When Jody was a girl and her parents had a cocktail party, she and her sisters were pressed into service, given trays of hors d’oeuvres and asked to circulate among the guests. As we were discussing how to arrange some of the final shots for this post, Jody produced a small wooden tray, then darted out the kitchen door and returned a moment later with some nasturtium blossoms from the garden, which she then arranged on the tray. Did I have an opinion?
“Hmmm, maybe a little prissy.”
She paused, fixed me with cool regard and said, “This is the way my mother would do it.”
Marriage, parenthood and now, quarantine, have given me a finely honed sense of when to heed the voice in my head screaming, Warning, Will Robinson! Warning!
Alright then. Nasturtiums it is. (I prefer a garnish of an Aperol Spritz.) You may garnish with your own flowers, but you probably want to stick with something edible, just in case a guest in sudden access of frenzied amusement decides to snatch one off the tray and gobble it up. Enjoy.
TOMATO PHYLLO SHEET PIES WITH CINNAMON, HONEY AND OREGANO
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 9 full-size sheets of phyllo
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or other hard cheese
- 3 tablespoons toasted breadcrumbs
- 1½ pounds tomatoes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup full fat ricotta cheese
- Zest of 1 orange
- Cinnamon to taste, about ½ teaspoon
- 2-3 tablespoons honey
- Fresh oregano leaves
- Heat the oil with the butter over low heat until the butter is melted.
- Cut the phyllo in half the short way and stack on a clean surface with a slightly damp towel covering them. For the rest of the recipe, I’ll call each of these half-sheets a “sheet.” Arrange two baking sheets nearby within reach – you’re going to construct both sheet pies at the same time.
- Place a sheet of parchment down on each baking sheet, then brush the parchment paper with the oil and butter mixture.
- Place a sheet of phyllo down over the parchment and brush lightly with oil and butter. Repeat with the second tray. Do this until you have 3 layers of phyllo on each tray.
- Sprinkle each with a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and 1/2 tablespoon breadcrumbs.
- Add 3 more layers of phyllo, brushing each with the olive oil and butter mixture. Sprinkle layer 6 on each with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan and 1/2 tablespoon breadcrumbs as well.
- Add 3 more layers of phyllo, brushing each with oil and butter. Brush the top of layer 9 with oil and butter and sprinkle with ½ tablespoon breadcrumbs. Refrigerate the trays, uncovered.
- Slice the tomatoes into rounds ¼-inch thick. If using cherry sized tomatoes, cut in half. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and allow to drain atop a layer of paper towels on a platter for 15 minutes. (To my regret, I skipped the layer of paper towels.) You may need a couple of platters. You could also use a cookie sheet.
- Season the ricotta with the orange zest and a little salt and pepper. Stir in the remaining Parmesan cheese.
- Carefully spread half the ricotta mixture over each stack of phyllo.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Pat the tomato slices dry. Divide the tomatoes evenly over the ricotta in the two pies. If you have different sizes and colors, I recommend starting by distributing the bigger ones evenly over the cheese and then filling in with the little ones.
- Brush the tomatoes and edges of the phyllo with the olive oil and butter.
- Bake on the top rack of the oven at 400 degrees, with convection, for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and cook for another 5-6 minutes or until golden brown.
- If you want, you can put the tart under the broiler for about 1 minute to get the tomatoes darker. BE CAREFUL as the phyllo will burn if you leave it under the broiler too long.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon, drizzle with honey and distribute oregano leaves over the top.
This is kind of a mash up. I was inspired by my friend Susan Stacy who has a kitchen island the size of two end-to-end queen-size beds. Every August she gathers friends and family around this island for tomato-pie-making-sessions. There’s a tendency among vegetables gardeners to over achieve when it comes to tomatoes. Susan always has baskets of tomatoes in all different shapes, sizes and colors that she needs to distribute. Anyway each year, she’s in search of the perfect tomato pie and we play culinary Huckleberry Finns pitching in to help. This is not a hardship.
I wasn’t interested in making a pastry dough in the middle of the summer so decided to try one with phyllo and started with a straightforward combination of basil and olives, but when Ken and I tried the tester, we wanted something different. After some back and forth, we came to cinnamon, orange, honey and oregano. If you flip back a few years through The Garum Factory, you will find a Sardinian dessert of ricotta, orange and honey. Ta-da!
So I know some people aren’t fans of cinnamon, particularly on tomatoes. Just skip it.
P.S. It’s easy to use this technique to make a dessert. Eliminate the Parmesan cheese, or keep it, or use finely chopped nuts instead. Use blueberries, cherries or sliced peaches tossed in sugar, rather than the tomatoes.