Be sure to choose a piece of pork belly with a fairly equal amount of fat and meat that will fit snugly into the type of plastic bag you will be curing in. 1-gallon zip top bags are usually ideal...
I first made a variation on this recipe several years ago, and, as many wonderful recipes begin their lives, this didn't start as a recipe of any sort. It started out as an attempt to use up some leftovers and things I had lying around. I call this the "I Really Don't Want To Go To The Grocery Store" method of cooking. It can be very fruitful, especially in moments of desperation, when the fluorescent glare of the supermarket is just too much.
But really, this tart exemplifies my cooking philosophy in a nut-(or tart)-shell: practical, seasonal, simple, delicious. The more I cook, the more I fall back on this mantra. Yes, you can clip recipes, make elaborate grocery lists, and buy very specific items for very specific recipes, or you can just make uncomplicated, delicious food with what you have lying around. Of course, this method works best when you cook regularly and have certain staples on hand, but the idea, I think, rings true regardless.
Heirloom tomatoes are something of a boutique item. This is a shame because, as you may have heard, heirloom tomatoes weren't always "heirloom." There was a time when these kinds of slow-growing, oddly-shaped, diverse tomatoes ruled the day. But now, you can have the privilege of paying a premium for them. And, I don't know about you, until I can get some garden space of my own again, I will be paying a premium for them because they are the most delicious and beautiful sort of tomato. I figure that all the money I save throughout the year by not buying out-of-season tomatoes I can spend on heirlooms when the season is right.
And, somewhat unfortunately, we're coming to that time of year when tomatoes dwindle and will finally disappear from local markets. This tart is a celebration of heirloom tomatoes in their 11th hour.
For this tart, I encourage you to go all out. Make your own tart dough. It's easy. I show you how in this post. If you really must, buy a frozen shell. Theoretically, you could make this in a baking dish without a shell, but I love the buttery, flaky bite of a pie shell against the creamy filling.
The filling itself couldn't be simpler. Add herbs and lemon zest to taste. I suppose you could add garlic as well, but I wanted a cleaner-tasting filling to highlight the tomatoes. The topping is really what you're showcasing here--beautiful, big (or small) heirloom tomatoes. You can make the tart dough days in advance, and the filling can be made a day ahead of time if you like.
Prepare and have ready:
1/2 recipe Basic All-Butter Crust
Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Transfer the dough to an 8- or 9-inch tart or pie pan. Press the dough snugly into the corners and trim the excess. Line the dough with parchment and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake until the edges start to brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment, prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork, and return to the oven until the bottom of the crust is dry to the touch and just starting to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes more.
Prepare the filling. In a medium bowl, combine:
16 ounces whole milk ricotta
Zest of 1 large lemon
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
A handful of chopped fresh basil
Salt and black pepper to taste
When the crust is ready, fill it with the ricotta mixture. Top it with:
1/2-inch thick heirloom tomato slices (I used 3 tomatoes of varying sizes and colors)
Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat to 375˚F. Bake the tart until the tomatoes start to shrivel and have released most of their watery juices, about 35 to 45 minutes.