The rare times that I do completely make things up usually start with a craving for a region or an ingredient. Sometimes it takes me a long time to place what it is I'm in the mood for. Sometimes I just walk around the supermarket or farmers' market and think about what tastes good and looks good and reminds me of what I want to eat, or where I would like to be. Walking to or from work, when I'm not wondering what trashy TV I'm going to watch that night, thinking something like, "Wow, it's easy to get to work when I actually leave my house on time," or pondering how great life will be when I have my own band, I'm contemplating how this cheese will go with those vegetables, what herbs I would use if I were in Provence, or whether I have enough cumin at home for chicken masala (I never have enough cumin at home).
This week Food52's contest was to make a picnic food. I wanted to make a tart, sort of based on my recent experiences with Gruyere and tomato tarts and the big kale and sausage one. I wanted a French vibe, but I liked the creaminess that ricotta added to the kale tart, and I had some left over. I was also thinking about pesto and how happy basil and tomatoes are together. I thought about these combinations all through my bus ride back from the airport on Monday and in my cubicle on Tuesday, and by the time I went to the store after work I had formed a vague plan.
I was picking out salad greens when I saw the tomatoes. They were conventionally grown, and from Maine, but they practically glowed in the store. When I approached them I could smell them. I have been waiting all summer for tomatoes I can smell. I bought about ten, feeling slightly guilty about the distance they traveled. But there are a lot of wonderful smells in the world in front of which I am powerless (roses, hardware stores, libraries) and fresh tomatoes are one of them.
I cuisinarted basil and Gruyere into crumbs and mixed them with ricotta and an egg. After I blind baked the tart shell I layered tomato slices, then cheese mixture, then more tomatoes. The basil and cheese mixture was so bright green.
I think next time I would add more Gruyere, and toast the pine nuts on top. But it was pretty damn good. You can see the whole recipe here. I'll be eating it for lunch all week.