On some blogs I'm known as "Foreign Tart" (which is of course a culinary reference) so I guess you could call this my signature dish.
When you've got a big glossy aubergine (eggplant for you colonials) in your hands, like most people you might be wondering what the heck to do with it. Or maybe you're more versatile in auberginese. Regardless, I recommend turning that innocent piece of produce into a tart.
Tarts can take a while to prepare, but you can use the time while the different components are baking to clean up. If you're entertaining, prepare the ingredients ahead of time and throw the tart together at the last minute.
Just be careful. Tarts, especially foreign ones, require gentle handling.
Roasted Vegetable Tart with Walnut Crust
3/4 cup ground walnuts
1 cup flour
5 tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine
2 tablespoons tahini
3-4 tablespoons cold water
3 bell peppers, red, yellow, and green
1 medium aubergine (eggplants)
olive oil (about 1/4 cup for tossing)
dried basil and oregano (about 1 tablespoon of each, if you want specifics)
6 cloves garlic, thin sliced
8 oz. soy cream cheese
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons pesto (optional)
3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
6 oz. goat cheese or soy mozzarella
olive oil for roasting
salt and black pepper, as needed
Combine margarine, flour and salt in a food processor and spin for a few seconds, or cut margarine in to flour with a fork until it has a crumb-like consistency. Place in a bowl, then chop the walnuts finely and add to the flour mixture.
Add tahini and water (start with 3 tablespoons and add a fourth if necessary) and mix until the ball of dough sticks together. Place in refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes while you prepare the vegetables.
Slice the aubergines lengthwise into quarters, then slice these into 1/2-inch chunks. Sprinkle salt over the chunks and set aside. Slice peppers into strips and toss with a generous amount of olive oil. (Save extra for the aubergine.) Spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle with dried basil, oregano, and black pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
Now's a good time to take out the ball of dough and roll it into a crust. Place in an oiled tart pan, or in a 9-inch round cake pan if you haven't got a tart pan. Push a little dough up the sides. Bake for 15-20 minutes in a low or moderate oven. (Do this ahead of time if you only have the one oven.)
Now on to the patiently waiting aubergine: Dab the chunks with a paper towel to remove any moisture. (Theoretically this removes the bitterness but I've never tasted any bitterness. Maybe today's eggplants have gotten over their pique.) Toss with more olive oil and dust with dried basil. Place on a baking sheet with the sliced garlic, and bake in the same oven as the peppers. Slice 4 cloves of garlic and add these for the last 10 minutes of roasting.
Crush the rest of the garlic and mix this into the cream cheese along with half the chopped fresh basil, pesto (if you're using it), tomato paste, and the Dijon mustard. Season with a little salt and black pepper. Spread this mixture over the cooled crust.
Arrange the roasted vegetables over the cream cheese mixture, sprinkle more chopped fresh basil over the top. Dab with rounds of goats cheese or soy mozzarella.
Bake in the same oven you've been using up to now, lowered to 350 degrees, for 30 minutes or until the top is starting to brown.
Notes: Either globe aubergines or their Asian cousins Japanese eggplants work. (Japanese eggplant is reputed to be less bitter.) I didn't have any pesto, so I left it out. Although I avoid dairy, we picked up some French chevre at the Normandy
invasion market the other day, and since goats have a bit better life than cows, I'll go ahead and encourage the use of goat's cheese for those who must have cheese. But only if it's from France. Soy mozzarella is a very good substitute, for my faithful vegan friends. Again, choose non-hydrogenated margarine to avoid those evil transfats. Earth Balance and its mainstream supermarket twin Smart Balance are excellent.