Monday, August 13, 2012

Eggplant & Goat Cheese Tart

In Deborah Madison’s cookbook Local Flavors there is a recipe for an unusual eggplant gratin. It features cooked eggplant and caramelized onions bound together with an egg and cream custard. It is very good—the silken eggplant and creamy custard are a surprising (to me at least) and fine combination. Unfortunately, it is also a rather unattractive dish…one I chose not to post when I first tasted it for this reason alone. 

A few days ago as I was considering a frozen short crust pastry shell that I had been wanting to use for some time, I remembered this combination and thought that it might be made into an attractive tart. My tart shell was a bit unusual in that I had made it to fit into a pizza pan instead of a standard removable bottom tart pan. It’s shape seemed perfect for showing off a spiral of eggplant slices.

Besides the eggplant and caramelized onions I layered in some chunks of roasted red pepper and a shower of fresh basil before pouring the custard over all. 

But you shouldn’t feel limited to this combination. There are many possible additions that would go beautifully with the eggplant: A few halved cherry tomatoes, nestled cut side up among the slices of eggplant…a bunch of Swiss chard, cooked with a bit of garlic and arranged under the eggplant…later in the season, some caramelized slices of butternut squash would be a nice addition. I finished my tart with crumbles of soft goat cheese and some grated Parmesan…but of course other cheeses (Pecorino, Gruyère, Feta, etc.) would work well too.

If you aren’t comfortable improvising with a custard-based tart (basically a quiche), check out my quiche basics post from last spring. And don’t feel you have to make this particular quiche in a pizza pan. Just as with the quiche in the basics post, this one can be made in a standard-sized tart pan if you prefer. Simply overlap the eggplant rounds a bit more tightly as you layer them into the crust. 

If you are looking for a way to enjoy your summer eggplant that is just a bit different, I encourage you to give this tart a try. Served with a tomato and olive salad, it made a delicious dinner.

Eggplant & Goat Cheese Tart 

Olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 T. picked thyme
1 globe eggplant (about 1 lb.)
1 12- to 13-inch tart shell, blind baked (see below)
1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch squares
2 to 3 T. basil chiffonade
2 eggs
1 c. heavy cream
salt & pepper
2 oz. Goat Cheese, crumbled
1 oz. grated Parmesan

Warm some olive oil in a sauté pan set over moderate heat. Add the onions and the thyme along with a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are very tender and beginning to caramelize. Set aside to cool.

While the onion cooks, slice the eggplant cross-wise about 1/4- to 1/3-inch thick. Spread the eggplant on a baking sheet and brush on both sides with olive oil. Broil the eggplant until golden brown. Turn and broil on the other side. If, when the eggplant is golden it is not cooked through, remove from the baking sheet and place in 3 or 4 stacks so that it will continue to steam and cook through as it cools.

When ready to build the tart, preheat the oven to 375°. Scatter the caramelized onion, roasted red peppers and basil over the baked crust. Next, arrange the eggplant in slightly overlapping concentric circles. Crumble the goat cheese over all. 

Whisk together the eggs and the cream. Season the custard with salt and pepper to taste. Carefully pour the custard over the vegetables, jiggling the pan a bit so the custard will be evenly distributed. Scatter the Pecorino cheese over all. Bake the tart until the custard is set—about 20 to 25 minutes. When the tart has finished baking, if it is not as brown as you would like, slide it under the broiler for a minute or two. Serves 6 to 8.

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour (200g)
1/2 t. salt
11 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (150g)
1/4 to 1/3 c. ice water

Combine the flour and the salt in a medium-sized bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until the butter is in small pea-sized pieces. Drizzle 1/4 c. ice water over the flour/butter mixture. Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump, adding more water if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a counter and form into a mound. Using the heel of your hand, gradually push all of the dough away from you in short forward strokes, flattening out the lumps. Continue until all of the dough is flat. Using a bench scraper, scrape the dough off the counter, forming it into a single clump as you do. Form the finished dough into a thick disk. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To roll out, let dough warm up for a moment or two. Butter a 12- to 13-inch pizza pan and set it aside. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle that is about 1/8- to 1/6–inch thick and is about 15 inches across. Trim any ragged edges. Brush off the excess flour and fold the dough circle in half. Transfer it to the prepared pan. Unfold the dough and ease it into the pan being careful not to stretch it. Fold the edges to form a 1/2-inch rim of a double thickness of dough. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To blind bake, line the pastry with aluminum foil or parchment paper, pressing it into the corners and edges. Add a layer of pie weights or dried beans. Bake in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes. When the pastry begins to color on the edges, remove the foil and weights and continue baking until the pastry dries out and turns a golden brown (another 5 minutes or so).


Anonymous said...

This looks delicious. I would like some right now.

In an unrelated note, I can no longer access your website. I read that you had updated it. Is there a different address now?

Paige said...

Thank you. I like this tart a lot. I also really like the "pizza pan" style makes for some really beautiful tarts.

Thanks for letting me know that you can't access my website. I have been out of town and just discovered last night that the site was down. I thought I had all of the problems ironed out...but apparently not. Hopefully I'll be back up and running soon.