I love kitchen gadgets and although I spend a lot of time looking at them (I simply can’t pass up going into a Williams-Sonoma), I rarely purchase anything. They are all usually on my list of things I would buy if I won the lottery because they aren’t “necessary”. I’ve never understood spending a lot of money on something when the I can usually find a much less expensive version which works just fine. Rolling pins are an example of that. I’ve always gotten the cheapest version I could find, not understanding what the point is of a tool which, on appearance, looks basically the same, no matter what the cost. This was until I was given a rolling pin by Epicurean. It all became clear as soon as I picked it up. It’s heavy, probably about 3 pounds (whereas the one I have from Target is less than a pound). It’s so smooth, I knew I wouldn’t need much flour at all to keep the dough from sticking to it. I used it the other day to make this tomato crostata and there is no comparison to the cheaper one. The difference in rolling out pastry is night and day. I usually end up with sore arms from trying to roll out pie crusts that have been chilling in the refrigerator for any amount of time. Not so with this. With very little pressure and in no time at all, the crust was finished and ready to be filled. I think maybe I’ve learned my lesson; this is definitely not my grandmother’s rolling pin. So if you are ever wondering why someone would spend more money on a tool that you can easily find cheaper elsewhere, sometimes there is a reason.
This was my first attempt at a crostata. I hated tomatoes until I was almost 30 years old. Up until that point I had only had the tomatoes you get from the grocery store. You know the kind – no flavor and really grainy. It wasn’t until moving to Morocco that I had my first taste of a “real” tomato; I could not believe the difference. They were juicy and sweet… and ridiculously inexpensive. I could get a pound for about a quarter, during the summer. Our lunches were almost always made up of tomato and cucumber sandwiches. When we moved back, I once again tried the tomatoes from the grocery store and, once again, was reminded why I thought I hated tomatoes. This summer, as part of my straw bale garden (details in an upcoming post), I tried again and had mild success with some heirlooms (let’s just say I’m a better photographer than I am a gardener). I wish they would grow all year, or at least not seem to get ripe all at once. I get selfish and want to keep them all for me, but I know I can’t possibly eat them all. I can, however, use them in as many recipes as possible. This crostata is simple to assemble and is full of flavor, perfect for a lunchtime snack or as a side dish with dinner.
[pastry recipe from Ask Chef Dennis]
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/c cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup ice water
Add the flour, sugar and salt to the food processor. Pulse 2 times. Add in the cubes butter and pulse 7 or 8 times. Don’t over mix. Add the egg yolks one at a time and pulse 2 -3 times to incorporate. Add the ice water and pulse 5 or 6 times or until the dough begins to form clumps without forming a ball. Put the mix into a large bowl and form into a ball. Flatten it into a disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.
1/2 -3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
2 large tomatoes, sliced
small handful of fresh chopped basil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Lay the sliced tomatoes on paper towels to drain for about 30 minutes (to prevent the crust from getting soggy).
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place a piece of parchment or flour a large cookie sheet. Roll out the pastry to approximately a 12-inch circle and lay onto the prepared pan. Sprinkle the crust with the mozzarella, leaving about a 1-inch gap around the diameter. Layer on the tomatoes. Sprinkle the basil over the top. Drizzle the olive oil over the filling and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Finish it off with the parmesan. Fold over the edges of the crust and pinch the creases together to avoid leaks. Place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Serve immediately.