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Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Tart

3 Oct

Let’s just start by stating the obvious: this tart looks peculiar.  There’s pretty much no way around it and, believe me, I have tried to somehow overshadow the fact that, though incredibly delicious, this vegetable tart’s filling also happens to be pink.  It’s the color of salmon.  Truth be told, when I first sliced into the tart, my thoughts were dominated by flashes of the Grim Reaper, bony finger pointed at a tabletop, responding to the query of a very badly-American-accented Michael Palin in drag: “The salmon mousse.”

So, it’s pink. But it is also phenomenal.  When I served it, I found myself defending its rather shocking hue by reassuring everyone that, sure, it looks like something a Disney princess would serve at her birthday party, but it tastes like a dream.  Savory roasted eggplant, fresh tomatoes, a buttery and flakey crust that is so incredible, it actually tastes like a croissant—surely these virtues can make one look past the color, yes?

As it turned out, everyone else was looking past the color.  It was me, and me alone, who was stuck in a permanent state of confusion over the pinkness of my dinner.  Even though I was the person who made the tart, which meant that I knew better than anyone else what exactly went into the tart, the superior taste of the thing was just not enough for me.  After every silky smooth, tasty bite, I would turn to my husband and say, “You don’t think it matters that it’s so…pink?”

And then he look up from his plate, cheeks stuffed full of tart like a chipmunk hoarding rations for the winter, and say, “Whht?  Iss fine.  Iss dlissishus.  So iss pnk…whhro crrrslt.”

And then he would finish his chewing, swallow his bite, and say, “I am now going to eat another piece.”

So, you can thank my husband, he of the only mildly understandable full-mouth-talking, that this tart recipe is seeing the light of day.  And you should thank him.  This tart is wonderful.  The roasted eggplant provides a rich smoothness that plays very well off of the summery taste of the barely roasted tomatoes, and the handful of fresh herbs thrown in does wonders for upping the savory factor.  This tart is totally worth your time and attention, which is good because, a pink tart?  Kind of difficult to ignore.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Tart

Flaky Tart Dough

It should come as no surprise to anyone that this savory tart dough recipe hails from Tartine.

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup very cold water

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup plus 5 tablespoons (which is 2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons, or 21 tablespoons total) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

In a small bowl, combine cold water and salt, then stir to dissolve salt.  Place salt water in refrigerator or freezer to keep very cold until ready to use.

To make the dough in a food processor, place the flour in the work bowl, then scatter the butter pieces over the top.  Pulse briefly until the mixture resembles large crumbs, but there are still large pea-sized chunks of butter scattered throughout.  Add the salt water mixture and pulse several times until the dough comes together in a ball, but is not completely smooth.  There should still be visible butter chunks.

To make the dough by hand, put the flour in a large mixing bowl, then scatter the buter pieces over the top.  Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs with several large butter pieces scattered throughout.  Drizzle in the salt water mixture, then toss with a fork until the dough starts to come together in a shaggy mass.  Gently mix the dough until it comes together in a ball, but is not completely smooth.  There should still be visible butter chunks.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into 2 equal balls, then shape each ball into a disk about 1 inch thick.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

If not using the dough immediately, it can keep in the refrigerator, well-wrapped, for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 week.

To parbake the dough, roll out a disk of dough on a lightly floured surface.  The dough should be about 1/8-inch thick. If dough is sticky, lightly dust with flour to prevent sticking.  Roll the dough into a circle roughly 1 ½ inches larger than the pan you will be using.

Transfer the dough to a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, pressingly the dough gently against the sides and bottom of the pan.  Trim the dough even with the rim of the pan.  Place the shell in the freezer, and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line the frozen shell with parchment paper, then fill with pie weights (or dry beans, or a handful of loose change—no, really).  Bake until the surface looks dry and pale, about 20 minutes.  Remove the shell from the oven, remove the parchment paper and pie weights, then place shell back in the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the surface just begins to turn golden.  If the dough begins to rise up in the middle, gently pierce it with the tip of a sharp knife, taking care not to make a large hole that will drain your upcoming tart filling.

Remove tart shell from oven until needed.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Filling

1 large eggplant, about 12 ounces

3 plum tomatoes (I used San Marzanos, but Romas would also work well), cored but otherwise kept whole

3 eggs

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh basil and Italian parsley (roughly 1 small handful of each fresh, whole herb)

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce the skin of the eggplant in several places.  Place eggplant on a baking sheet, and bake until eggplant is completely soft and beginning to emit its juices, about 30 to 40 minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Turn the oven up to broil.  On a heavy baking sheet, broil the tomatoes, turning often, until the skin is charred and split, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your oven’s broiler.  Remove tomatoes from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

(Both the eggplant and tomatoes can be roasted and broiled ahead of time and then set aside in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

When eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh of the eggplant and add it to the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Add cooled tomatoes, skin and all.  Blend eggplant and tomatoes until smooth (if you are using a blender for this, be sure to keep the lid of the blender loose, as blending hot liquids with a tight blender lid may cause the lid to blow off in a rather spectacular fashion).  Add the eggs and blend or pulse until incorporated.  Add Parmesan cheese, chopped herbs, and salt and pepper, then blend or pulse very briefly until just combined.

Pour eggplant mixture into parbaked tart shell.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the middle of the tart has set and a knife gently inserted into the middle of the tart comes out clean.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Tomato Tartlets with Rosemary

19 Sep

Things are rather tomato-heavy around these parts, but I could not be happier.  As mentioned once or a million times previously, we wait a long time for garden tomatoes in these parts, so when the tomatoes start to ripen, the tomato recipes come out in full force.  One of the most attractive tomatoes we grew this year is an heirloom variety called a pineapple tomato.  This is a tomato that does not mess around.  It is hearty, it is flavorful, and it is massive.  This fellow in particular weighed in at just over a pound, and it was the smallest pineapple tomato we’ve harvested so far this year.

Alas, our garden’s output not always so impressive.  Last year was so cold and wet, so lacking in any sort of sustained stretches of warm sun, none of our tomatoes ripened.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  We ended the season with perhaps half a dozen ripe tomatoes, when but you’ve taken the time to plant and subsequently care for five different types of tomato plants, facing a yield of six tomatoes total does not, in my mind, count as a true harvest.  We ate a lot of fried green tomatoes last year, which, to be quite honest, is not the worst fate one can suffer.

The tomatoes of 2011, thankfully, are doing a lot better.  My favorite way to eat these luscious pineapple tomatoes is raw, piled high on a sandwich of any type.  Sometimes I don’t even go full sandwich, and just eat slices of pineapple tomato on a big hunk of bread.  Sometimes I don’t even bother with the bread.  The tomatoes are that good.

Never one to shy away from a tart of any type, however, when I spotted this tomato-centric recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone, I knew I had to give it a whirl.  The yeasted crust looked like a nice change from a standard tart crust, and the simple ingredients in the tart seemed like a great combination of elements that would allow the freshness of the tomatoes to really shine through.

Not surprisingly, this recipe totally delivered.  Made in miniature gallette form, the tartlets are a modest, yet absolutely delicious, presentation for fresh garden tomatoes.  In a surprising variation from my ordinary routine, while making these tarts I found that I was compelled to change very little in either the recipe for the crust or the filling.  They are perfect as is.  Allow me to suggest that you do yourself a favor and become closely acquainted with both.

Tomato Tartlets with Rosemary

From Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone 

Yeasted Tart Dough with Butter

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

½ teaspoon sugar

½ cup warm milk or water

1 egg, at room temperature

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

4 tablespoons soft butter

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the milk (or water), and allow to stand until it begins to bubble, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the egg and salt, then start to add the flour, ½ a cup at a time.  After 1 cup of flour has been added, beat in the butter.  Continue adding the flour until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured counter (this dough is VERY sticky), and knead until dough is smooth and supple, anywhere from 3-5 minutes.  If dough is still very sticky and will not release from the counter, add a bit more flour as you knead.  (You are, of course, welcome to mix and knead this dough in a standing mixer.  The instructions remain the same, though you will most likely only need to knead the dough for 3 minutes rather than 5.)

Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, then cover with plastic wrap, a towel, or a fitted lid.  Allow to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface.  Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, shape each piece into a ball, then allow the dough balls to rest under a towel for 15 minutes.

Tomato and Rosemary Filling

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 pound of tomatoes, sliced very thin (thick slices of tomato will cause your tartlets to become soggy)

18 Nicoise olives (I used a mix of Kalamata olives and green olives instead), pitted and halved

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Roll each ball of dough into a circle about 1/8 inch thick (rolling the dough thicker will make the dough turn out a bit too bready).  Sprinkle ½ teaspoon rosemary over each circle, then gently press the rosemary into the dough.  Overlap 4 or 5 thin slices of tomato on each round, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge.  Tuck in the olives amongst the tomato slices, sprinkle with a bit more rosemary, drizzle with a tiny splash of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.  Fold the edges of the dough over the tomatoes, creasing and tucking as you go. Gently cup your hands around the tarts and press lightly to make the dough form a tight seal around the tomatoes.

Bake on prepared baking sheet for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden.  Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Makes 6 tartlets.

Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes and Caramelized Lemon-Balsamic Onions

8 Sep

Every year it seems as though Portland teases us through most of the summer with its cold, misty mornings, overcast days, and utter lack of regard for those of us who try time and time again to coax our vegetable gardens into producing even the smallest amount of fresh rewards.  And then, come the end of August, everything seems to explode with abundance.  All at once, tomatoes are ripening, cucumbers are growing fat, and long-awaited peppers of all types are finally starting to showcase a veritable rainbow of colors.

Somewhat  miraculously, the one vegetable that seems undaunted by the chill of Portland summers is green beans.  When your garden’s tomatoes are rock hard and still hiding from the cold behind their pale skins, green beans of all sorts will be waiting for you, their crispness like a friendly welcome to the growing season.  I’ve been known to snap beans right off of the vine and immediately start munching, but, when feeling a bit more refined, it’s never a chore to find ways to dress the beans up a bit.

Unfortunately, having now introduced myself to fancied up green beans with a layer of lemony-bright caramelized onions, topped with a blanket of sweet-tart cherry tomatoes, I now feel as though there will never be another way for me to eat fresh garden beans.  While I will never disparage the simple steamed green bean, it’s been a long time since I have found myself so enamored with a green bean dish that I want to make it—and eat it in its entirely—every single day.  This combination of richly caramelized onions and crisp beans has become my most beloved summer side dish, the dish I want to bring to potlucks, make for a family dinner, or just eat straight from the platter while standing in the kitchen.  It’s summery and satisfying, and it makes me think that next year, when the sun is still hibernating and the garden sitting in waiting, I might have to set aside a large plot of yard space for beans to help me make it through the chilly beginnings of another Pacific Northwest summer.

Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes and Caramelized Lemon-Balsamic Onions

1 ½ pounds green beans, both ends trimmed and any tough strings removed

1 pound onions (I used 1 very large sweet onion)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 generous tablespoon lemon zest

8 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes

salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Boil beans until bright green and crisp-tender, anywhere from 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of your beans (larger beans will need to cook longer, and smaller, skinnier beans will need less time).  Drain the beans and immediately plunge into an ice water bath (this will stop the beans from cooking any further, and also help them retain their bright green color).  When the beans have cooled, drain and set aside.

Cut onions in half from end to end, then slice into thin ribs.  In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the onions to the pan, throw on a pinch of salt, and slowly cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they turn golden, about 20 minutes.  Turn heat down to low, add balsamic vinegar, stir to combine, and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and add lemon zest.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir to combine.

Slice each cherry or grape tomato in half.  Arrange cooked beans on a large platter, and top with caramelized onions.  Sprinkle tomato halves over the onions and beans.

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