Every season I think firmly this is my favorite time of year… only to move to the next and have the same realization that in each season I can find joy. I love everything about the color changes Fall brings upon us. The crisp bite in the air, the frost dusting the foliage on the tundra, and the sweaters in my drawer just begging to be worn. Inevitably the season leading to me seek out every last Farmer’s Market score to be had and each item left to be foraged on the tundra I can squeeze in.
Fall also signals the close of many businesses across the Bristol Bay region, in Aleknagik, the Romo family runs the sweetest shop aptly called the Woodriver Market filled by seasonal produce they have either grown or imported. They are located just off the water where Aleknagik Lake pours out into the Wood River that eventually feeds into the Nushagak Bay.
The Woodriver Market sells organic produce, raw cheeses, dry goods, smoothies, espressos, handmade soaps, locally tied flies, and the list only goes on. This summer and fall seasonal store with its wide wooden plank flooring and rustic feel has me leaving inspired to create something each time I visit. Shelves lined with colorful cherry tomatoes, papery covered onions and garlic, bottles of Kombucha, and raw sharp cheddar cheeses all go toward filling my basket on the last trip.
As I drove home I thought of how roasted tomatoes may be my favorite way to eat the fruit then paired with cheese, herbs, and balsamic vinegar they are a solid hit. Thinking if I baked all that in a flaky, buttery, pastry crust and swoon… we would arrive at the perfect Fall platter, and I was right! I typically go for all butter pie crust but for this tart I tried something new and am incredibly glad I did. The pie crust is merely salted butter, full fat sour cream and flour; the flaky crust presented itself with visible layers and perfect crunch. The sour cream adding a tang that lent itself well to the savory filling.
Tomato + Caramelized Onion Balsamic Tart (yields one 10 inch tart)
for the pastry crust,
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, cubed
- 1/4 cup full fat sour cream
for the filling,
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 small white or yellow onion, sliced thin
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons salted butter
- 1-2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4-6 ounces raw sharp cheddar cheese, crumbled
- flaked sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Optional – herbs for garnishing – pictured is broccoli flowers these are light and sweet as well as pretty, equally nice is sliced basil, chives, or fresh thyme
To begin you’ll make the crust, as it will need to chill a bit before rolling out. In a medium bowl that you can fit your hands into, toss the butter cubes in flour. Then using a pastry cutter or your finger tips work the butter into the flour until the consistency resembles coarse meal or rice. Stir in the sour cream with a fork once blended using your hands to form a disk. If the dough seems overly dry you may add up to an additional tablespoon of sour cream. Wrap disk in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes up to overnight, use dough within 24 hours for best results.
While the dough is chilling, in a large well seasoned cast iron or nonstick skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Toss in onions, cook slowly allowing the onions to sweat and become translucent. Frequently stir the onions until the color becomes a light gold, this may take 15-20 minutes. Once the onions have caramelized stir in garlic and remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 450 degree Fahrenheit. On a well floured surface roll out chilled dough to approximately 11 inches round. Place dough onto 10.5 inch cast iron griddle and fold any excess in to make a thick crust edge along the griddle’s rim. Spread the caramelized onion and garlic evenly across the crust surface, arrange tomatoes across the crust and tuck in-between the fruit the crumbled cheese pieces. Sprinkle the tart with the balsamic vinegar, finishing by seasoning with flaked sea salt and pepper as desired.
Bake 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes wrinkle, soften and perhaps burst. The crust should brown to a dark golden. Remove from oven, slide tart onto a serving platter or cutting board, garnish with herbs if desired. Serve immediately cutting as you would a pizza or pie.