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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Simple tomato tart gets added flavor from feta cheese, pesto layers

J.M. Hirsch Associated Press Writer

Time for a culinary confession.

Aside from those that are my own, most of the recipes I write about don’t make repeat performances in my home once the testing is completed. Even my own sometimes are one-hit-wonders.

It’s not that they aren’t good. Quite the opposite, actually. When trying new recipes is part of your job, week after week, year after year, the opportunities for repeats — even the greats — aren’t great.

That said, occasionally I stumble upon a dish so good and so easy to make that I can’t help but bring it back for an encore or two. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s a cause for celebration when it does.

Such was the case recently when I experimented with a tomato tart from the summer issue of EatingWell magazine.

EatingWell’s tart stands out because it replaces regular pastry with an equally flaky but easier base made from packaged sheets of phyllo.

Encouraged by the ease of the crust, I set about testing. It was out of this world, especially considering the effort involved in preparing it. Unfold the sheets of phyllo, coat with pesto, layer slices of tomato and feta, then bake. Simple.

Though similar to pizza, this tart packs significantly more flavor thanks to the pungent pesto and tangy feta. It also has significantly fewer calories and grams of fat than traditional pizza. And it’s impressive enough to serve to guests.

A couple of prep tips: Whether you make your own pesto or used jarred, stir in a tablespoon or two of lime juice just before brushing it onto the base. This heightens the flavors and adds a wonderfully subtle bite.

Though the recipe calls for painting the olive oil on the phyllo sheets with a pastry brush, this risks tearing the fragile dough. Instead use oil in a pump or aerosol spray can.

The tart can be made up to 8 hours ahead of time. Keep it covered and refrigerated until ready to serve, then heat in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the basil leaves just before serving.

Tomato Phyllo Tart

From the summer 2004 issue of EatingWell: The Magazine of Food & Health

12 sheets 14-by-18-inch phyllo dough (or 24 sheets 9-by-14-inch)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon plain bread crumbs

2 tablespoons pesto

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 large red tomato, cut into 1/4 -inch slices

1 large yellow tomato, cut into 1/4 -inch slices

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

10 to 12 small fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay one large sheet of phyllo dough on the prepared pan. (If using smaller sheets of phyllo, slightly overlap two sheets to form a rectangle.)

Keep the remaining phyllo dough covered with plastic wrap or wax paper and a damp kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out — which happens quickly.

Lightly brush or mist the surface of the phyllo sheet with oil. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon bread crumbs. Repeat these steps until all phyllo sheets have been layered.

Brush or mist the final sheet of phyllo with oil. Form a rim by folding about 3/4 inch of each side toward the center.

Spread the pesto evenly over the surface of the tart. Sprinkle about half the crumbled feta over the pesto. Arrange the tomato slices, alternating colors, over the pesto and feta. Season with salt and pepper, then top with remaining feta.

Bake the tart until the crust turns brown and crispy, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. To serve, lift the parchment paper and slide the tart onto a cutting board or large platter.

Scatter basil leaves over the top of the tart. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings as a main course, or 12 appetizer servings.

Approximate nutrition per serving: 145 calories, 9 grams fat (56 percent fat calories), 4 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrate, 9 milligrams cholesterol, 304 milligrams sodium.