Have you ever made something so delicious you were thinking of it when you went to bed and couldn’t wait for morning to eat the leftovers for breakfast? That was my recent experience with this savory tart. The pungent, saltiness of the feta highlights the woodsy eggplant and the sweetness of the tomatoes and cipollini onions. Top it with the toasty crunchiness of the pine nuts and you have perfection. Who could ask for more?
The inspiration for this tart came from an Eggplant-Goat Cheese Tart recipe that originated in the Williams-Sonoma kitchens. My friend, Nancy, who refers to herself as “The Queen of Tarts” made it, loved it and upon my request, sent it on to me. I was gazing at these two little eggplants and the Roma tomatoes that were the last of this season’s garden and thought a tart seemed like a perfect use for them. In addition, I had on hand some cipollini onions (you could use any sweet onion if you can’t find these) I bought at the farmers market and garlic I harvested earlier this Summer. Thyme was still thriving in my herb garden, pine nuts were in the pantry, the creative juices were flowing and this scrumptious recipe was born.
Here is how it goes down.
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
10 T (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 + T ice water, as needed
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced fine
2 baby globe eggplant, about 1/2 lb., cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/4 c Roma tomatoes, seeded, and diced (about 3-4 tomatoes)
2 cipollini onions, sliced thin
5 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 c pine nuts
1 t fresh thyme, chopped
- To make the pastry, I used a stand mixer but this could be done by hand or in the food processor. In the bowl of the mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the flour and salt and beat on low for about 15 seconds. Add the butter and continue beating until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs, 30-45 seconds. Add the water, 1 T at a time, and continue beating, adding more water as needed until the dough comes together. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and press together to form a 5-inch disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Position rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness to fit a 7 3/4 x 10 3/4 -inch tart pan, or equivalent size. Press the dough into the pan and trim leaving a 1/2-inch overhang around the rim. Fold in the excess dough and press it into the sides so they are thicker than the bottom. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.
- For the filling, heat 3 T of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the garlic and saute, stirring occasionally until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the eggplant and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the eggplant, stirring often until it is tender and golden, 8-10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.
- Brush the pastry with the remaining 1 T of the olive oil. Spread the tomatoes evenly over the bottom and distribute the onions over the top. Spoon the eggplant over the onions, crumble the feta over the top and sprinkle with the pine nuts. Bake until crust is golden and crisp, about 40-45 minutes.
- Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.
If the aroma of this tart, as it is baking, doesn’t whet your appetite, you must have lost your sense of smell. Believe me when I say this will make even the pickiest of eaters come to the kitchen to inquire what’s cooking.
I think this basic tart could be made with a wide variety of vegetables. I have been thinking of a potato/ spinach combination or how about winter squash with onion, apple and fried sage leaves. Imagine that on your Thanksgiving table! You know what I say, “whatever makes you happy.” My best creations, this being a great example, come from looking at what’s in-house and putting them together with flair.
This tart is fancy enough for company or simple enough for everyday. To make it easier, make the pastry the day before or in the morning. It can sit in the refrigerator for up to two days, covered, or in the freezer of wrapped tightly, for a month.
Just talking about it makes me want to make another as soon as possible. I urge you to make it sooner rather than later. This is the type of dish that just makes you smile out loud!