Monday, June 17, 2013

Tomato Phyllo Tart

As many of you know, I love pizza in all its infinite varieties, and while this dish certainly looks like a pizza, and slices like a pizza, I’m going to claim that it is most definitely not a pizza, but a tart.  

I claim this because we’ve subtracted from the mix one of the defining things that makes a pizza a pizza: the bready crust. 

What we’ve replaced it with is that wondrous but finicky food item from Greece known as phyllo dough, a paper-thin pastry dough meant to be layered to make a number of tasty pastries and sweet treats.  Of course this tart is savory, so we’ll be skipping the sweet.  It is certainly pizza-like, but the overall dish has more of a Greek feeling and flavor than an Italian one, mainly because of the phyllo, but also due to the selection of toppings.

A word of warning:  Phyllo dough can be notoriously difficult to work with if you don’t prepare properly.  It usually comes frozen, so it first must be thawed properly.  The only way to do this right is several hours in the fridge.  If you just set the dough out on the counter, it will thaw too quickly and become mushy.  If you don’t thaw it long enough it will be too brittle to unroll.  Add to this the fact that even perfectly thawed dough will dry out quickly when you leave it on the counter, and phyllo dough can be daunting indeed. 

But, it is a very rewarding ingredient when used properly, so don’t be daunted, and give it a try.  Just thaw it several hours in the fridge, roll it out carefully, and keep it covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel when you’re doing other things and you should be fine. 

Tomato Phyllo Tart

12-14 Sheets Phyllo Dough, thawed
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 Stick Butter
1/4 Cup Breadcrumbs
4 oz. Prepared Pesto
1 8 oz. Block Feta Cheese
2 oz. Crumbled Feta Cheese
2 Roma Tomatoes, Sliced into Thin Slices
Several Kumato or other Small Tomatoes
1/3 Cup Kalamata Olives
Fresh Basil

Preheat oven to 400°F.

After thawing your phyllo dough properly (see above) unroll it 

and place one sheet on a greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Melt the butter and blend with the olive oil.  Brush the phyllo sheet with the butter/olive oil mixture.   

Sprinkle this with a light sifting of breadcrumbs.  

Layer another phyllo sheet on top of this.  Brush this sheet with the pesto mixture.  

Continue layering the phyllo sheets one after the other, alternating the butter/oil/breadcrumbs with the pesto.  Continue until all the sheets are used.  Make sure you spread the last layer with a good helping of the pesto mixture. Fold the edges over to make a half-inch crust. 

Slice the block of feta into thin slices and layer them onto the tart.  

Next, layer on the Roma tomatoes, leaving some space between them.  

You will then fill this space with the smaller Kumato Tomatoes or whatever small tomato you are using. 

Next, spread your Kalamata olives liberally about the tart, then finally sprinkle on the feta cheese crumbles. 

Bake in the 400°F oven for 30-40 minutes, keeping an eye on it and taking the tart out when the phyllo crust turns a golden brown and is crispy. 

(The delicate layers of the phyllo dough make a delightful, light crust)

Allow to set for about five minutes, then slice and serve with some of the shredded fresh basil. 

Until next time,