- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Before the homegrown tomatoes of summertime are but a memory, you had better be savoring them. That means turning them into a salad, a sandwich, a fast blender soup, or an easy and attractive tart.

The key to quick cooking is using ingredients right at hand, and this recipe uses fresh cherry or grape tomatoes from your garden or the local farm stand. Arrange them on a crust made from refrigerated crescent-roll dough, and garnish them with slivers of fresh basil. Add a simple green salad, some good bread and fruit, and you have a light but filling meatless meal.

The tart is also perfect as an appetizer: Serve slim wedges with glasses of white wine. The best pan for baking this tart is one of the shallow ones with the removable bottom. But if you don’t have one, a regular pie pan will do just fine.

Five time-shaving meals with ripe tomatoes:

• Cook the pasta of your choice to al dente (firm to the bite). Drain; toss with olive oil; and add chopped fresh tomato, fresh basil, salt and minced fresh garlic.

• Slice tomatoes and layer on a platter with fresh mozzarella slices and big basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

• Buy a pre-baked pizza crust, and line it with fresh marinated mozzarella cubes and slices of ripe tomato. Bake until bubbly.

• Cook bacon the old-fashioned way in the frying pan. Slice tomatoes; wash iceberg lettuce; and layer the bacon, lettuce and tomato onto toasted bread with a slather of mayonnaise. Nothing beats a fresh BLT.

• Create a fast BLT salad with chopped iceberg lettuce, chopped ripe tomatoes, crumbled bacon and crumbled blue cheese. Add an oil and vinegar dressing and serve.

Summer tomato supper menu:

Cherry tomato and basil tart

Green salad with cucumbers and yellow tomatoes

Fruit and cheese platter

Lemon sorbet

Cherry tomato and basil tart

1 8-ounce package refrigerated crescent rolls

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

Coarse salt

cup finely sliced fresh basil or parsley (see note)

2 large eggs

cup heavy (whipping) cream or whole milk

1 cup pre-shredded mozzarella cheese

Open package of crescent-roll dough; separate into 8 triangles.

Arrange triangles in a 10-inch tart or pie pan with long points toward the center so that the bottom and side of the pan are covered with dough. Press edges of dough triangles firmly together to seal them. Bake crust on center rack of preheated 375-degree oven until it is lightly browned and puffed, 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut tomatoes in half. (Slice cherry tomatoes crosswise, grape tomatoes lengthwise.) Remove tart pan from oven; leave oven on. Press down on crust with the back of a spoon to flatten it. Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, on bottom of crust, completely covering it. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes, sprinkle them with salt, and scatter the basil evenly over the top.

Crack eggs into a small bowl, add the cream and mozzarella, and whisk to combine. Pour egg mixture over tomatoes.

Bake tart until custard has set and crust is a deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.

Remove tart from oven, and place it on a wire rack to cool 5 minutes, then slice the tart and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: The most efficient way to slice basil leaves is to stack them and roll them into a cigar shape, then slice them crosswise. This creates basil slivers, or a chiffonade, as it is called in French.


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