When I was 21, the poet I was working for at the time graciously arranged for me to spend a portion of the summer at a writer’s residency on a small organic farm in Wisconsin. It was late June, the heat of summer, and we spent the mornings picking raspberries, grubbing apple trees and staking tomato plants as they grew heavy with big red globes that were hot to the touch in the mid-morning sun. In the afternoons, we would take shelter in the dimly lit attic apartment in the barn out behind the house to comb through shelves full of ancient paperbacks, crack open a bottle of wine and take a swing at getting some writing done.
Before we headed out to the barn, we would stop by the house to grab a loaf of freshly baked bread, a slab of homemade butter, a hunk of local Wisconsin white cheddar and as many little red and orange and green tomatoes as we could carry. On our way out, we would grab a handful of basil from the kitchen garden.
Ever since then, the most satisfying summer lunch I can think of is homemade bread, a bit of cheese and fresh tomatoes.
Garlic scapes have come into season. The garlic won’t be ready for another couple of months, but the scapes are cut off now, in late spring to early summer, to allow the plant to focus on growing the bulb instead of flowering. I had never seen garlic scapes until I came to Korea and still default to their Korean name at times, since I only learned that they were called scapes years after I’d become aware of them in Korean. They’re kind of crazy looking, something like a hybrid between a really long green bean and a spring onion gone mad. They taste mildly of garlic, almost like spring onions or scallions, but they have a surprising heat to them that mellows significantly when they are cooked.
Koreans often eat them raw, tossed in an even more spicy paste made from gochujang (fermented red pepper paste), red pepper powder, soy sauce, sesame oil and corn syrup, but with the turn of the weather last week toward summer, I was hankering for something light, with cheese and tomatoes.
That summer on the farm, I was still a vegetarian, and I still usually to revert back to flexitarian tendencies during the summer, when meat often feels too heavy. This tart is nice, because it fills you up without bogging you down. The more substantial ingredients — heavy cream, milk, eggs and Gruyere — are balanced with minced garlic scapes incorporated into the filling. Cherry tomatoes and garlic scape stalks dotted across the top of the tart help to lighten it up.
I’ve had rye bread, leftover Gruyere and tomatoes for lunch every day so far this week, but this tart was a nice variation on the memory of that hot Wisconsin summer on the farm, with the scapes in place of the basil adding a little Korean twist.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cold
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4-6 tablespoons cold water
- 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere, or other hard yellow cheese
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- a pinch of nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic scapes
- 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 garlic scapes, quartered lengthwise
- Cut the butter into small pieces and, in a food process or with a pastry cutter, combine the flour salt and cold butter until the mixture forms a fine crumble. Don’t over handle the mixture or the butter will begin to melt. Add the olive oil and stir to combine and then slowly add the cold water until the dough just comes together. Press the dough into a flat disk, cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C (347 F). When the dough has rested, remove it from the fridge and the plastic wrap and roll it out so that it overlaps with the pie dish. Drape it over the top of the dish and gently press it down into the ridges and edges. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the dish to trim off any excess. Place a piece of nonstick baking paper in the pie dish and pour in some baking beans or rice to keep the crust from rising while it bakes. Place it in the oven for 15 minutes, remove the baking beans and paper and place it back in until it turns a light golden brown, about 10 more minutes.
- In the meantime, combine the heavy cream, milk, eggs, 1 1/4 cups of cheese, minced garlic scapes, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk until thoroughly combined. When the tart crust is ready, pour in the filling and gently place tomatoes and garlic scapes around the circumference of the tart. Top with the remaining cheese and put the tart back in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the center is set and the top is lightly browned. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.