Saturday, September 4, 2010

You Know You're A Foodie When...

Zebra Eggplants

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.

Zebra Eggplant

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?

Eggplant Tomato Smoked Mozzarella Tart

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
Cooking spray

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.


  1. the tantalizing purple color. Beautiful and delicious.

  2. It is the same for me... ;-P

    That tart looks absolutely scrumptious!



  3. Beautiful post! I'm excited for Fall veggies. Yay for root vegetables!

  4. Thanks, you guys. You're so fast =D.

  5. It's lovely that those healthy eggplants gave you such joy. They are are really delicious vegetable! As for your tart, it sounds FANTASTIC and is on my "to make" list.

    Personally, I love pumpkin and zucchini and I love to make soup out of these ingredients or a good frittata. Great post and recipe; perfect for the seasonal change.

    Happy cooking,

  6. I adore eggplant paired with smoked mozarella! Never thought to use them on a pizza :)

  7. Especially now with school taking over my time, all of my highlights are food related as well! I love this kind of eggplant, my Whole Foods calls it graffiti eggplant. Which I think is gorgeous.

    The tart sounds delicious! You can't go wrong with smoked mozzarella, feta, and fresh veggies. You just can't.

    I saw the first of the season's winter squash at the farmer's market this weekend and just about died of happiness. Definite highlight.

  8. I definitely agree with that -- it's food-related stuff that excites me too! The eggplant is so pretty, it looks like a masterpiece. When you paired it with smoked mozzarella in this tart I knew it was the perfect use for it! One of the veggies that excite me the most is fresh tomatoes...they're just not the same the rest of the year!

  9. Both the eggplant and the tart are beautiful. The cheese all over the eggplant and tomatoes is definitely making my mouth water. Come to think of it, eggplant and tomatoes make me excited probably more than any other produce. When they're plump and glossy, I can't help myself! Also, I crave broccoli on a regular basis and don't care if that makes me sound weird.

  10. Lovely photos of aubergine and the tart! I really don't know what vegetables get me excited... hmmmm...I think vegetables with unusual colour!! such as purple broccoli, purple raddish, carrots etc.. :)

  11. Well I guess I am a foodie then. I had no idea speculoos spread was available in the states! Can you buy the cookies as well? Your tart looks perfect.

  12. I am also rather a foodie...

    My favourite autumn vegetables are just around the corner--squash of all sorts, garlic (roasted), sweet potatoes, mushrooms, leeks, fennel, and parsnips. MMMH!

  13. Ah, thank you for the post about the wonders of foodie-ness! (Beautiful pictures, too, by the way.) As for vegetables, I get really geeked up about carrots. Eating a good carrot with a nice, intense and sweet flavor just makes me smile everytime. And roasted carrots? The best!

  14. Tomatoes! I love holding a beautiful fresh tomato in the palm of my hand. : )

  15. yesterday i brought home some fresh corn, which are always beautiful, but when i took a bite into it, i was in heaven! it was so perfectly sweet and i put NOTHING on it, it was magically perfect as it was :) loooove

  16. Breathtaking photos! The recipe sounds delicious to. For me any fruit or vegetable that is in season and sitting on my grocer's self looking ready to eat gets me excited. I love fresh in season ingredients.

  17. They look gorgeous! And the tart looks delicious!

  18. I adore eggplant, and the fact that it's finally in season gives me just one more reason to love September! I can't wait to try this tart!

  19. Prerna - thanks for stopping by!

    Brittany - mm I love pumpkin soup and frittatas of all sorts too!

    Chanel - Yea I wouldn't have thought to without the recipe but it worked out really well luckily!

    Joanne - Oh cool, that name makes sense too though I must say I like the sound of "zebra". Sounds wilder hehe. Uh oh, the orange veggies have arrived. Can't wait to see all the ways you use them up!

    Faith - Ah yes, I'm going to miss the lovely summer tomatoes too!

    smalltownoven - Thanks! Don't worry, I love broccoli as well. And those cruciferous veggies are so good for your health too.

    Leemei - Oh yes, the colorful vegetables make me happy as well. And are supposedly good for you with a variety of nutrients. I've never tasted the purple cauliflower but have wanted to for a long time.

    Danielle - I actually haven't seen the spread sold here but I'm sure there are some specialty gourmet stores that have them. I wouldn't be surprised if the waffle cart people get it imported in bulk though.

    Catherine - mm you're getting me all excited about the fall! glad you're going to enjoy the season's veggies.

    The College Baker - Carrots are great. I think I like them so much because they're naturally sweet and I will take a glass of carrot juice over almost any beverage.

    Michelle - :).

    Michelle - wow, that sounds amazing. I love that my grocery store has been selling local corn in the summer. At most, I smear a little butter on it.

    Spicie Foodie - aw that's a great attitude for eating flavorful veggies and saving money too!

    ? - thx!

    maameemoomoo - thanks for saying so!

    Laura Keller - please do try it out and let me know what you think :).

  20. Lovely eggplants!

    I really can't pick any specific veggie that gets me excited- Any that are ripe and in season get me inspired.

  21. It is so hard to pick one vegetable that gets me excited. But eggplant is one of my least favorite so eggplant will not get me as excited as the other veg. Love your savory take on tarts...just love the gorgeous tart you have made.

  22. Not a vegetable but paprika gets me hot under the collar. :)

  23. I have a hard time what vegetable that gets me excited. I love vegetables and am excited always with new vegetables that are new to me.

    Btw, love your knife there!

  24. Your dish looks wonderful. I love eggplant. Actually, I love pretty much any vegetable that's fresh and locally grown.

  25. Call me boring, but tomatoes do it for me. Good carrots have a nice taste to them, too. Really, almost anything that is season looks good to me!

  26. I won't laugh at you because I know exactly what you mean. :)
    I didn't know these were called zebra eggplants. These are very common here. I'm vegetarian, but somehow eggplant has not been one of faves.

    Lots of vegetables get me excited, but what really makes my day is a visit to the fruit and vegetable market here. The sheer variety and colour is breathtaking.

  27. Haha you and me both! And that tart is gorgeous. Perfect for this Spring weather we have coming up. Lovely styling too! ;)

  28. This looks absolutely beautiful and soundM delicious!

    Vegetables that excitment? Well you hit one of my favorites: eggplant. To add to that butternut squash, zuchinni and any heirloom tomato.

  29. Yummie, love eggplants and this dish looks awesome...the pictures are gorgeous!

  30. Vegetables that get me excited: well, right now, artichokes (making an artichoke tagliarelli for dinner)...early girl tomatoes (I have a 20 lb box in my kitchen)...snow peas and sugar snap peas...porcini, chanterelles, maitakes, leeks and ramps. O, I could go on forever.
    Your tart looks delicious...even though I don't particularly like eggplant.

  31. Oh man! Those eggplants are beautiful! I really want to grow some stripped eggplants! This looks delicious!

  32. Your tart looks absolutely perfectttt!

    I love the first sign of asparagus in spring! :D

  33. OMG you are so funny, i am the same. When my parents come it is all about menus, what we are cooking, where we are eating and who we can invite for a dinner party.

  34. I love your blog! I just found you but I love all your posts... and your photography is excellent!

    Happy to have found you!

    Mary xo
    Delightful Bitefuls

  35. If I could just name one veggie, then it would be green asparagus. :-))))
    Beautiful eggplant pictures, delicious-looking tart and so is your style of writing. I've enjoyed it a lot.

  36. those eggplants are a find. i can't get anything that nice at my supermarket. i don't know how to list just one veggie, but i'd have to say my all-time fave is Brussels sprouts. i tried them on a pizza recently and have been meaning to try to replicate that at home.

  37. I LOVE borough market! This tart looks divine.
    Asparagus, broccolini, broccoli, leeks, and baby chat potatoes get me excited. how embarrassing! Vine-ripened tomatoes too.
    Heidi xo

  38. Hi, i like your blog, it's full of beautifully taken photos!!! yummy!! are you Chinese? I am Chinese, i am a foodie and food photography junkie:) i also have a blog, welcome to check it out! i hope we can be friends and share passion of food and photography:)

  39. Swooned when I saw this tart shot on Flickr, and now swooning over the graffiti eggplant pix. So very pretty, Xiaolu!

    I'm a big fan of eggplant; baba ganoush is my go-to, but I use the solid purples, blacks, or whites. These stripey beauties deserve not to have their skins charred.

    Rhubarb vanilla jam sounds yum. You'd asked some weeks ago why I added vanilla bean at end to my plum jam recipe. It was b/c too much heat can degrade the(pricey)bean; wanted to use it again elsewhere. Jam was so tart-sweet, not even sure if vanilla was discernible - so call it a garnish. ; D

  40. Hannah - thanks! and the fact that so many veggies inspire you helps explain how you are so creative with your recipes!

    tigerfish - I'm sorry eggplant's not your thing. The comments to the original recipe mentioned that this tart works well with most roasted veggies so feel free to substitute.

    SK - mm I do so love my spicy foods.

    Pepy - Yes, there is a lot out there to love. Thanks for complimenting the knife -- I've been going a bit crazy buying too many food props 8).

    El - They are the most delicious under those conditions :).

    fussykitchen - not boring at all. and both of those are especially healthy for you too.

    Aparna - you're lucky to have these beauties available regularly. in fact the market you speak of sounds great. i'm starting to get jealous hehe.

    Lorraine - thx, girl!

    naomi - I love zucchini, too, and probably use it so much in the summer that it annoys the boyfriend.

    Juliana - aw, thank you!

    Indie.Tea - oh my that pasta sounds delicious. your list is making me wistful for the market.

    Jessica - That would be so lovely to grow your own. I can't wait to have a house with a yard one day so I could reasonably have that thought when I see a lovely variety of veggie.

    Anh - oh yes, the young slender shoots of asparagus are so tender and delicious.

    Delishhh - sounds like a group I'd fit right in with. glad we're on the same wavelength :).

    Mary - Thanks so much and I'm glad too that we've discovered each others' sites now.

    Angie - Thanks! That means a lot to me.

    Justin - brussels sprouts on pizza, eh? I only tried that vegetable in recent years and have yet to hit upon a really addictive way to prepare it yet. perhaps I need to try pizza.

    Heidi - Glad to hear of your many loves. Yes, I long for that market every time I think of London. That and Laduree macarons mmm.

    Yue Edwards - Thanks for your kind comments! I am Chinese. I stopped by your site and left a comment. It looks great, and I'm always delighted to find others with the same passions.

    Susan - I greatly value your opinion on my photography. Thx so much for the compliment, as well as for the tips about jam-making :).

  41. I love eggplants as well! My favorite is frying them with minced pork and chilies in chinese style.

    Apparently, your eggplant tart is just as delicious!

    Sawadee from Bangkok,

  42. I love water spinach with prawns and quail eggs, they taste so good together!

  43. This tart looks so tasty! I am sooo excited to make it!

  44. Wow, this tart looks simply amazing...what a great way to showcase delicious veggies! At the moment I'm getting excited about green beans and doing lots of roasting and tossing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. :)

  45. Those are indeed some gorgeous eggplants! And I love what you did with them. Many of the things I get excited about are food related too so I can definitely understand! :) As for the vegetables I get excited about... English peas and heirloom tomatoes! Those are the first two that came to mind.

  46. What an absolutely gorgeous tart. Food does make me happy too! WAY TO GO!!

  47. This tart looks absolutely amazing- I would love to eat this right now! I definitely get excited about vegetables....sometimes when I'm at the bar and all my friends are craving chicken wings and nachos, I'll be the one saying "I just wanna go home and eat veggies". Everyone looks at me like I'm nuts haha!

  48. Oh Wow! Those eggplants are so pretty... I can never resist buying them up when I see them at the fruit & veg store looking so shinny and totally edible!! This dish looks amazing... I love the addition of pepper in the crust, super de-lici-ous!!

  49. Hello, this is the first time i am visiting your blog. My compliments to your bold red blog! Very confident and it sets off all your gorgeous photos really beautifully! This is definitely a beautiful dish and I am now inspired to cook with the egg plant :)

  50. your eggplant tart looks very rustic and gorgeous. Wish I can have a bite :)

  51. We love our eggplants and you do have the gorgeous ones here. What a beautiful recipe! Loving the black pepper in the crust. Mmmm....

  52. Thanks, everyone!

    Kris - Mm that sounds delicious. I do love both steamed and fried Chinese-style eggplant dishes.

    Cooking Gallery - mm that sounds great. I haven't had quail eggs in years!

    Sara - I've been thinking about trying roasted green beans. And I'm convinced everything's great with balsamic.

    Koko - Haha I love it. It's great for your health though that you naturally love veggies :).

    Shirley - aw thank you for your sweet comments :). Red is my favorite color so I'm glad you enjoy it, though I do worry that it clashes with some of the photos.

  53. That looks nice and cheesy and good! The smokiness would be really nice!

  54. This is SO gorgeous- looks like it should appear in a food magazine. Also, it's great that you tried to keep it as low cal as possible- I love having my tart and eating it :p

  55. First of all, I'm in love with that knife? From the family or an antique store? Second, leeks and celeriac get me excited b/c I rarely get to work with them. Leeks are braised in butter and cream to folded into slow-scrambled eggs, while the celeriac is julienned and mixed with homemade mayonnaise, mustard, yogurt, lemon juice and salt for celeri remoulade.



  56. Heather - I can't remember if I answered your question by email. Sorry if I never did! I bought the a bunch of 10 similar wooden knives like this one at an antique store for 10 bucks. Mmm your leek and celeriac dishes sound rich and delicious!


I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu