So it’s my birthday today (exciting !) and since food seems to be my favorite item of conversation, I decided that a potluck event would be appropriate to fete the addition of another candle on the proverbial birthday cake (so to speak…). Naturally, I wasn’t going to let the event go by without making a dish – what if no one brought anything ? What if college kids just brought cookies or chips ??? WE HAVE TO EAT SOMETHING, RIGHT ?
Right. Sort of. Not really ?
To my pleasant surprise, I was surrounded by such lovely people that I had no reason to fret – worms and dirt, croissants, pita chips and hummus, bean and chicken salad, sweet potato homefries, hungarian and indian style fajitas, multiple bottles of wine and my own tarte set the stage for a fantastic evening between friends. I am quite lucky to know such people – I think it’s safe to say all tummies were satiated.
In any case – the ratatouille tarte turned out quite well (if I do say so myself). A recipe hailing from the archives of Food and Wine magazine (My mom clipped it many years ago but dared not make it until many hands were present in the kitchen), this tarte combines the fantastic flavors of the traditional French dish of ratatouille (yes, like the film) with a nice crust of phyllo dough and parmesan cheese. It’s great fresh out of the oven and perfect as lunch the next day. It reminds me of late, indian summers that occur here on the east coast with its strong flavors of zucchini, roma tomato, and eggplant.
For the filling :
1 3/4-pound eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 can tomato paste
A sprinkling of oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F. Peel and cut the eggplant into rounds, then cut those rounds into chunks. Place these on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until just SLIGHTLY browned. This will help get some of the moisture out of the eggplant.
Once toasted, place in a large pan with the onion and the bell pepper and a nice dollop olive oil. Cook until the eggplant is soft – it takes about 10 minutes. I put the eye on medium, but make sure to stir so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Add the thyme, salt, and pepper and stir.
When the onions are translucent, add the tomato paste (the whole can !) and stir to combine. Cover and cook until the moisture has evaporated. This can be prepared in advance (lovely perk). Let sit on the stove until the crust is ready to go.
SIDE NOTE : Trader Joe’s now sells phyllo dough ! Make my day ! It’s thin and delicious…I’m quite pleased. In a tart pan (I used a brownie pan because that’s all I have here….), place a sheet of phyllo dough.
Drizzle olive oil and parmesan cheese on top of the phyllo dough sheet.
Cover with another sheet of dough. Continue this for 10 layers. Or more. It’s delicious, so put the effort in. It’s well worth it. 🙂
Place the filling on top of the final layer of dough and smoosh down until nice and flat. Cover in slices of provolone cheese.
6 small plum tomatoes cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 medium zucchini cut into thin rounds
Sprinkling of oregano and parmesan cheese
In concentric circles, layer the zucchinis and tomatoes on top of the provolone cheese. Feel free to arrange the zukes and tomatoes as you like – this is the moment of CREATIVITY ! Go wild ! Sprinkle the top with oregano and parmesan cheese.
Bake in the oven for about an hour or until the zucchinis are soft. Let cool for a little while before cutting (or it will be a cheesy mess.)
Eat as a main dinner (or lunch the next day) and pretend you’re in the south of France…or at a birthday party surrounded by friends.
Bon appétit !