Who you callin’ a tart?

Hey there. It’s that wonderful time of year when locally grown produce is available nearly EVERYWHERE, particularly tomatoes and eggplant. We routinely turn our homegrown tomatoes into roasted red sauce, caprese salad, and salsa and grill up eggplant for sandwiches and salads but sometimes we long for something different. Behold the something different; A Fresh Tomato and Eggplant Tart.

When this recipe found its way into my orbit I thought; “Yeah, why not?” I already had all the ingredients and it seemed pretty straight forward, although I was a little skeptical about what seemed like an overly complicated step involving cooking the eggplant. (My skepticism was unfounded, in fact the step makes the cooking of the eggplant so stupid easy and delicious that my eggplant averse husband tried a few extra slices and thought they’d make awesome little hors d’oeuvres. So take that for what its worth.)

Anyway, whatever you’re doing right now stop, and go make this tart. You won’t be disappointed. Go harvest from your garden or swing by the buy farmstand for tomatoes and eggplant, defrost that red sauce in your freezer, mince a little fresh basil and get ready to be blown away.

Eggplant and Tomato Tart

1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)
1 large eggplant
salt
3 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups marinara suace
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, julienned
1/2 cut grated parmesan
8 oz fresh mozzarella, shredded
2 large fresh tomatoes, sliced
olive oil

  1. Line a lightly oil a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with the dough, pierce the bottom. Refrigerate for 30 minutes then pre-bake (with pie weights or beans) at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. Increase the oven temp to 450 degrees . Slice the eggplant about 1/3 inch thick and toss with salt to taste and drizzle with olive oil. Line 1 to 2 baking sheets (as needed) with foil and brush the foil with olive oil. Lay the eggplant slices on the foil in 1 layer. Roast in the hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the slices are soft when pierced with a knife and browned in spots. Remove from the oven and carefully fold the foil up over the eggplant slices. Crimp the edges of the foil and allow the eggplant to steam for another 15 to 20 minutes. It should now be completely cooked. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
  3. Beat together the eggs in a medium bowl. Set the tart pan on a baking sheet to allow for easy handling. Whisk the milk into the eggs. Spread tomato sauce over the bottom of the crust. Top with a layer of eggplant slices. Spoon one third of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with basil, Parmesan, and mozzarella. Repeat the layers one or two more times, depending on the size of your eggplant slices. Pour on the egg and milk mixture. It should seep down into the layers; if it looks like it’s not moving and going to overflow the crust, use a fork to create some holes so it does seep down. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on top and sprinkle with mozzarella and the remaining basil over the tomatoes. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until set and bubbling and browned on the top and edges. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

perfect pie crust

“I have a confession to make; I love pie but I never make my own crust. I know I should, I realize that it’s not really all that difficult and that homemade is far superior to store bought, but somehow I’ve just never gotten around to giving it a whirl. However I promise that one day soon I will make the effort. I promise…”

I wrote these words two years ago and I’m embarrassed to say that up until recently, they remained true. As much as I preach about homemade real food I honestly had NEVER made or even attempted to make pie crust from scratch. Why? Good question and one I actually don’t have an answer to. I guess I simply just wasn’t in the mood. However it would appear that the universe was fed up with my wishy-washy attitude towards pie crust and decided to force the issue. How you may wonder. With the perfect storm of gardening scenarios… The threat of an early frost and tomato plants that just wouldn’t quit.

You see my vegetable garden; My suburban oasis, the fulfillment of my wannabe farmer aspirations and my favorite place to putter around and avoid all the things I should be doing instead had one of its most successful seasons ever. Was it thanks to the bees? The fact that last years crop was so pitiful that I was due a bountiful year or was it simply good luck? I’m just not sure. What I do know is that this year was one of the most prolific years my little garden has ever had. So imagine my dismay when the overnight temps were predicted to drop well below freezing and my tomato plants were still loaded with unripe tomatoes. I did the only thing I could think to do, I picked the fruit and decided to figure out the rest later.

According to Martha Stewart green tomato pie is DELICIOUS and the perfect substitute for apple pie. In fact she claims that by using the same spices as you would in a traditional apple pie, you can actually fool your unsuspecting guests.

Martha was wrong. Very wrong.

My tomato pie was a giant soupy, undercooked and fairly disgusting looking mess. But… The crust (which I had spontaneously decided to make from scratch) was AMAZING! So good that I actually couldn’t bear to throw it out. Instead I poured the tomato gunk out, wrapped up what remained and we ate crust with vanilla ice cream for dessert the rest of the week. Funny right, but true nonetheless. I am now a from scratch crust devotee and a total crust snob who’s shameful Pillsbury purchasing days are well behind her.

“Candy might be sweet, but it’s a traveling carnival blowing through town. Pie is home. People always come home…” This has been one of my favorite quotes for some time, but my newfound crust appreciation makes me feel like I finally truly understand it.

Super Simple Food Processor Pie Crust
Sure cooks have been making delicious and flakey pie crust by hand for hundreds of years, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Have a little faith in technology.

1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp.) cold salted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup cold vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
1/2 cup ice water
  1. Cut the butter into cubes and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. In multiple batches add the butter and shortening, pulse in between additions until the butter is the size of peas. Continue to pulse and slowly pour the ice water down the feed tube until the dough begins to form a ball (you may not use all of the water.) Scoop out the dough and place on a sheet of plastic wrap. Gently shape into a ball, wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. The dough is now ready to be used. For a double pie crust cut the dough in half, roll out on a well-floured surface to the size of your pie pan and proceed as usual. For hand pies cut the dough in half, the halves into quarters and the quarters in half again. Roll out and using a pocket pie crimper (or a 6″ inverted bowl), cut out as many circles as possible. Re-roll the crust scraps and continue cutting out circles until you run out of dough. Fill with your choice of sweet or savory filling, bake and enjoy.*

*One of my fondest childhood memories actually revolves around pie crust. My mother has always made hers from scratch and as any baker knows, there is always a bit of leftover dough when the pie is finished. She’d gather the scraps up and roll them back out. Dust them with cinnamon and sugar and slice them into triangular strips. Then she’d roll the strips up, pop them into the oven for a few minutes and voilà… tasty little Rugelach type cookies that to my way of thinking were even better than the pie itself.

pie crust cookies