Monday, September 20, 2010


Sibling rivalry has kicked in with all kinds of screaming, punching, and drama queening. Often, hanging with both Dash and Bella is so intense that I just want to hustle them to bed as quickly as possible. I'm craving time alone with each of them. Bella and I have been going out on dates to fancy dinners without Dash. Last week we sat at the bar of a very popular local restaurant called Wood Tavern. In between bites of burrata and roasted peaches, we talked about second grade, the San Francisco Giants, Silly Bandz, and what life would be like without Dash (she decided she wants to keep him around). It was dreamy.

This year Dash is in school every day but Friday. So Friday's our day. No school. No Bella. Just the two of us.  I'm hoping to do a series of posts called "Fridays with Dash" in which we do a new recipe together every week. Or maybe every other week.

From the back of the car last week, Dash announced, "We have to pass through ALL the cafés to get to school."

Dash's relationship with Berkeley is like a Chutes and Ladders board paved with cafés.
I don't know what kind of drugs you all did in high school, but I skipped class to do lattes. This early addiction lingers and I'm a much better mom when I'm caffeinated. Dash is psyched to go to a café every morning because he always scores a pastry. He went through a cheese danish phase, a pumpkin bread phase, and now he always wants cheese bread from The Cheese Board. Last week, we were lucky enough to get a table next to the cheese counter.

"Holy shit, look at the cheese!" I shouldn't open my mouth before I've had a full cup of coffee.

"Holy SHIT, Mama? Why?" asked Dash.

"Holy cow, Dash. Holy guacamole. The cheese is just so beautiful."

We left The Cheese Board with a tub of quark cheese (fresh cow's milk cheese made from sour milk). I was hoping to combine it in some killer way with the huge pile of tomatoes we had just picked with my parents over the weekend. Actually, my kids picked 3 tomatoes and my parents picked 103.
Dash and Bella jumped around gathering baskets, gloves, and clippers, but their enthusiasm was short-lived. "No farmer is she," said my dad as Bella harvested two tomatoes before complaining of the heat. Harry Potter was calling.
Dash, red-faced and sighing, heaved and hoed a bit longer than Bella.

So it's Friday and we're in the kitchen. I have quark and all the picked tomatoes and I think there might be some sort of tart to be made. When I'm trying to figure out a recipe I wander around the kitchen talking to myself. Fortunately, Dash is listening to my ramblings. "Put garlic in the tart, Mama."

So I roast a whole head of garlic. When it's soft, sweet, and caramelized, I whip it up with the quark, an egg, and some cream. Dash slurps a bunch of the mixture up like a milkshake.
We par-bake the tart shell, seal the bottom with a layer of mustard, and then Dash fills the tart shell with the quark mixture. He gently puts down overlapping concentric circles of heirloom tomatoes slices. 
And then Dash can't contain himself anymore so he smooshes some tomato slices between his fingers and throws them onto the tart.

"Dude!!! What a mess. Are you a big boy or a baby?"

He thinks about it for a moment and then says calmly, "I'm not a baby anymore. I broke my baby size."

 "Well, If you broke your baby size then you be a big boy and help me fix the tart."

And he does. 

1. I chose not to squeeze out some liquid from the tomatoes. I just didn't want to lose all the wonderful flavor. It's a very moist tart but I found that most of the liquid was reabsorbed back into the cheese base and the crust once it was done. You can certainly halve the tomatoes, scoop and squeeze out some liquid and seeds, and then slice them up.

2. Any kind of dough works for this tart. I used puff pastry once and shortcrust pastry dough another time. We're trying pizza dough tomorrow. On a pizza I would recommend slicing the tomatoes very thinly because the dough requires less cooking time. Not need to pre-bake the pizza dough.

3. Replace the quark cheese with goat cheese. Or make your own quark.

4. Top the tart with a combination of cheeses: parmesan, gruyere, piave, and/or pecorino.

5. Add niçoise or lucques olives.

6. Mix fresh herb in with the quark mixture. Or just sprinkle fresh herbs on top before or after cooking.

7. Add caramelized onions.

8. Add strips of anchovy.

If you use my recipe for shortcrust pastry dough, do the variation that involves adding the butter in 2 batches.

a recipe for shortcut pastry dough OR store-bought puff pastry
1 head garlic
1 egg
8 ounces quark
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
6-8 heirloom tomatoes, cored and sliced about 1/2" thick (they will look prettier if you do horizontal slices, from the stem end to the bottom)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Make shortcut pastry dough and refrigerate for a few hours. Or remove puff pastry from the freezer about an hour before you're going to make the tart. Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut the tiniest bit of the tips off of the garlic cloves from the non-stem end. Rub exposed cloves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap in tin foil, put it in a dish, and bake until garlic is soft. This should take 45 minutes to an hour. Check often to make sure it's not burning. Set aside to cool.

Keep oven at 375° F. Roll out dough and press into a 10 or 12 inch pie plate. Bake off for 10-15 minutes until just beginning set. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes.

Squeeze roasted garlic (it can still be warm just not hot) into the bowl of a standing mixer. Add egg, quark, heavy cream, and salt. Beat with mixer until smooth (or mix by hand). 

Spread mustard over the bottom of the pre-baked tart shell. Evenly spread (or pour depending on consistency) quark mixture on top of that. Arrange the tomato slices in overlapping concentric circles on top of the quark mixture. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top of the tomato slices. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top of the tart. Bake. Lots of moisture seeps out of the tomatoes during the first 30 minutes. Don't worry.  It will seep back into the tart. Remove the tart when it's nicely browned. This takes anywhere from 45-60 minutes. You can place it under the broiler for a minute or 2 at the end to get the desired color. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.


  1. What a beautiful tart! I miss Berkeley. I used to buy a latte every single day before class. In my mind ancient history, Italian fascism and econ are all flavored with espresso

  2. Ah, Wood Tavern. That sounds like the best trip ever for you and your daughter.

    I had my own Holy Sh*t moment as a kid. My parents took me to a park which (back then) had huge slides. They were the biggest slides I'd ever seen. I must have been no more than 4 years old. We pulled up, I looked out the window and said "HOLY SH*T!." I think it was then that my parents realized how much my dad's vernacular rubbed off on me.

  3. love your photos in this post :)
    I'm working on a tomato tart as well, so soon we could compare :)

  4. Why do I drool every time I read your posts! I guess the answer is obvious: that tart looks grubbin' and those kids of yours are so yummy as well. I love seeing Bella reading Happy Potter. Otie and Lilah can't get enough Harry Potter either - kid crack?
    Reading this makes me miss good Berkeley lattes. I have been drinking nescafe - yuck. Shows how desperate I still am for that morning caffeine fix:)
    Love from Australia,

  5. Re: #1, i have a container in my freezer for any and all tomato byproduct (juice, innards, flesh) such that anytime i make a tomato sauce I throw in the remainders. Guilt-free concasse and pain con tomate.
    #7, caramelized onions make everything better. sigh.

  6. LHM: my LIFE is flavored with coffee. i completely understand.

    natalie: yup. my kids kids have heard all the bad words by now. sort of funny hearing them spoken back to me. thanks for your story.

    m: can't wait to see what sort of tomato tart you make.

    e: nescafe? bummer!!!! i love that you wrote "happy potter." i love typos like that. unless that's what you guys call him. and the fact that you used the word "grubbin'" is the highest compliment. i'm going to steal that word and use it soon. i miss you!

    michael: great idea for the tomato byproduct. thanks for that. and yes, caramelized onions are the best. i put them in my salad last night, my burger the night before. today they're going in a gratin.

  7. great recipe! I love roasting a whole head of garlic- adds great flavor without the harsh garlic taste that you can get from raw garlic. I use it in mashed potatoes and spread it on crusty italian bread for bruschetta! Yummy!

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