Save the Flavors – Cherokee Purple Tomato and Vidalia Onion Tart
The history of a specific tomato plant is also important to Brooke and is one of the reasons she chooses to grow particular varieties. According to several sources, the Cherokee Purple Tomato originated with the Cherokee Indians who gave the seeds of this flavorful deep red and purple (almost black, hence the name “blacks”) to several Sevierville, Tennessee residents over a century ago. Over the years it made its way from Tennessee to other parts of the South and has become a Southern favorite.
While you can find this tomato at local farmers’ markets and specialty grocers in season, it is, as Brooke mentioned, one of the first tomatoes to disappear at market because of its flavor and texture profile. It is also an heirloom variety that is easier than others for people to grow at home. For those of you interested in growing your own tomato plants, Seeds of Change, the sponsor of the Save the Flavors campaign, sells packets of organic seeds for the Cherokee Purple Tomato.
During the month of July, many of their certified organic brands of rice and grain products will have a code to redeem for free packets of Cherokee Purple seeds. Founded over 25 years ago with the concept to preserve the flavors that are otherwise being lost to commercial farms and to give home gardeners and farmers access to organically grown seeds, Seeds of Change believes it’s more important than ever to support and develop sustainable community farming and gardening programs. In fact, a portion of their sales goes to support this initiative.
When you do source a Cherokee Purple Tomato, one of the best ways to eat it to truly savor the flavor is sliced and drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt. It you want to do something special that showcases the pure flavor of the tomato, but elevates it to something elegant and delicious, try this Cherokee Purple Tomato and Vidalia Onion Tart. With just a hint of heat and spice in this buttery crust and fresh herbs in the cheesy custard, the tart is a wonderful starter for a dinner party or a light entrée for a luncheon. Since Cherokee Purples are so delicious on their own, I amp up the featured flavor, the tomatoes, by topping the finished tart with a simple fresh tomato salsa. It is sure to impress and have your family and guests asking for the recipe. Of course, it’s the Cherokee Purple that’s the star of this dish, so you’ll have to tell them the whole story.
If you’ve worked with heirloom tomatoes in your cooking, you know they are juicy and can be watery, so they need to be salted and drained prior to adding them to certain dishes. I also dry them on paper towels before adding them to the tart to avoid any excess liquid. They are then added to the custard after it begins to set and then topped with additional grated cheese to finish baking.
While it may be too late grow your own tomatoes this year, make plans to grow the Cherokee Purple Tomato and other heirloom produce next year to help save these important foods and flavors. If you’d like to follow along with the Save the Flavors campaign, you can do so on Twitter @SeedsofChange and use the hashtag #SaveTheFlavors.
* This post was sponsored by Seeds of Change. As with any sponsored article on our site, we only work with brands and foods we purchase and personally support.
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Cherokee Purple Tomato and Vidalia Onion Tart
For Pâte Brisée
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Pinch habanero powder, to taste
- 8 tablespoons cold butter, diced into ¼-inch pieces
- 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water
- 3 to 4 slices Cherokee Purple Tomato
- Kosher salt
- ½ tablespoons butter
- ½ Vidalia onion, chopped
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup grated Gruyère cheese, plus more for tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more for cooking onion
- A few generous grinds of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
- ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- Snipped fresh dill, for garnish
For Tomato Salsa
- 1 Cherokee Purple Tomato, trimmed, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch dice
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For Pâte Brisée
- Place the flour, salt, and habanero powder in a bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add butter pieces and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With machine running, add ice water, a little at a time and pulse just until pastry begins to hold together. Remove the pastry and on a lightly floured surface, form into an oblong shape. If dough seems too sticky, sprinkle the pastry with a little additional flour. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- On a lightly floured surface, carefully roll pastry out to a 6.5 x 16-inch rectangle and gently transfer to a 4.5 x 14-inch tart pan. Carefully press pastry into the pan and up the sides, folding back in the excess to create a sturdy side, also building it up a little higher than the pan to accommodate for less shrinkage. Prick the bottoms and sides of the shell and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
- Preheat a convection oven to 350 degrees. Line the shell loosely with heavy-duty foil, being sure to press into the edges, to avoid shrinkage while baking. Fill with baking weights or beans, making sure they fit into the corners.
- Bake 20 to 25 minutes until edges begin to brown. Remove crust from the oven and remove the foil and weights or beans. Continue baking crust for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until crust is light golden brown all over. Watch it carefully. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack.
- While tart crust is baking, place the tomato slices in a colander and sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Let stand, flip and salt lightly again to remove excess moisture.
- Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add in onion. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Turn heat lower if necessary and sauté just until onion is translucent. Set aside. Whisk together eggs and egg yolks and stir in cream, cheese, salt, pepper, and herbs. Combine thoroughly and then fold in cooked onion. Pour into prepared tart pastry and bake at 350 degrees (convection) for 15 to 20 minutes, just until custard is beginning to set. While custard is baking, remove tomato slices from the colander and place on paper towels, drying well to remove any additional moisture. When custard is partially set, remove tart from oven and place drained and dried tomato slices evenly across the top of the custard. Sprinkle with additional Gruyère cheese and return to the oven to finish baking, 15 to 20 minutes more, checking after 15 minutes. Custard should be set, puffy, and lightly browned. If desired, place the tart under the broiler for a few seconds to lightly brown the cheese.
- Remove tart from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cool for 5 minutes or longer. Sprinkle with fresh dill.
For Tomato Salsa
- Place the chopped tomato in a small bowl and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Add in kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Combine well and taste for seasonings again as the juices released from the tomato may require additional salt or pepper. Serve immediately with the tart.
Original recipe by Gwen Pratesi / Bunkycooks.com