• Stir It Up: Summer vegetable bonanza
     | August 22,2014
    Photo by Ben Fink

    A vegetable tart filled with classic French ratatouille makes for a gorgeous summer vegetable extravaganza. The recipe and photo are from “Gale Gand’s Lunch!” by Gale Gand.

    It’s the time of year when nearly every dish might look like a compost heap. And I mean that in a good way. Because it is absolutely the time of the year to showcase ripe summer vegetables. Just cruise a farmers market, or your own garden, for inspiration. Or forget about inspiration and simply chop up a bunch of vegetables and saute them in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and fresh herbs, and dinner is served.

    It’s the time of year for the quintessential summer dish: ratatouille. It showcases tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and bell peppers at their peak, and can accommodate any other vegetables you have hanging around. You can make it in a slow cooker or in the oven, or you can cook all the vegetables on the grill before combining them.

    You can use it as a filling for an omelet or a topping for pasta, bake it into a cheesy gratin, stuff it into a tortilla or, as is suggested here — from “Gale Gand’s Lunch!” — you can spoon the ratatouille into a pie crust and serve it as a tart. It makes a gorgeous lunch dish and, served with a fried egg on top, a completely satisfying one.

    It’s the time of year to keep picking and cooking. If you have an abundance of root vegetables, toss them in oil and roast them. If you have a ton of herbs, puree them with oil or yogurt to make flavorful pesto or dips. If you have lots of leafy greens, go the salad route. If you don’t feel a meal is complete without some protein, the fried egg on this tart could be a solution. Or grill some sausage or steak and serve on the side.

    The most wonderful thing about cooking at this time of year is that it requires zero energy for presentation. Fresh, ripe, seasonal vegetables will look spectacular no matter how you serve them.

    Rustic Ratatouille Tart

    Yield: 3 to 4 servings

    10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

    1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped

    1 small eggplant (about 4 ounces) or a 5-inch section from a Japanese eggplant, cubed

    1 zucchini, cubed

    1 medium onion, chopped

    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    ½ teaspoon salt

    1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    1 crust for a 10-inch single-crust pie, homemade or store-bought

    ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    Scant 1 cup crumbled goat cheese

    3 fresh basil leaves, cut into slivers

    2 tablespoons milk

    For serving (optional):

    2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil or butter per egg

    1 or 2 eggs

    Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

    Place the tomatoes, bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini and onion on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle them with the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Gently toss the vegetables to coat them with the olive oil, being careful not to break them up too much. Roast the vegetables for 30 to 35 minutes, until they are caramelized a bit and have shrunk somewhat but are still moist. Set aside to cool. Leave the oven on.

    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured work surface, roll out the pie dough into a 13-inch round. Place the round of dough on the lined baking sheet. Leaving a 2-inch rim around the edge, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan over the dough, followed by ½ cup of the goat cheese, then half of the basil, and finally half of the slightly cooled vegetables. Top the vegetables with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan, then layer the remaining ½ cup goat cheese, basil and vegetables.

    Sprinkle another 1 tablespoon of Parmesan over the filling. Fold the 2-inch edge of the dough over the filling, pleating it as you go around; some of the filling will show in the center. Brush the folded edges with the milk and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

    If you are serving with the egg: Toward the last few minutes of baking, heat the 2 to 3 teaspoons oil or butter per egg in a skillet until quite hot. Break the egg or eggs into the skillet and fry, turning for “over easy” if you like. Remove from the skillet and place on top of the tart as soon as it comes out of the oven.

    Cut the tart into wedges and serve immediately.

    (Recipe from “Gale Gand’s Lunch!” by Gale Gand. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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