This is your summer showstopper. It’s so pretty to look at that it’s guaranteed to receive applause at the table. It’s even better to eat, of course. Tomatoes — the true gems of the season — are the focus here. No cheese or aromatics like garlic and onions stand in their way. Instead, their juicy, rich flavor stands freely on its own in this savory twist on a tarte tatin, a classic French caramelized, upside-down pastry that’s most often made with apples for dessert. A touch of balsamic vinegar and honey help caramelize the tomatoes in this take, while coaxing out their inherent sweetness, and just a touch of fresh thyme gilds the lily. All this atop a buttery, flaky puff pastry crust — it’s no wonder this recipe will be a crowd-pleaser.
The Ultimate Ode to Tomato Season
I find myself eating tomatoes every which way throughout the summer months, but this recipe stands out among the rest. It puts the produce front and center, without the fuss of other veggies and strong flavors like cheese, which can mask the incredible flavor we wait all year for. That means it’s wise to use the best cherry tomatoes you can get your hands on here — a mix of colors is especially nice if you’re all about eye appeal (I am!).
Serve this tart warm or at room temperature, whenever the mood suits you. It’s lovely on its own for lunch; as part of a brunch, picnic, or potluck spread; or, my favorite way, with a simple green salad for a light summer dinner, preferably accompanied by a cool, crisp glass of white wine.
Tomato Tarte Tatin
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pints cherry tomatoes (about 4 cups), preferably a mix of colors
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus a handful of small sprigs for garnish
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (7 to 9 ounces, from one 1-pound box that contains 2 sheets), thawed but still cold, and corners cut off to make very rough 9- to 10-inch round
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F.
Heat the oil in an ovenproof 9- or 10-inch skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat until shimmering. Add the tomatoes and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring once or twice, and as tomatoes begin to pop and release their juices, use a slotted spoon to press each down gently to release even more of their juice, then transfer to a plate. All of the tomatoes should have popped after 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat (do not clean) and let the tomatoes cool to the touch, 5 to 10 minutes.
Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, return the skillet to medium heat and add the vinegar and honey. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until reduced slightly, thick, and syrupy, about 1 minute.
Remove the skillet from the heat. Use your fingers to gently return the tomatoes to the skillet in one even layer, nestling them beside each other to fit as needed. Leave any juices that have collected on the plate behind. Sprinkle the chopped thyme over the tomatoes along with another big pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
Place the puff pastry round on top of the tomatoes, folding under any edges, if needed. Prick the pastry with a fork in a handful of spots.
Bake until the puff pastry is golden-brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the pastry to loosen it from the pan. Invert a large plate over the top of the skillet and, using oven mitts, carefully and quickly flip the tarte tatin onto the plate. Rearrange any tomatoes that may have fallen out of place. Garnish with the thyme sprigs and serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Puff pastry: Look for ready-made puff pastry in the freezer section, particularly those brands made with all butter rather than oil. They will have a richer flavor, and the dough will produce nice layers of pastry. For best results, defrost in the refrigerator at least 4 hours and up to 1 day before using.