Tomato and Chèvre Tarts in Cracker Crusts with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette

Recipe by Sheri Castle


1 3/4 cups crushed Ritz crackers, mixture of fine and coarse crumbs (about 5 oz. or 42 crackers)
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 ounces chèvre cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup ricotta cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 scallions (white & tender green parts), cut into very thin rounds
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 pound colorful miniature tomatoes
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup packed basil leaves
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Makes 6 servings.


Directions for the Crust:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange six mini tart pans (4 1/2 -by- 3/4-inch) with removable bottoms on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss together the crumbs, cheese, and pepper in a medium bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the crumbs until the mixture looks like moist sand. Divide the crumb mixture among the tart pans, about 5 tablespoons per pan. Press the crumbs firmly across the bottom and up the sides of the pans. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bake until dark golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Directions for the Filling:
Stir together the chèvre, ricotta, oil, scallions, thyme, zest, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
Divide the filling among the cooled crusts. Spread the filling gently to the edge of the crusts. Cut the small tomatoes in half crosswise. Cut any tomatoes larger than a ping-pong ball crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange the tomatoes attractively over the filling. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and a little pepper. Bake until the tomatoes are just beginning to bubble and the cheese turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette.

Directions for the Vinaigrette:
Place the basil and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to coarsely chop. Add the vinegar, juice, zest, honey, and oil. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.


To serve: Remove the rims from the tart pans. Run a thin knife along the bottom of the tart to gently loosen it from the pan. Place the tarts on serving plates. Drizzle the tops with the vinaigrette and serve at once.

Note: You can replace the miniature tomatoes with a large tomato that is about the same diameter as the tart pans. Cut the tomato crosswise into six equal slices, each a scant 1/2 inch thick. If the tomato is very ripe and juicy, set the slices on a wire rack lined with paper towels. Sprinkle them with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and let sit for 15 minutes. Blot them dry before placing them on the filling.