’m having a weepy morning, too:)


Kim Foster May 22, 2012 at 8:01 am

What a beautiful, beautiful story, Carol. And just like Winnie said, Happy adoption day! These kids really make our entire lives, don’t they? Enjoy it. 🙂

xoxox Kim


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 8:07 am

Kim, thank you so much for your kind words. I’m incredibly fortunate; reminded of it every day. Thank you again!


Elizabeth May 22, 2012 at 8:12 am

Thanks for sharing. I love my memories of my mother preparing food especially for me. When I have that food now, I feel loved and safe for that moment all over again. I also can see why your Bug loves this recipe. I wish that I had some now. Inspired, I am going to make this for my son. I have a feeling he will love it as well.


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 8:17 am

Hi Elizabeth, thank you so much. That’s a sweet memory — I’m sure your son feels the way you do when you cook for him. So appreciate your reading my post.


LiztheChef May 22, 2012 at 8:16 am

Lucky You and Lucky Bug. X0


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 8:17 am

Liz, thank you. I’m definitely lucky all the way around!


Beth (OMG! Yummy) May 22, 2012 at 9:05 am

So I was about to write: I love everything about this post but I see Winnie beat me to it! But I still love everything about it. Now I know what I’m going to do with my leftover pie crust in the freezer. And you know me, how I love the story that set the stage for it. What a wonderful tribute to your beautiful daughter. Thanks for sharing the special day with us! I’m trying not to cry as I stare at my daughter’s 8th grade graduation photo on my counter and see my son’s appt to get his driver’s license staring at me from the computer screen. Oh they grow so fast. And aren’t we lucky that they love food like this!


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 9:26 am

Beth, such a sweet comment. Thank you for reading and for being my friend. The time goes fast, too fast. I’m glad we’re all so conscious of it even if we can’t stop it. Thinking about the big milestones for your kids and am amazed!


Deb May 22, 2012 at 9:10 am

Carol I just adore this post! A delightful story and a delicious recipe, just exceptional! Memories are best shared with great food. It links the past to the present while engaging all our senses. Thank you for sharing!

(PS: Our daughter’s nickname is also Bug! When she stayed at my parents house she would go search for bugs in the yard and bring them inside to share. I believe my youngest brother started the trend.)


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 9:27 am

Thank you so much, Deb! I so agree that memories are best shared with food. I suspect many of us who cook with our families are acutely aware of this link. And, I LOVE the story about your daughter and her nickname. Bugs rule, don’t they?!


Marissa | Pinch and Swirl May 22, 2012 at 9:21 am

What a nice way to start the day, reading this lovely post. And it’s no surprise that your little Bug smiles at the promise of this gorgeous crostada!


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 9:30 am

Marissa, thank you for generous words! I’ve just taken a visit to you blog and it’s lovely. I look forward to trying some of your recipes, soon!


Chris May 22, 2012 at 9:31 am


Congratulations……love the story. After reading your story it reminds me of the day in San Francisco when the Bug came out to help me work and I handed her a paint brush and a pint of water to paint the piece of redwood. She was so happy that she was helping me. What a great helper she was. 🙂

Oh do I miss your salads…..I am still trying to make a salad to is as great as yours. Keep the delicious creations coming and have a wonderful day.


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 9:34 am

Hi Chris, I love that memory. She really enjoyed working with you on projects — especially with the tools! Thank you for reading and commenting, and do come for a visit. I’ll make you lots of salads and dressing to take home!


Barbara | Creative Culinary May 22, 2012 at 9:52 am

What a touching story and so glad that you shared it with us; how lucky you all are that you came together as a family. And how lucky that Bug loves to share your passion for cooking; a true sign of your nurturing heart. What a very happy day…even if I do have tears in my eyes!


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 9:55 am

Barb, thank you for such a kind comment. I feel good fortune every day. I know you feel the same, too. Thanks again!


Jayne May 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm

What a wonderful post! I’m glad you found each other and wish you both a wonderful day! Thanks for brightening my day with your lovely story. Love the sound of your crostada as well!


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Jayne, thank you. I so appreciate your lovely comment!


Cathy May 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Shayna pudim.
My love to you both (three) and can’t wait to see you all soon.


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Thank you, Cathy! We’re all looking forward to seeing you, too!


olga May 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm

this warms my heart! I love the story of Bug – and she’s pretty awesome. But then again, so are you!


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Olga, what a wonderful thing to say — thank you so much! I really appreciate it.


Winifred Lloyds Lender May 22, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Such a beautiful, warm, and wonderful post. Congratulations on the Bug’s 10 year anniversary with you. She is a lucky Bug to have you as her mother. We are so lucky to be inspired by your posts. I think the crostada looks divine!


Carol Sacks May 22, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Hi Winifred, thank you so much. I feel very lucky, too. I’ll call you next time I make the crostada — I think your Bugs would enjoy it.


Victoria Havey May 26, 2012 at 1:13 am

Sweet story and yummy-looking recipe! We adore your family. Thanks for sharing!


Carol Sacks May 26, 2012 at 6:03 am

Victoria, thank you! Such a sweet thing to say. See you soon!


Nina May 27, 2012 at 8:35 pm

GReat post Carol. Loved your story too:)


Carol Sacks May 28, 2012 at 6:02 am

Thank you, Nina! I really appreciate it. Hope you’re having a restful, long weekend.


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