Thursday, July 21, 2011

Herbed Tart with Eggplant, Marinated Sardines, and Mozzarella

In trying to incorporate more Mediterranean food into my cooking, I've enjoyed experimenting with sardines.  They're less salty than anchovies, full of protein and healthy omega 3s, and they are less 'fishy'-tasting than you'd imagine.  

For this savory tart, I marinate the sardines in herbs and olive oil, creating a filling and delicious addition to the eggplant, bell peppers, mushrooms, and creamy mozzarella.  Fresh and dried herbs are used in the crust and the tart filling to intensify the flavour.  It's a beautiful dish to serve to company, and even less-adventurous eaters will be asking for seconds.

Make one large tart or divide the mixture into small tart dishes for individual servings.  Serve with crusty french bread and a side of steamed asparagus tossed in a spoonful of melted butter and squeeze of lemon.
Snapped a picture just before the tart went into the oven 

Herbed Tart with Eggplant, Marinated Sardines, and Mozzarella
Serves 4

Marinated sardines:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
pinch of crushed sea salt (omit if sardines are canned in brine)
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves 
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon coriander (cilantro) seeds, slightly crushed
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 cans sardines, in olive oil or brine, preferably boned and skinned

Tart Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water

Tart filling:
2 eggplants, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
2 green onions, washed with both ends trimmed
1 red bell pepper, sliced
3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 balls reduced-fat mozzarella
8-10 fresh thyme sprigs
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

Mix all of the marinade ingredients (except for the sardines) in a small bowl.  Rinse the sardines and then place them in the bowl of marinade.  Cover and refrigerate at least 20 minutes, or overnight.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients for the crust. Cut in the olive oil using a pastry cutter, then add the water, cutting with the pastry cutter until it is just all sticking together.  Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap or a plastic bag, wrap the plastic around it tightly to form a ball, and place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, or overnight.

Spray a baking pan lightly with oil, and arrange the eggplant slices on top in a single layer (you might have to do two trays).  Sprinkle eggplant lightly with salt and 1 teaspoon dried oregano.  Place the two green onions on the baking sheet, as well.  Bake at 390F/ 200C for 10-15 minutes, until beginning to brown.  

Remove the tray from the oven, setting aside the green onion.  Stack the eggplant slices together, and place them in a plastic bag so that they can soften in the steam for about 10 minutes.  

Lightly spray a 10-inch tart pan (or 5 4-inch tart pans) with oil.  Remove the dough from the fridge, and place it between two sheets of plastic wrap, or in the middle of a large plastic bag.  Roll out as thinly as you can with a rolling pin (into one large disk, or 5 small discs, depending on the size of your tart pan).  Lay the dough in the tart pan, and press the dough out and up the edges of the pan with your fingers if you need to.

Bake crust for 10 minutes at 390F/ 200C.  Remove from oven.  

Arrange thin, halved slices of the mozzarella on top of the crust, placing the pieces of cheese about 1 inch apart.  Arrange one layer of eggplant slices on top of the mozzarella, then top with another layer of mozzarella.  Add another layer of eggplant, then arrange mushroom slices on top of the second eggplant layer.  

Using kitchen shears, cut the roasted green onions into thin slices over the mushrooms, then sprinkle evenly with garlic slices.  Arrange marinated sardines and bell pepper slices around the tart.  Sprinkle with the fresh thyme sprigs, fresh ground pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon of oregano.  Top evenly with freshly grated parmesan.

Bake at 390F/ 200C for about 15-20 minutes, until the edges of the crust just begin to turn golden and the cheese is melted.  

Serve immediately or at room temperature.

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