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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Easy Way to Impress Your Guests - Basil Pesto and Tomato Tart

Make sure you use the best quality tomatoes possible for this recipe. The UK tomato season is from around June to October so even though tomatoes are widely available all year round, I think they are a little bit firmer and a little bit tastier during the summer. You can also get a much wider variety of tomatoes during the summer, I used sugardrop tomatoes for this recipe, which are sweeter than your regular tomatoes and when roasted for the 15 minutes that this recipe needs taste amazing. Some recipes tell you to remove the seeds to stop it getting all soggy, but using small cherry tomatoes means that they don't give off too much liquid.

You can use a jar of pesto but I think a good homemade one is a hundred times better (that's right, 100 times!). If the pesto was for a pasta sauce I would make it a bit chunkier and chop everything by hand or use a pestle and mortar, but for this tart a smooth pesto works better so using a food processor is fine (and much easier!)

Serve the tart with a simple side salad, topped with a few shavings of parmesan and serve as soon as you take it out the oven to keep the pastry nice and crispy. I haven't given exact amounts of each ingredient as it doesn't make too much of a difference whether you have 10 extra basil leaves or an extra pine nut or two, just make sure it has the taste and consistency that you are looking for.

For the Pesto:
1 Clove of Garlic
3 Large Handfuls of Fresh Basil Leaves
1 Large Handful of Pine Nuts
1 Large Handful of Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Half a Small Lemon
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

For the Tart:
Homemade Pesto
Ready Rolled Puff Pastry
A Handful of Best Quality Cherry Tomatoes

For the Side Salad:
Mixed Salad Leaves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Lemon Juice
Best Quality Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt

1. For the pesto, place all of the ingredients in a food processor (like i said before, if this is for a pasta sauce take the time and chop everything by hand) and pulse until everything has combined but before it turns into a puree. If it is all still looking a bit dry add another splash of olive oil.

2. Cut out the puff pastry into a rough circle (I prefer the slightly rough-round-the-edges look to a perfect circle) and prick with a fork leaving a 1cm edge all the way round.

3. Put a generous dollop (I think that's the technical term for a measurement of pesto) on the pastry and spread it round, leaving the 1cm border free. Then, cut the tomatoes into 3-4mm slices and layer them on top of the pesto. Sprinkle a little bit of salt on top of the tart and place it on a baking tray in the middle of an oven at 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

4. Whilst the tart is cooking, dress your salad leaves with the oil, lemon juice, balsamic, salt and pepper.

5. When the edge of the pastry is a beautiful golden colour and the tomatoes have that slightly dried out look, take the tart out of the oven and serve straight away along with the side salad.

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