I’ve lamented here before about my “black thumb.” I have an inability to grow most things (with the exception of a few hardy herbs). Miss A, however, inherited a green thumb from someone, somewhere along the line. She can grow most things, and more importantly keep them alive!
This summer Miss A grew both potted strawberries and tomatoes. The strawberries had a good, albeit short run. I’m not sure any of them made it into the house, but they did get rave reviews from the budding gardener.
The tomatoes got off to a rough beginning. I don’t think they much cared for the cool, cloudy start to the summer, but Miss A played it calm and cool. She persisted with watering and the plucking of dead leaves. She wasn’t worried one bit, nor was she surprised when we came home from vacation to find her plants full of little red beauties. And fortunately for us, there was more ripe fruit than she could consume by herself, so the rest of us got to enjoy her bounty too.
While we’re usually content to just snack on the little tomatoes raw, I thought it would be fun to try a recipe that I enjoyed at the WBC15. On our Keuka Lake excursion to Chateau Frank, we were served delightful appetizers with our sparkling wine. I was particularly taken by the mini tarts presented by Chef Kyle McElhinney of the Ravinous Kitchen at Ravines Wine Cellars. (They paired nicely with Chateau Frank’s Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noir.)
As a foodie, I left the wine group for a few moments to chat with Chef Kyle. After a brief discussion about the dishes he prepared, followed by a segway into food blogging and the Finger Lakes, I learned that Kyle and his family recently relocated to the area from none other than Chicago! He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and was most recently a sous chef at Trenchermen. He also worked at Vie and Michelin-starred Acadia and Sepia. Kyle was a delight to talk with and exudes the very essence of the FLX region – enthusiasm and friendliness. I know he’ll do very well here.
It only seemed fitting after meeting Chef Kyle and seeing all of Miss A’s tomatoes that we make his tomato and whipped feta tartlets. It’s a simple recipe and perfect for featuring tomatoes this time of year. We used Miss A’s grape tomatoes, but cherry or baby heirloom (used by Chef Kyle) would work just as well.
We started our recipe with the puff pastry. We used a 2″ round biscuit cutter to create the base. Two sheets of puff pastry made between 25-30 rounds.
We then par baked the pastry for 10 minutes at 400F.
While the pastry baked, we prepared the whipped feta. Ours is a combination of feta, cream cheese, lemon juice, olive oil and basil. We seasoned it with salt and pepper and pulsed it in the food processor until combined.
Once the pastry was risen and a nice golden brown, we removed them from the oven, cooled them for five minutes, and topped them with the whipped feta.
We then placed a halved grape tomato over each of the tartlets.
We returned the tartlets to the oven for another 10 minutes. Just long enough to heat the tomato and cheese through.
The tartlets can be served warm or room temperature. We ate ours straight from the oven and Miss A was the first one to take a bite. Upon her insistence, no one else was allowed to try one until she made the first assessment.
We all waited, some more patiently than others (Mr. N, despite his distaste for tomatoes was chomping at the bit.). Miss A said nothing, but several “mmm’s,” were followed immediately by the grabbing and eating of a second tartlet. We took this as our signal to dig in as well.
The little tomato pastry bites were delicious. The tomato plays beautifully with the whipped feta and the puff pastry lends a satisfying texture to round it all out. We ate several as-is, then tried a few with a 15-year aged balsamic vinegar from Italy, courtesy of our dear friends Sue & Richard who just returned from Milan and Verona.
Mike and Mr. N both preferred the tomato and feta bites with the balsamic. They enjoyed the tangy, acidity brought by the vinegar. This ranked a 3 spoon vote from both of the boys (including no-love-for-tomatoes Mr. N).
Miss A and I, the two biggest (and near obsessive) fans of balsamic vinegar in the house, strangely preferred the tomato and whipped feta on puff pastry without the vinegar. In fact, the appetizer garnered 4 spoons from me and a whopping, off-the-charts 7 spoons from Miss A. She even requested the leftovers (of which there were very few) for breakfast the next morning.
While tomatoes for breakfast (or scarfing down gourmet appetizers) may seem an oddity for many children, Miss A and Mr. N are a bit out of the norm. Case in point, while in the Finger Lakes, the four of us stopped at Knapp Winery & Vineyard Restaurant mostly to enjoy their delicious menu, but also partly to purchase the 2014 Pinot Noir because we had the opportunity to taste it straight from the barrel on our tour last month!
Anyway, the waiter came to take our order and Mr. N asked for the falafel. He then turned to Miss A who announced she’ll have the cheese and charcuterie board. The waiter paused, then said, “We do have a kids’ menu available.” He proceeded to list off the options – chicken nuggets, hamburger, etc. Miss A, without batting an eye, said, “No thank you. I’ll have the cheese and charcuterie board.” So, as you can see, tomato and whipped feta tartlets for breakfast really aren’t too far off base.
While I don’t know that I’d eat the tomato and whipped feta tartlets for breakfast, I certainly recommend them for an appetizer. They are easy to make, can be prepared in advance and are delicious – particularly with some bubbly. Or in Mike and Mr. N’s case some good quality balsamic vinegar.
Print this recipe: Tomato Tartlet with Whipped Feta