A few years ago, I had some people from work over to my house for dinner. I was worried about what to serve — I wanted something that seemed fancy, tasted good, and could be assembled easily in just a few minutes, preferably while drinking a glass of wine or two. After a series of increasingly complex Google searches (“what can I serve to my colleagues so they’ll think that I’m a good cook and won’t secretly judge me?”), I settled on tomato and goat cheese tarts. They vanished as soon as I put them on the table, and I’ve had this recipe in my back pocket ever since.
This is an Ina Garten recipe, and while I would never pretend to improve upon the Barefoot Contessa’s work, I did make a few changes to suit my own tastes. First, I cut the individual tarts into rectangles, rather than circles — it seemed easier to manage, and I didn’t have to waste any pastry dough this way. It was wintertime, so I used tiny, flavourful grape tomatoes rather than a large watery one. And finally, I followed my sister’s recipe for beer and honey onion jam instead of cooking them in wine. Okay, fine, I made tons of changes to Ina’s recipe, but sometimes you have to make a recipe work for you, rather than go out of your way to follow it perfectly.
There are two parts to this recipe: the onion jam and the tarts themselves. There are a few steps, but I promise this is easy and totally doable with minimal grocery shopping. The onion jam can also be prepared a few days in advance to speed up the process on the night of your party.
Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts (25-30 minutes cooking time)
Here’s what you need:
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Sharp paring knife
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (I use President’s Choice Butter Puff Pastry with excellent results)
- 1 batch Onion Jam (below)
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, washed and sliced in half
- 4 ounces/1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 ounces/1 cup goat cheese
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
Here’s what you do:
- Preheat your oven to 425°F and line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Unroll your puff pastry sheet onto the counter or a cutting board. IF MAKING INDIVIDUAL TARTS: cut the pastry sheet into 6 evenly-sized rectangles and arrange on your baking sheet, making sure to leave space between each tart so they can puff up. IF MAKING ONE LARGE TART (as pictured above): place the pastry sheet onto the parchment paper.
- Using the paring knife, score a 1/4″ border inside the edges of the tart(s). Be sure not to cut all the way through the pastry to avoid the crust separating from the tart itself!
- Keeping within the scored border, prick the pastry several times with a fork to create small steam holes, which will help it cook evenly in the oven.
- Assemble the tart: keeping within the scored border, spread a layer of onion jam evenly across the bottom of each tart.
- Add half of the Parmesan, then a single layer of tomatoes, followed by the crumbled goat cheese and more Parmesan.
- Drizzle the tarts lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry crust is golden.
- Top with the chopped fresh basil and serve warm.
Onion Jam (30-35 minutes cooking time)
Here’s what you need:
- Heavy pot with lid
- 5-6 yellow onions (about 1 pound)
- 1 can (500ml) cream or red ale, such as Kilkenny or Smithwick’s
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons honey
Here’s what you do:
- In your heavy pot, heat the butter and olive oil together over medium-low.
- Peel and finely slice the onions and add them to the pot. Stir to coat with the butter and oil mixture.
- Add the lid and sweat the onions for a few minutes until they are translucent. You don’t want them to brown at this point, so if you notice them picking up any colour, reduce the heat.
- After about 10 minutes, remove the lid and add 1/3 of the beer and one tablespoon of honey. Increase the heat to medium and stir to combine.
- When the liquid has absorbed, add 1/3 of the beer and another tablespoon of honey. Again, stir to combine.
- When the liquid has absorbed, add the final 1/3 of the beer and last tablespoon of honey. Stir to combine.
- When this final batch of liquid has absorbed, your onions are ready. They will be very jammy in consistency, and the final product will smell amazing. Set aside to cool. If preparing in advance, allow the onions to cool completely, then refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.