Tomato, Basil, and Goat Cheese Shortcakes


If you’re a bit confused by this recipe title, no worries: shortcake is indeed a dessert and you’re right in thinking that it seems odd to make it with tomatoes, cheese, and herbs. If you're not American and have no idea what this dish is anyways: a shortcake is typically a dessert composed of whipped cream, and fruit, traditionally strawberries, sandwiched between two biscuits (if this description seems vaguely familiar, you might be thinking of the Raspberry and Blueberry Shortcakes I posted here previously). It is one of my favorite summer desserts, but I had never thought of it as a potentially savory dish until I saw a recipe written by Deb Perelman, blogger and author of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and overall genius home cook. 

Apart from being foolproof, Deb’s recipes can best be described as just the sort of food you want to make and eat – in other words, the kind of recipes that you could just as easily serve for dinner as you could for a dinner party, and that are just plain good, whether they be twists on traditional dishes or old classics. Roasted chicken with grapes and olives, orecchiette with cherry tomatoes and arugula, and bittersweet chocolate pear cake are just a few of my favorites. It goes without saying then that these shortcakes were no exception. The three components of the dish were perfect on their own – buttery, dreamy biscuits, tangy goat cheese filling, sweet balsamic tomatoes with basil – but once put together created the kind of masterpiece I’ve come to expect from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, each ingredient complementing the other. Bonus: as Deb points out, the biscuits make a perfect vehicle to catch the tomato juice and balsamic that often is left (sadly) on your plate. 

I ate this for lunch after I was done photographing it, and it made a perfect summer meal, light but still filling (also it has tomatoes so I assume it counts as a salad, right?) I bet this would also be great at a 4th of July dinner too. I really do like the idea of transforming what is usually dessert in to a savory dish -- tomato basil cobbler, and veggie upside down cakes and galettes might be interesting to play around with too. Stay tuned!

TOMATO, BASIL, AND GOAT CHEESE SHORTCAKES

Ingredients:

Biscuits
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup whole milk

Tomato Salad
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound cherry or grape tomatoes (mixed colors, if you can find them)

Goat cheese cream
3 tablespoons heavy or whipping cream
4 ounces goat cheese, softened
Basil, sliced for garnish


Directions
To make the biscuits, preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large, wide bowl. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the whole milk and stir everything together until a dough begins to form. Knead the dough gently on a clean work surface and pat the dough out to 3/4- to 1-inch thickness and cut into six to eight 3-inch rounds, re-forming the scraps as needed until all of the dough is used up. Arrange the biscuits on the parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until they are golden brown on top, for about 15 minutes. Rotate the pan to ensure even baking.
For the tomato salad, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper in the bottom of a bowl. Quarter the tomatoes lengthwise and add them to the bowl with the dressing and toss them together.
 
To make the whipped goat cheese, in a separate bowl use an electric mixer to whip the cream until peaks form. Add the goat cheese and beat until the cheese topping is light and fluffy.

To assemble the shortcakes, split each warm biscuit in half. Generously spoon each half with the tomato salad and its dressing. Dollop with whipped goat cheese and sprinkle with basil. Eat at once. Serves 6-8.

Recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.





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