It truly borders on creepy how much I adore fresh herbs. All winter long I complain about how none of my dishes seem up to par without the addition of bright and fresh herbs from my garden. So you can imagine my sheer delight when my mom brought home a tiny basil plant for us to keep indoors before it's warm enough to plant in the garden. One of my favourite ways to conceptualize a fantastic dish is to draw inspiration from a single ingredient, and build the flavours from there. My new fresh basil was the perfect ingredient to get my creative wheels turning to come up with this delicious appetizer.
I knew immediately that I wanted to make something with tomatoes as basil and tomatoes are best friends (maybe even secret lovers), their flavours compliment one another perfectly! From there I came up with the idea of making little tomato and basil puff pastry tartelettes, incorporating leftover pressed cottage cheese (also known as bakers cheese) with tangy goat cheese to add a creamy layer atop the pastry that the tomato slices could rest on. With the addition of some seasonings and savory caramelized shallots my tartelettes were delicious! Crispy on the outside with a warm creamy centre, soft, sweet and tangy tomato slices and bright and fresh basil, these tartelettes are perfect served alongside a mixed green salad.
Note: I added pine nuts as an optional addition to the recipe. I always ask my diners what they would suggest to make the dish even better, and pine nuts was the winning suggestion! A nutty crunch would be the perfect touch for this appetizer.
olive oil, for frying and brushing on pastry
1 shallot, chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
butter, for frying
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup pressed cottage cheese/bakers cheese (if you can't access any, you may substitute with ricotta or cream cheese)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 package of frozen puff pastry rounds (do not defrost)
1 tomato, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
about 1/4 cup gruyere, shredded
6 basil leaves
handful of pine nuts , lightly toasted (optional)
salt and pepper to season
1. In a small saute pan, add a small amount of butter and olive oil and warm at medium-low heat. Add the shallots and saute until softened and golden. Add balsamic vinegar and continue cooking until shallot is sticky and glazed with the balsamic vinegar, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the goat cheese with the bakers cheese and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. Lay out the puff pastry rounds on a baking sheet. Lightly brush the pastry with olive oil. Evenly distribute the caramelized shallots among the centre of the pastries. Top evenly with the goat cheese mixture. Top each pastry with a slice of tomato, and season the top of each tomato slice with freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle the top of each tomato with the gruyere cheese.
4. Bake tartelettes in a 400º oven for 18-20 minutes, or until puff pastry is golden. Season each tart with freshly ground salt and pepper. Top each tatelette with a basil leaf and a sprinkle of pine nuts (optional). Served best warm or at room temperature.
Listening To: New Cannonball Run - TV on the Radio