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Where We Live by John Silveira and Richard Blunt. Photos and commentary from Oregon and New England.

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Archive for August 17th, 2015

 

From A Garden Harvest To A Gourmet Vegetable Tart

Monday, August 17th, 2015

My Small Garden

On a warm, early spring day, fifteen years ago, I started digging a 3-foot-deep trench to lay a 4-inch drain pipe in an effort to correct a problem of water collecting around the foundation of my house when it rained. My wife, Tricia, noticed that this small strip of ground was the only spot on the property that got all-day sun. She suggested that since I was doing so much digging, I could widen the trench a little, fill it with enriched soil and start a small garden. She said, “With a little planning, a small garden in that spot could be very productive.”

While living in Boston years ago, I became an avid viewer of a popular gardening show aired on Public Television and hosted by master gardener Jim Crockett, and later hosted by Bob Thomson. Both Crockett and Thomson wrote detailed and informative books on gardening titled Crockett’s Victory Garden and The New Victory Garden, respectively. My wife and I were apartment dwellers while living in Boston and had no chance of starting a garden, but I bought and read both books, hoping that some day I would be able use this knowledge.

This laborious trench was my opportunity to start my first garden. After laying the pipe, I started working on the garden. Using my copies of the Victory Garden books as guides, the garden was ready for an initial planting by June of that year. The planting space measures a mere 90 square feet, but it has proven adequate for my purposes. Every year my garden produces plenty of fresh vegetables that I can harvest and serve fresh and I have plenty left to can and freeze for meals during the cold months.

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One of our favorite summer side dishes is the vegetable tart featured in this post. The crust that I use for this tart is the only constant in the formula. The filling depends on what the garden is offering at the time. I made the tart featured in this post this past Sunday, after filling the basket shown below with whatever was available.

For this tart I used the eggplant, zucchini and some of the tomatoes. I pickled the okra and dried the cayenne peppers.

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Mountain Fresh Tomatoes: These disease-resistant, firm and flavorful tomatoes are a standard in my garden. They are delicious eaten fresh and are great for canning.

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Sweet Basil and Globe Eggplant — Two key ingredients in this tart

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Below is my first successful attempt at producing this tart. I filled it with the same cheese mixture as the one featured here, but used part of an abundant crop of tomatoes as the only vegetable/fruit.

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The latest version

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Fresh Tomato, Eggplant and Zucchini Tart

Dough for the tart shell

I have used both masa harina and regular corn flour to make this crust. However, I prefer the masa harina because the process used to make it mellows the corn flavor, which, in my opinion, allows the flavor of the fresh vegetables to stand out more.

1½ cups (7½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup masa harina or corn flour

½ tsp. kosher salt

4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, diced into ¼-inch cubes

¾ cup fresh corn kernels or frozen corn, thawed (divided and remainder used in filling)

1  tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp. grated lemon zest

2 tbsp. fresh goat cheese at room temperature

1 tbsp. cream cheese at room temperature

Preparation

Combine the flour, masa harina and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse two or three times until combined, add the butter and pulse until the mix resembles a coarse meal. Transfer this mix to a suitable size bowl and set aside. Do not wash the processor bowl.

Combine ½ cup of corn, lemon juice, lemon zest, goat cheese and cream cheese in the bowl of food processor and process until smooth.

Return the flour mixture to the processor bowl and pulse several times until the dough starts to come together. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula and distribute the dough evenly around the blade. Continue to pulse until the dough comes completely together, about 5 or 6 quick pulses. Transfer the dough to a well-floured work surface and press into 8-inch round disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Tart Filling

1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch slices

1 pound fresh zucchini squash, sliced crosswise into ¼-inch thick pieces

1 pound fresh medium-size eggplant (cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices)

kosher salt

2 tsp. vegetable oil

½ cup shredded fresh basil (divided)

½ cup shredded Italian fontina cheese

1 tbsp. fresh oregano, minced

4 tbsp. fresh bread crumbs (divided)

½ tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

¼ cup crumbled fresh goat cheese

1  large egg, lightly beaten with ½ tsp. of olive oil

Preparation

Place an oven rack in the middle position in the oven, and place a pizza stone or a large cookie sheet, reversed, on the rack. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit one hour before the baking the tart.

The three vegetables that are the heart of this filling contain a lot of excess water. Most of this water must be removed before final assembly and baking. If not, the heat of the oven will extract this excess water from these vegetables and be soaked up by the pastry shell, making it dense and wet. Salt causes each of these vegetables to release water. We will be sauteing the zucchini and the eggplant before incorporating them into the tart, and this extra step helps these vegetables saute and brown rather than stew in their own juices.

Place the zucchini slices in a colander and sprinkle them with 1 tsp. of non-iodized salt. Set the colander over a suitable size bowl until about 1/3 of a cup of water drains from the zucchini. This will take about 30 minutes. Rinse the zucchini with cold water and dry on a double layer of paper towels.

Repeat the above process with the eggplant but do not rinse, just place the eggplant on paper towels to dry.

Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on a triple layer of paper towels and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of salt and let them drain for about 15 minutes. Remove any residual moisture by gently blotting the tomatoes with another layer of paper towels.

In a 12-inch, heavy bottom, non-stick skillet heat 1 tsp. of vegetable oil over medium high heat until it just begins to smoke. Add the zucchini and saute, stirring constantly, until it just begins to brown. Place it on a layer of paper towels and set it aside.

NOTE: Like a stir-fry this step uses a hot pan to just sear and brown the vegetables, not cook them through.

Repeat the above process with the eggplant.

Tart Assembly

Combine ¼ cup of fresh basil, fontina cheese and fresh oregano, and set it aside.

Combine 2 tbsp. of the fresh bread crumbs with the ½ tsp. kosher salt, and set it aside.

Remove the crust dough from the refrigerator, place it on a well-floured piece of parchment paper and roll it into a 14-inch circle. Carefully transfer the rolled dough and the parchment paper to the back of a large cookie sheet. If you are lucky enough to own a pizza paddle, this task will be easier.

Arrange the cheese mixture on the rolled-out crust, leaving 1½-inch space at the border.

Sprinkle the fresh bread crumb and salt mixture evenly over the cheese.

Arrange the zucchini and eggplant in a way that you find appealing over the cheese and sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs.

Arrange the tomatoes in overlapping slices over the bread crumbs, and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of corn.

Fold the edges of the dough toward the the center of the tart, pleating and sealing.

Brush the tart shell with the egg wash mixture and place it on the pizza stone or reversed cookie sheet, in the oven to bake for 15 minutes. Open the oven and carefully top the tart with the remaining goat cheese, and continue to bake for 3o minutes, or until the crust is a rich brown. Let the tart rest for 15 minutes before serving.

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