Unlike most young women her age, Krista Ballew prefers the farmers market over the outlet mall. Northern California native and 2013 Pacific Union College graduate, Ballew can lose herself for hours among rows of locally grown produce as she looks for inspiration for her evening meal. As a nurse working for the neonatal ICU unit in Loma Linda University Medical Center, Ballew knows it’s important to eat mindfully, but her healthy cooking skills developed long before she set foot in a nutrition class. From the time she was a little girl, Ballew’s mother Rhonda taught her the art of cooking. Slicing and dicing her way through her childhood, Ballew was always involved in helping Rhonda prepare meals with her little brother Erik.
Cooking in the Ballew household evolved from a daily chore to family event. “No matter how busy we were, we would sit down as a whole at the table and eat what we had made,” reminisced Ballew. “It was a time to unwind and reconnect.”
Long ago Rhonda gave her daughter an important piece of advice: Cook with what you have.
“I don’t feel like I’m a creative person,” Ballew confessed. “But in the kitchen, I am. Even if I have a recipe, I change ingredients and play around with what I find in my kitchen. It’s exciting to create! And who doesn’t like to eat?”
One way that Ballew likes to cook is by starting at the farmers market without a recipe.
“Once, I went to this farmer’s market and there were all these huge heirloom tomatoes on sale. I bought them, and thought ‘What am I going to do with all these tomatoes?’ But then I went home and cooked them! That how I like to cook; I get the stuff that looks good!”
From that trip her Heirloom Tomato Tart was born. “It’s super simply and healthy,” Ballew says. “Plus, it’s a pretty dish that anyone can make.” From creamy goat cheese to fresh tomatoes, it’s a recipe that’s too good to pass up.
From Krista’s kitchen to yours:
Heirloom Tomato Tart
Serves: 4 sides Total Prep Time: 2 hours (including the hour the dough chills)
Filling: . 2 cups ricotta cheese . 2 cups goat cheese . 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped, plus more for garnish . 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped, plus more for garnish . Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste . 2-3 heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick . Sea salt and freshly ground pepper for finishing
Dough: . 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour . 1 tsp salt . 1 1/4 cup of chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes . 1/4 cup ice water, plus more as needed
For the dough: 1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour and salt 2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. 3. Add the 1/4 cup ice water and pulse 3 or 4 times. The dough should hold together just barely when you squeeze between your fingers. If it’s too crumbly, add a little more water. Too much water will ultimately make your crust too chewy and not a nice flakey crust. 4. Shape dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour to overnight.
For the tart: 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. 3. Coat a 10 inch tart dish with a non-stick baking spray and put a small spoonful of flour inside and shake pan around sideways to get flour to coat bottom and sides of the tart dish. 4. Press the dough into the pan and trim. 5. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and fill the pan with pie weights, baking beans, or simply poke the bottom with a fork a few times so that air will escape. Bake for 12-15 minutes, then remove pie weights, and continue to bake until light golden brown, about 10 minutes. If edges begin to burn cover with pie or tin foil. 6. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely in the tart pan. 7. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, chives and basil. Mix, and season to taste with salt and pepper. 8. Spread mixture onto tart. 9. Top with the tomato slices and sprinkle with salt, pepper, chives, and basil leaves. 10. Serve and enjoy
Optional ideas: You may substitute any sort of fillings, cheeses, herbs, etc, as well as toppings. Feel free to experiment and use what your favorite vegetables are!
For a sweet filling, try mixing ricotta, cream cheese, and sugar or honey, and top with your favorite fruit (raspberries, strawberries, peaches, figs, etc… Whatever is in season, or just sounds delicious!)
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6418