Are you craving “summer food” as much as I am? I’ve come to the end of my seasonal culinary relationship with all things braised, stewed, and otherwise slow-cooked. And, even though ratatouille is a stew, it brings to mind warmer climates; meals al fresco, glasses of chilled rose wine, long summer days. Of course it’s too early to celebrate garden tomatoes in my part of the world, so some substitutions had to be made. But I think this tart captures the essence of a delicious vegetable dish, with the bonus of having it set on a rich, buttery pastry platform. I constructed the tart in the manner of a Tarte Tatin, mainly to try out my new copper tatin dish.
The original recipe called for a pan somewhat larger than mine, so my tart is a little higher in stature and it took a few minutes longer to bake. It’s a lovely light lunch or dinner, on its own, or a delicious side dish to some grilled meat or fish. Bake one up to share with family and friends and think about the bounty of summer produce to come. It won’t be long…
(makes 4 to 6 servings)
In a medium bowl combine:
200 grams (about 7 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
Rub or cut into the flour mixture:
100 grams (31/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, and cut into cubes.
Work the mixture until it resembles coarse meal, with a few larger bits of butter still visible. Add to the mixture:
50 ml (about 3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons) ice cold water
Toss the flour and butter with the water until all the dry ingredients are moistened and you can gather the dough together into a rough ball. Knead a couple of times, then flatten the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate while you prepare the sauce. In a heavy, medium saucepan heat:
2 tablespoons olive oil
When warm, add:
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
When the shallots and garlic have softened, add to the pot:
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
Simmer gently until the pepper has softened. Then add:
1 14 to 16 ounce can best quality tomatoes
Several sprigs fresh thyme
1 small bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Stir the mixture and break up the tomatoes with a spoon. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is thick and chunky, with a rich and savory flavor (about 30 minutes). Remove to a shallow bowl to cool. Check seasoning (it may need a pinch of sugar) and remove the thyme and bay leaf. When ready to assemble the tart, line a 9 1/2 to 10 1/2-inch baking dish or tart pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slice into scant 1/4-inch slices:
7 to 8 ounces zucchini
12 ounces eggplant
A mandolin makes easy work of this task and ensures uniform slices.
Scatter into the bottom of the prepared baking dish:
3 ounces crumbled goat cheese
Arrange the sliced eggplant and zucchini atop the cheese, sprinkling each layer with a little salt and pepper and additional bits of fresh thyme (see above). Push down gently to even the layers, then top with the cooled tomato sauce. Quickly roll the chilled pastry, on a lightly floured surface, to a diameter slightly larger than the top of your dish. Carefully place the pastry atop the vegetables and sauce and tuck the edges over to make a slightly thicker border. Place the dish in the hot oven and bake for about 25 to 40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling a little at the edges of the dish. Baking time will depend on the size of your dish and thickness of the vegetable layer. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes on a cooling rack. Invert the tart onto a serving platter or board, remove the parchment paper, and garnish with additional fresh thyme sprigs. Slice into wedges and serve hot or warm. Leftovers can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for the next day. Reheat in a moderate oven or enjoy at room temperature.
(minimally adapted from Creme de Citron)