Posts Tagged ‘tomato sauce’

Crisis luncheon – tomato and eggplant tart

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Being a freelancer has its ups and downs. One of the ups is that you can have a mid-week break from reporting on the effects of the financial crisis on a small European country and cook lunch for a friend who lost her job because of the very same crisis. As she is one of the most cheerful people I know, I decided to make an equally cheerful savory tart, with tomatoes and grilled eggplants topped with goat’s cheese. It was accompanied by one of my favorite salads – Lebanese tabbouleh, to bring the spring back to our recession-ravaged lives.

By now I’ve learned how to navigate my sorry excuse for a kitchen and on that sunny March morning even the temperamental gas oven wasn’t a match for me. Tart crust is easy if you don’t panic, and is ready in a breeze. This tart calls for a pre-baked shell so you can make it ahead of time.

I used small Sicilian eggplants, which are extremely beautiful with their light purple and white stripes. I don’t salt the eggplants and don’t wait for 20 minutes when they don’t have many brown seeds – it’s a waste of time. The bitterness is in the seeds. The tomato sauce I use for pizza and spaghetti with meatballs, which I usually make in batches and freeze afterwards, made the whole operation faster. I wish I could have served it all with a crisp and fruity Portuguese Vinho Verde, but didn’t have time to get any that day.

Tomato tart with eggplants and goat’s cheese

For the tart crust see my cranberry tart recipe. Keep the remaining part of the dough in the freezer for future use. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Pierce the shell with a fork to keep the crust from rising. Place aluminum foil on top of the tart shell, weigh it down with dry beans or tart weights if you have some and bake for 15 minutes on racks positioned in the middle. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until the shell is golden brown. Take out and leave to cool.

Filling

  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ¾ cups tomato sauce
  • 3 small Sicilian eggplants, cut in half lengthwise and then quartered – you should have eight strips (or 1 medium size Italian eggplant – cut in ¼ inch rounds)
  • 1/8 pound fresh goat’s cheese (or feta)
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped parsley (or dill) for garnish
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat, add the eggplants in batches if they don’t fit in single layer and saute until soft and slightly brown. Transfer to a plate covered with a paper towel to soak up the extra oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss.

Spread the Dijon mustard over the bottom of the tart – it gives a nice sharp bite to the sweet tomato-and-eggplant filling. Spoon in the tomato sauce and spread it evenly. Arrange the eggplant strips in a fan (or if using rounds – starting from the outside lay them in overlapping circles). Crumble the cheese on top, sprinkle with more black pepper and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese starts melting and the eggplants are warmed through. Serve warm with a salad and a nice crisp white wine. It will really make a difference to your mid week or light weekend lunch.

Tomato sauce for pizza and more

Monday, February 9th, 2009

This is a recipe that can be used in so many ways it’s always good to make more than you need and freeze the excess. Homemade is always better than store-bought in my universe, and I keep a container or two of this tomato sauce in the freezer at all times. It’s great on pizza, and is a real time-saver when you get an urge to whip up spaghetti with meatballs or fresh Italian sausage for a quick dinner. It also helps transform boring chicken breasts into much better-looking and tasting chicken parmigiana.

Ingredients:

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh basil (or flat leaf parsley), torn or chopped
  • leaves from 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 big can – 1 pound 12 oz (about 800 g) – of the best tomatoes you can find or an equivalent amount of ripe fresh tomatoes
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Place a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium low heat. Add the olive oil, garlic and onion. Saute until onion is translucent, add the tomatoes, basil and thyme. If the tomatoes are whole – smash them with the back of a spoon or fork. Season with salt and pepper, add the vinegar and some sugar if too sour. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until it begins to concentrate. Strain the sauce through a sieve, pushing with a wooden spoon or using a whisk. Put the strained sauce back into the pan and simmer for few more minutes until it is thick enough to spread on a pizza, or add a bit of water if it’s for pasta. Freeze any leftovers.


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