Dating back to 1898, a tarte tatin was traditionally made by caramelizing apples in butter and sugar and baking upside down in an oven. The dish was allegedly created by accident at the Hotel Tatin when the tart was baked upside-down by mistake. I substituted chunks of  apple for thick slabs of juicy tomato and gave my tart a savoury bend with brown butter and balsamic vinegar. At this time of year the tomatoes are a brilliant shade of red and are perfect paired with a soft lump of goat cheese. I am having a great time in Michigan and thank you for all of the well-wishes from the previous post. It will be so hard returning to winter after eating fresh fruits and vegetables from the markets and my grandfather’s garden (not to mention saying good-bye to family and friends again)!

Paul Gauguin, Nature morte aux tomates (Tomatoes and a pewter tankard on a table), 1883
oil on canvas, 60 x 73 cm, private collection

Paul Gauguin painted Nature morte aux tomates the year he quit working at the stock exchange and devoted his career to art.  The work from this period is closely related to Impressionism – he later broke away from the movement by simplifying his painting and focusing on shape and bold blocks of colour. In the two years before Gauguin painted Nature morte aux tomates, he exhibited at the Salon and formed a close relationship with Camille Pissarro. The short brushstrokes create a wavy texture over the surface of the composition carrying the eye from one corner to the other and reflect Cezanne’s influence over his art. According to the Christie’s catalogue from the May 2009 sale of Nature morte aux tomates, “A still-life with tomatoes, and indeed one composed mainly of tomatoes, is an unusual subject in 19th century French painting. Among the upper classes the tomato still had a lingering reputation for being poisonous to consume, a problem caused when the acids of the fruit leeched into the lead content of the pewter flatware that well-to-do diners preferred to use.”

{Tomato Tarte Tatin}

adapted from the NY Times

4 large tomatoes, sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
5 TB butter
1 TB white balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
1 TB fresh lemon thyme leaves
1 sheet, puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 425F or 220C. Cut the puff pastry 1/2 cm larger than the skillet. Melt 2 TB of the butter in the skillet and add the thinly sliced red onion and a pinch of salt. Stir over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes before adding 2TB of water to lift any bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir for another 30 seconds before transferring to a bowl.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet very slowly over medium-low heat until it turns golden. Add the balsamic vinegar and a bit of black pepper, cooking until the harsh vinegar smell disappears. Arrange the sliced tomatoes in a pretty pattern and top with the onions. Cover with the puff pastry and cut several long vents in the pastry to allow the steam to escape. Tuck the edges around the tomatoes and slide into the oven. Bake for around 30 minutes until puffed and golden.

Let the tart stand for a few minutes before running a knife around the edge to loosen. You may need to pour out a bit of the liquid at the bottom of the pan – my tomatoes were very juicy and I had quite a bit of excess liquid. Flip the tart onto a serving platter, sprinkle with the fresh thyme and cut into wedges. Serve with fresh goat cheese immediately. The crust will become soggy if left to sit in the juices from the tomatoes and onions.

If you don’t have an oven-proof skillet then simply cook the onions and brown butter in a small saucepan or frying pan and transfer to a round cake tin.