Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ratatouille Tart and Crazy Days of Summer

"Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer"
-- Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer, Songwriters: Tobias, Bradtke, Carste 

How long has it been since summer was carefree. Forever it seems. Those long sunny days of heading to the beach, camping in the mountains or just stepping out to the garden. A quiet meditation just watering the growing bounty of our vegetable patch. By August the garden was bursting and  heavily laden requiring a daily harvest before the sun hit it's pinnacle. The taste of sunshine in each bite of lemon cucumber, tomato or green bean. I still have a few plants in raised beds, nothing like Dad's huge spread but enough to give me fresh herbs, tomatoes and such. Simple pleasures. Farmer's markets provide local produce to satisfy the void and hassle of growing it all on your own.

When the zucchini, tomatoes and peppers come on nothing tastes better than a ratatouille. I tested a recipe from Kelsey Nixon, Cooking Channel that was a nice change up to the traditional vegetable stew. A puff pastry tart enhanced with a base layer of caramelized onion and tomato jam. The jam was a bit worky, but well worth the effort -- and I got to play with my new De Buyer mandoline. Slicing heaven!

De Buyer Swing Mandoline makes quick work of slicing onions!

I made the jam on a Sunday afternoon when I had plenty of time to caramelized the onions and let the mixture thicken nicely. Overall I noticed that the timing indicated in the recipe was off by half and I reduced the salt to one teaspoon. Next time I'll also peel the fresh Roma tomatoes before adding to the pot. The remnants of the peels just doesn't work for me. Patience is required when you want your onions to have that sweetened bit of dark caramelization that just takes time. I couldn't wait to do a taste test, so a quick bruchetta with goat cheese and a sprinkle of chives and lemon basil was enough to test this recipe was a winner. Reminiscent of a chunky barbecue sauce with a brown sugar molasses tomato base and added punch of chipotle powder. The creamy goat cheese offered a nice counterpoint. The rich mahogany color is just plain ole pretty to look at.

Caramelized onion and tomato jam.
On Monday, while I defrosted my sheet of puff pastry, my mandoline sliced up the eggplant and squashes into beautiful perfect 1/4" width slices. Not something easily done with my food processor, that's for sure.

Summer Vegetables and Herbs
The finale of this adventure -- Ratatouille Tart with Carmelized Onion and Tomato Jam was delectable. Tender not soggy vegetables, layers of fresh sunshine flavors with the underlying sweet smokey jam on a flaky, buttery pastry. My darling dear said this easily satisfies our two to three servings of vegetables a day all in one meal and a welcome addition to our standard rotation.

Ratatouille Tart with Caramelized Onion and Tomato Jam
Adapted from Original Recipe
Ratatouille Tart with Caramelized Onion-Tomato Jam by Kelsey Nixon
This made one 12" x 10" tart with leftover jam.
Serves 4-6  (I can't see serving 6-8 for dinner with just this... but that could just me)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Vidalia onions, thinly sliced (I used 3 Walla Walla onions)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (reduced to 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 Roma tomatoes, cored, seeded and roughly chopped (about 2 1/2 pounds) (I will peel next time)
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • Flour, for dusting
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup Caramelized Onion-Tomato Jam
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 Japanese eggplant, sliced 1/4-inch thick on a mandoline
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced 1/4-inch thick on a mandoline
  • 1 zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch thick on a mandoline
  • 5 thin slices yellow onion
  • 1 to 2 roasted red peppers, julienned (I used fresh peppers, yellow and red)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, divided (I used a combination of fresh basil, chives, and oregano)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese


In a high-sided saute pan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, season with the salt, cover and cook until they are wilted and soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid and cook the onions until they are golden and caramelized, stirring often, about 20 minutes more. (I cooked the onions for about 20 minutes more so they were well browned and caramelized but not crispy. This is dependent on how thin your onions are sliced.)

Stir in the garlic and saute 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook an additional 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stirring consistently, cook until the tomatoes breakdown and the jam becomes thick, about 20 minutes. (The jam thickness was still too runny for my tastes at this point so I cooked another 20 minutes until a teaspoon cooled on a plate does not run at all.)
Yield: approx 3 cups
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.Roll the puff pastry out on a floured surface to a rectangular shape, about 12 by 10 1/2 inches. Transfer the pastry sheet to a parchment-lined baking sheet. With the tines of a fork, dock a 1/2-inch border around the edge of the sheet and dock the center of the sheet a few times as well. This will prevent the dough from rising as it cooks.

Spread the Caramelized Onion-Tomato Jam evenly over the pastry, leaving a small border around the edge of the pastry. Layer the tomatoes, eggplant, yellow squash and zucchini in overlapping rows, or in whatever pattern you like. Sprinkle the roasted red peppers around the tart. Drizzle the assembled tart with a little olive oil, making sure to brush a little on the edges, season with salt and pepper and top with half of the fresh (herb mixture) plus oregano.

Bake until the pastry is golden brown and puffed, 20 to 25 minutes. (It took another 20 minutes for the pastry to be brown and the vegetables softened sufficiently) I also drizzled a bit more olive oil half way through the cooking process so the squash and eggplant wouldn't dry out. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with the goat cheese and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons (herb mixture) plus oregano before serving.

What will you do with summer's vegetable bounty?

Did you know this year celebrate's Julia Child's 100th Birthday. Follow the celebration on Facebook
and check out the Recipe of the Week! (Hint: can you say ratatouille?)

Julia Child - Recipe of the Week #11 Ratatouille


  1. Absolutely beautiful tart Robin, I'll be over at 6 tonight! I recently made a slightly different rendition of the jam- just onions and rosemary- but I think throwing in the tomatoes elevates it to another level. Nice mandoline!

    1. Thanks Lynn! The jam has been a hit around here. Having a new toy (mandoline) sure sparks creative energy! All that slicing to test it out and I have to used the veggies somehow ;-) I like the onion/rosemary combo for jam and have one more recipe to test that sounds similar. Hope you have a great weekend!

  2. This is cooking as art and celebration. As usual I'm in awe of your culinary creativity and instinct for maximum yumminess, Robin. Love the chipolte accent...

    1. The chipotle really gives it a wonderful smokey warmth Jenn! No need for awe my friend I think ahhhh is better ;-) so yummy!

  3. Oh!!! Oh!!! This is amazing! First, I am dying to try that jam and I may even attempt to make it myself although I almost never make jam or anything similar. But this is too fabulous and I can just imagine the flavor. And to use it in this beautiful puff pastry tart? It must really heighten the flavor of the ratatouille. I really want to eat at your house.

    1. This "jam" is really pretty easy and stores nicely in the refrigerator and I have found so good on many things! What fun we would have catching up and sharing a meal Jamie ;-)


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