Friday, August 17, 2012

Cherry Tomato Sweet Pepper Mozzarella Tart

This summer, I had the pleasure of cooking for my mother- and father-in-law at least a couple of times every week.  The challenge was to make beautiful, appetizing meals that would entice my father-in-law, who is in hospice care, to eat.  This particular dish was beautiful to look at and delicious as well.  We were so excited because, for the first time in ages, he cleaned his plate!  If you don’t believe me, check this out.  

Yes, we were so excited, we actually took a picture!

Give this lovely tart a try and see if your family doesn’t clear their plates as well.

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached but normal flour will do.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening (Crisco is my preferred but I have had to use butter in some countries where Crisco is not available. It works but the crust is not as flakey.)
2-3 tablespoons of cold water

For the filling:
3 medium onions
Olive oil
Sea salt
1 1/2 oz or 40g pine nuts
8 oz or 225g mozzarella balls or bocconcini
10.5 oz or 300g red cherry tomatoes
10.5 oz or 300g yellow cherry tomatoes
4 orange mini sweet peppers
Small bunch fresh thyme

Put the flour, shortening and salt together in one bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the flour into the shortening until you have small crumbs.

Add the cold water a tablespoon at a time, blending with the tines of a fork, until the mixture forms a soft dough which can be rolled into a ball.  

Wrap the ball in cling film and chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.

When you are ready to bake, either roll out the dough and fit your pan or, if you are at your mother-in-law’s and you don’t have a rolling pin, slice the dough into thin pieces.  

Lay them in the pan and quickly press them into a crust.  

Trim the edges with a sharp knife and turn the trimmed pieces over.  Press them in to make a nice even edge.  Cover with cling film and put it in the fridge until you are ready to bake.  (If baking immediately, you can skip this step.)  If you are using a ceramic pie plate or casserole, take it out when you start preheating your oven so the ceramic dish can warm up a little.  Some dishes cannot safely go directly from the refrigerator to the oven. 

Okay, ready to bake?  Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.

Slice your onions thinly and put them into a small pot with a good drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cook the onions down slowly over a medium heat until they caramelize and are nicely browned.  Stir frequently and make sure not to let them burn.  Set aside to cool.

Cut your sweet peppers into pieces about the same size as the cherry tomatoes.  

Toast your pine nuts in a small skillet over a medium flame.  

Shake the skillet often to keep them toasting evenly.  This should take just a few minutes.  Be careful not to let them burn.  Set aside to cool. 

Pull the leaves off of all but a few of the thyme stems, reserving some of the thinner stems for adding in whole, with leaves, before baking.

In a big bowl, start to assemble your tart filling.  Add in the cherry tomatoes, cut peppers and mozzarella balls.

Sprinkle liberally with the thyme leaves and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add the cooled caramelized onions and stir thoroughly.   

Pour the filling into the pie shell.  

Top with the reserved thyme and the pine nuts.

Bake the tart for 45-50 minutes or until the crust is crispy and browned and the mozzarella balls are melted completely.

This is a great vegetarian main course but would also be delicious served in smaller slices with grilled chicken or salmon.  I served it with poached salmon with creamy caper onion sauce on a bed of mixed greens. 


This post is part of the improv cooking challenge,  brainchild of Kristen at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker.   Perhaps you’d like to join us?  


  1. This looks so beautiful! I love that you used pine nuts. I can never find enough uses for them. Love this recipe, and I can almost smell the flavors baking! Great recipe.

  2. I love pine nuts too! Especially toasted. Thank you for your kind words.

    This would be incredible served over pasta, too! Your tart looks amazing & I'm happy your FIL was able to clean his plate. That is picture-worthy.I've not cooked much with pine nuts, as they are rather pricey here. I'm afraid I would burn them. Can they be toasted in an oven? Thanks!

  4. Thank you for your kind words. I don't see why you couldn't toast them in the oven. Preheat your oven to about 350F or 180C. Put them in a dry baking pan and set a timer for two to three minutes. Shake the pan every time the timer rings because you don't want them to burn! Remove when they are nice and brown. Where do you live?

  5. That tart has some seriously wonderful things going on in it. Love the pinenuts, love the caramelized onions, adore the fresh mozzarella balls. This is truly a fantastic tart!

  6. Thank you! When I saw the yellow and red cherry tomatoes and the sweet little orange peppers, they just cried out for the mozzarella balls. What else could I do? :)

  7. Your tart is beautiful and looks delicious! No wonder he cleaned his plate!

  8. Thank you! It was pretty good. And mother-in-law said she enjoyed the leftovers for the next couple of days.

  9. What a yummy tart! Beautiful, too! I'm glad your FIL enjoyed it...special thoughts for you and your's tough watching a loved one decline...

  10. Thank you so much for your kind words. It is difficult. It was my pleasure to cook for them when I could. The hardest part of the expat life is being apart from family. I only wish I lived closer so I could be more help all the time. it's not the same but Skype has been such a blessing. At least I can offer words of encouragement and regular opportunities to chat.

  11. Thanks for the simple new pastry crust recipe. I need a new one! And love how you cut and then shape into the pan...such a brilliant idea! Of course you can't go wrong w/ the flavors! Happy Improv Challenge to you!

  12. Thanks, Serena. The less you touch the pastry dough, the better so if you have a rolling pin, that would be good. This was an alternative method if you can't roll the dough out. Press quickly and don't mess with the dough too much and it is still flakey when baked. We loved this tart!

  13. Wow this looks amazing!! What a perfect use of the beautiful summer cherry tomatoes!

  14. Thank you! I loved the mix of colors too.

  15. OOOhhh My... i wants it !!!!!!!!


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