Saturday, September 4, 2010
Would you laugh at me if I told you that most of the "events" that end up making my day (or even my week) are food-related? It may be discovering the most amazing rhubarb vanilla bean jam at Borough Market when visiting my best friend in London. Or the addictive chewiness of NYC's speculoos spread leige waffles of Throwdown with Bobby Flay fame. While crossing state and even country lines with friends does tend to encourage food "eventfulness," it's by no means required.
The first bite of a straight-from-the-oven pizzookie with the perfect cookie-to-ice-cream ratio, for example, was a revelation right in my own kitchen. Even the humble neighborhood grocery can hold unexpected treasures, like these zebra eggplants. When I spied these the other week, I couldn't help but gasp out of admiration for Mother Nature's artistry. Best of all these beauties were mine for the same price as common eggplant. I anticipated (correctly) with some sadness that the stunning pattern would fade upon cooking. Still, if these eggplants could be made into a tasty enough dish, we'd at least be transforming one form of beauty into another, right?
Humbly, I say to you that this flavorful and relatively healthy tart does justice to its ingredients. Eggplant gracefully shares the spotlight with plum tomatoes as well as smoked mozzarella and feta cheeses. And that's just the filling. A generous dose of freshly ground black pepper in the crust gives a little kick to every bite. Just enough to pull you back for another taste...and another. I did find the original recipe produced a slightly tough crust. A result, I suspect, of lowering the fat content excessively (to only 1 Tbsp?) in an attempt to healthify the tart. The recipe below includes my adjustments to the crust, but feel free to stick with the original recipe if you need to minimize your fat intake for health reasons. Even with my nitpick, I enjoyed it so much that I had it for 3 meals in a row!
Now I'm looking at you, my readers. Please tell me, what are the vegetables that get you excited? And what delightful dishes do you make from them?
Eggplant Tomato Smoked Mozzarella Tart [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 3 to 4
XIAOLU'S NOTES: I loved the flavor of this crust, but had textural issues. Though I've modified the recipe to fix those problems, you're welcome to use your favorite savory tart crust recipe instead. Just add 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper to the dry ingredients. For the filling, make sure to slice your eggplant no thinner than 1/4" thick. I sliced a bit too thinly, which resulted in them being slightly dry when baked. The original recipe also called for salting the eggplant. To save time, I've skipped that step but as a result it's important to use fresh eggplant so that it doesn't impart a bitter taste.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp toasted wheat germ
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 to 3 Tbsp water
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4" thick slices
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh oregano [I used 1/2 tsp dried]
1 T chopped fresh mint
2 plum tomatoes (about 6 ounces), thinly sliced
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded smoked mozzarella cheese, divided
1/3 cup (about 2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese (optional)
2 Tbsp grated fresh parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
To prepare crust, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (flour through 1/4 teaspoon salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture. Add 2 tablespoons of water and all the oil, stirring to form a soft dough. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed to make the dough come together. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 4 times. Gently press dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; cover and chill 15 minutes.
Slightly overlap 2 sheets of plastic wrap on a slightly damp surface. Unwrap dough, and place chilled dough on plastic wrap. Cover with 2 additional sheets of overlapping plastic wrap. Roll dough, still covered, into an 11-inch circle. Remove top sheets of plastic wrap. Fit dough, plastic-wrap side up, into a 10-inch round removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray. Remove remaining plastic wrap. Press dough against bottom and sides of pan. Pierce bottom and sides of dough with a fork; bake at 400° for 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
To prepare filling, arrange eggplant in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Brush slices with 1/2 teaspoon oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Stack eggplant slices on a plate; cover with plastic wrap. Let eggplant stand 7 minutes to steam.
Using more towels, pat tomato slices dry. Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, basil, oregano, mint, and tomatoes.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons smoked mozzarella and all the feta on bottom of baked crust. Layer eggplant and tomato mixture in crust, and top with 6 tablespoons smoked mozzarella and parmesan. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Cut into 8 wedges.