What better way to celebrate tomato season than with a recipe highlighting summer’s finest offering? Heirloom tomatoes are gorgeous, juicy, come in a rainbow of colors and are packed full of delicious flavor.
You might ask if these irregular-shaped beauties are actually worth the price tag. I once paid $8 for a single tomato at a farmers market and complained about it the whole way home, but after taking one bite I realized I would have paid $16 for it. And here’s why.
Heirloom tomatoes are the cultivation of heirloom seeds that have been passed down for generations in a specific region and are purposely picked by a farmer for their unique characteristics. To be considered an heirloom, the seeds need to be at least 50 years old. Fifty years ago, tomatoes were grown for their flavor and not necessarily their appearance. It didn’t matter if they weren’t perfectly round, were bruised or had thin skins. What mattered was whether they tasted good.
There’s a small window in the summer months to get these guys, so if you see them, pick them while you can. Look for tomatoes that are heavy for their size, are slightly firm to the touch, and have green stems and minimal abrasions.
As a recent transplant to Charleston, South Carolina, I’ve become a big fan of Southern cuisine. Pimento cheese is king here and is acceptable to eat at breakfast, lunch or dinner. It only seems natural to pair together the “paté of the South” with juicy, ripe heirloom tomatoes.
The base of this tart starts with a Ritz cracker crust consisting of just three ingredients: crackers, butter and Parmesan cheese. The Parmesan cheese helps bind the crust together while also adding a cheesy, salty bite.
After the tart is baked and cooled, it’s slathered with a generous amount of creamy pimento cheese, topped with a variety of gorgeous, ripe and juicy ’looms and garnished with fresh herbs and flaky sea salt.
This is an easy recipe that’s perfect for entertaining on those summer nights or even as the main star of any Sunday brunch.
Pimento Cheese and Heirloom Tomato Tart with Ritz Cracker Crust
Makes 1 (9-inch) tart
2 sleeves Ritz crackers (about 7.5 ounces or 1 3/4 cup crushed crackers)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
10 tablespoons butter, melted
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, drained and diced
3 or 4 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
Fresh basil leaves and minced chives, to taste
Flaky sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Add crackers to bowl of food processor. Process until crackers are a fine crumb. Add Parmesan cheese, melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Process until evenly combined and mixture holds together when pressed between fingers. If it doesn’t hold together, add an additional tablespoon of melted butter.
3. Tightly press mixture into bottom and sides of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Tip: If the crust is not packed tightly, it will crumble when sliced. Use the back of a measuring cup to help really pack it down, as seen here.
4. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside and cool completely. Then place in fridge for one hour to help crust set.
5. Meanwhile, add tomato slices to paper towel-lined plate. Season with kosher salt and let sit for a few minutes to remove excess moisture.
6. Mix together softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic powder, apple cider vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk until evenly combined.
7. Stir in cheddar cheese and pimentos. Check for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
8. Spread pimento cheese mixture evenly on bottom of chilled tart crust.
9. Top with sliced tomatoes. Garnish with chives, basil leaves and flaky sea salt. Serve immediately.