When it comes to cooking, sticking within limits can be so boring. If you’re ever in the mood to pull out a stop or two and make something the likes of which you’ve never had before, this savory tart is an excellent choice.
I first came across this recipe in a book that we received as a wedding gift. I can’t recall what first possessed me to try it; perhaps it was the description (it used to be served at the author’s Napa Valley restaurant) or the ease with which this could be fit into a dinner-party menu. Either way, I’m extraordinarily glad that I tried it: while I don’t make it terribly often, it’s been firmly set in my repertoire ever since. So much so that for my last birthday (my 30th), I decided not to go to a restaurant and to make this for dinner instead.
So don’t be intimidated by the eggplant (this recipe introduced me to the veg), the method (my first-ever dip into deep-frying), or the unusual presentation: this is a dish whose bright, fresh flavors are welcome at any occasion!
Savory bruschetta tart
From At Home with Michael Chiarello
I always makes this a day ahead. Simply re-heat in the oven (at 375F for about 15 minutes) before you want to serve it.
This makes a great appetizer but is hearty enough to serve as a main course: just make bigger slices when serving.
A note on bread: any rustic bread will do, so long as it’s about the right size and doesn’t have too many holes. Ciabatta is a poor choice because of its structure and shape/size, and a baguette has the right texture but is too small. I have had the best luck with Italian loaves; if you want to make your own, the Bread Baker’s Apprentice has an excellent recipe.
For both the slices and the cubes, don’t cut your bread too thickly. Try as hard as you can to cut to the dimensions given.
¼ cup olive oil
Peanut oil for deep-frying
2 cups peeled egglant, cut into ¾” dice (about 1 medium)
Finely ground sea salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
8 ¼”-thick round slices of rustic country bread
8 cups cubed bread (½” cubes)
1 cup zucchini, cut into ½” dice (about 2 small)
½ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1½ teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 large egg yolks, beaten
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Brush two 9-10″ round cake pans with 2 tablespoons olive oil each.
Pour the peanut oil to a depth of at least 3 inches into a deep fryer or a heavy 8″ deep stockpot. While the oil is heating toss the eggplant with a little salt in a bowl. Then add the flour to the eggplant and toss to coat evenly. Remove the eggplant from the bowl, lightly patting off the excess flour.
Working in 2 batches, add the eggplant to the hot oil and fry until light brown, about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to paper towels to drain.
Cover the bottom of each prepared cake pan with 4 bread slices in a single layer. It is okay if there are spaces between the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, cubed bread, zucchini, cheese, basil, oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes, 1 cup of the marinara, egg yolks, and cream and mix well. Add 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and mix again. Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 pans, packing it lightly and making sure there are no large gaps in the pan.
Cover the pans with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Raise the oven temperature to 375°F, remove the foil, and continue baking until the top is medium brown, about 15-20 minutes longer. Remove from the oven, place on racks, and let rest for 15 minutes. While the tarts are resting, gently heat the remaining 2 cups marinara until hot.
Run a knife around the inside edge of 1 pan to loosen the sides of the tart, invert a serving plate over the pan, invert the pan and plate together, and lift off the pan. Repeat with the second tart. Cut into wedges with a serrated knife and serve immediately. Pass the hot tomato sauce at the table.