The other night, Eric and I took my dad to see the musical Jersey Boys, which has been having a very successful run at the Palazzo Hotel. This was my second time seeing the show, but after I saw it the first time, I knew that my dad would love it and, quite frankly, I couldn't wait to see it again. You know that a show is good when you have the very worst seats in the house (we're talking far upper-corner), and you still have a great time. For my second time around, I managed to get us seats much closer to sea-level, and the show was even better. Eric even had a good time, and he's not really one for musicals and the whole idea of people spontaneously breaking into song mid-conversation. Much too illogical, you know. I'm already thinking about going to see it again. Anyone? Anyone?
Jersey Boys is based on the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, the singing group that brought us hits like "Sherry", "Walk Like a Man", and "Big Girls Don't Cry." Throughout the show, you realize just how many hits this group had (Hey-I love this song. I didn't know that they sang this too!) People in the audience were singing along, dancing, and just having an all-around great time.
In addition to a stellar soundtrack and top-notch choreography, Jersey Boys also provides a well-told story, as opposed to 2 hours of songs linked together by dialogue. The writing is smart and witty with a smattering of colorful "Jersey" language (translation: not for kids), but it moves the show along and keeps you interested.
The Garden State was obviously well-represented in the audience during both of my shows too. I grew up in New Jersey and Texas (how's that for a combination of accents?). These two states are vastly different in most ways, except for the large amount of state pride held by their residents. Every time something specific about New Jersey was mentioned during the show, you could count on at least one hearty "whoop," if not several, from various corners of the theater. During one scene, two of the characters discussed a business deal. One asked if they should draw up a contract. The other held out his hand and said "We'll shake on it. That's a Jersey contract." And the crowd goes wild.
Having a little Jersey in me, my second viewing of Jersey Boys brought out my state pride and inspired me to try a recipe that represents some of the-mall-capitol-of-the world's finest foods: fresh tomatoes, pizza, and Italian cuisine. This is one of those recipes that I really wish I could say I drummed up all on my own, but that wouldn't be fair to Martha. I recently added Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook to my over-sized cookbook library, but I am just starting to work through the dozens of dog-eared entries. The photos in this book really jump off the page, and they were a significant factor in helping me to decide which recipes I just had to try, such as this tomato tart.
I did make a few minor changes to Martha's recipe (gasp!), based on my experience. I found that the oven temperature was too high and that my cheese started to burn about halfway through the baking process, so I decreased the temperature by 25 degrees in two steps. As a result, I ended up adding a little bit of extra cheese on top, so my photo might look "cheesier" than the intended finished product (too much cheese is never a bad thing!) Keep an eye on your tart, and tent it loosely with foil if it starts to burn before the crust has baked. I also sprinkled half of the basil underneath the cheese layer, reserving the other half for garnish on the finished tart This seems to carry the flavor throughout. Here are my extra tips for this cheesy tomato tart:
- When you roll out the dough and transfer it to the tart pan, don't panic if it starts to tear a bit of break apart. This part is hard to do perfectly (that is, unless you happen to be Martha). A method that I like to use is to roll the dough loosely around a rolling pin and then unroll it over the tart pan. Once the dough is in the pan, patch it up with your fingers. It will all be covered with tomatoes and cheese anyhow!
- To save some time and money, you can use preshredded cheese for the recipe. One of the Italian blends, which usually contain Fontina, Parmesan, Asiago, Provolone, and Mozzarella, would work very well.
- The crust dough can be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to one month. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight prior to using.
- Although this recipe is best eaten the day that it is prepared, it will keep for 2 days. Tightly cover it and chill. Reheat in the oven to crisp the crust prior to serving.
Tomato, Fontina, and Basil Tart
For the Crust
1 ¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons ice water
For the Tart
1 head garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
¾ cup grated Italian Fontina cheese
1 ½ pounds ripe, firm tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
12 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Prepare the crust dough: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the flour and salt; pulse several times to blend. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour and pulse 10-12 times, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the processor running, add the ice water through a feed tube in a slow stream, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still too crumbly, then add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Transfer the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape it into a flattened disk. Wrap the dough tightly in the plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Prepare the tart: Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Place the head of garlic in a piece of aluminum foil; drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Fold the foil to encase the garlic, sealing the edges, and place it on a small baking sheet. Roast the garlic in the oven until the cloves are tender, about 35 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oven and set aside.
Raise the oven temperature to 425F degrees. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves out of their skins into a small bowl. Mash the cloves with a fork; discard the skins.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to a 13-inch round, about ⅛-inch thick. Fit the dough into a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing it into the edges. Using a rolling pin or a sharp knife, trim the dough flush with the top edge of the tart pan; chill the shell until firm, about 30 minutes.
Spread the roasted garlic evenly on the bottom of the chilled tart shell. Sprinkle with ¼-cup of the Fontina. Arrange the tomato slices in an overlapping circular pattern on top of the cheese, working from the outer edge toward the center. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with half of the basil and the remaining ½ cup of Fontina, and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Reduce the oven temperature to 400F degrees. Bake the tart until the crust is golden and the tomatoes are soft but still retain their shape, 40-50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the tart with the remaining basil and serve warm.