Eggplant Tart with Tomatoes, Greek Olives, and Feta

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Classic Tart Pastry
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, firm, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
4 tablespoons ice water, as needed
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggplants
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 spanish onion, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
4 italian plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
18 greek olives, pitted and cut in half
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3 mint leaves, for garnish

1. Prepare and bake the Classic Tart Pastry crust.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Add the butter and vegetable shortening. Toss the mixture with your hands to coat the fats with flour. Then rub the flour-coated fats between your fingers to form flat, flakelike crumbs.

As the pieces become smaller, with floured hands, take a handful of crumbs and gently let them roll from between your hands into the bowl, while moving your hands in one direction. Do not move them back and forth or you will mash the flakes. The tips of your fingers should always point down into the bowl. Each time the crumbs fall from your hands, pick up another handful. After 6 to 8 times, alternate the rubbing movement with the rolling movement.

Continue until the flour-coated fats are the size of coarse meal with some larger pea-size pieces. The crumb mixture will change color from off-white to pale yellowish.

Add three-fourths of the ice water, a tablespoon at a time, drizzling it around the rim of the bowl. Using a kitchen fork, push the mixture toward the center with each addition. Do this around the entire bowl. As more water is added, clumps of dough will form. They will become larger with each addition. Add the remaining water, a teaspoon at a time. Feel the dough with your hand; it should feel cool and slightly moist.

To determine if the mixture has enough water, gather some in your hand and press it against the side of the bowl to see if it will hold together. If not, add more water sparingly, about 1 teaspoon at a time, adding only enough for it to form a mass. Too much liquid and/or overworking the dough will toughen it.

With floured hands, press the dough against the side of the bowl to form a ball. All of the crumbs should adhere to the ball and clean the bowl. If not, add a few drops of water. Flatten the ball into a disk. Dust with flour and score with the side of your hand to relax the gluten. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes or longer before using.

2. Make the filling: Combine the garlic, oregano, and olive oil and let stand for 30 minutes.

3. Wipe the eggplant with damp paper towels. Using a large serrated knife, cut the eggplant into medium slices. Line a shallow sheet pan with a double thickness of paper towels. Lay the sliced eggplant in a single layer on the baking pan. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Place a layer of paper towels on top of the eggplant. If any slices remain, make a second layer. Lay a second pan over the first, and weight it with heavy cans from your pantry. Let stand 30 minutes to extract the bitter juices.

4. Using damp paper towels, wipe the surface of the eggplant to remove excess salt. Set aside 1/4 of the seasoned olive oil. Lightly brush the eggplant on both sides with the remaining oil.

5. Preheat your outdoor grill or indoor broiler. For outdoor cooking, grill the eggplant on both sides until it is charred and cooked through. Do not burn. If broiling, line a shallow baking pan with aluminum foil. Lay the eggplant in a single layer on the pan and broil it on both sides until charred and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Drizzle the eggplant with lemon juice and set aside to cool.

6. Heat 1/4 seasoned olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until soft and golden in color, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in half of the chopped parsley and mint. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

7. Assemble the tart: Spread the onion evenly in the pastry shell. Arrange the eggplant in overlapping slices, making 2 concentric circles (use the smaller rounds for the inside circle). Scatter the tomatoes and black olives over the top, and season with pepper. Scatter the feta evenly. (The tart can be made up to 6 hours ahead at this point. Cover with a piece of waxed paper until ready to bake.)

8. Bake the tart: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Bake the tart 25 to 30 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle the remaining chopped parsley and mint over the top and garnish with a few whole mint leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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