We knew we were picking up eggplants in this week’s CSA share, so it would be nice to use some for our dinner. Now, we normally pick up our share right around 4pm, so it’s nice if we can have something that’s quick and easy to put together, too. Or, as in this case, something where almost everything can be made in advance.
We use the recipe for Goat Cheese Tartlets, which we make ahead, and, later, we finish when we get the remaining ingredients. So, sometime during the day, we quickly whip up the tart crust, get that wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, then make up the goat cheese filling right in the same bowl that we used for the crust, cover that and set it in the fridge, too. When we get home, we crank on the oven, make the eggplant filling, assemble, and bake. Easy-peasy and fast for a great meal.
Eggs: true pastured, please. The chickens will thank you, and, when you eat the eggs, you will thank the chickens. For the sage, we used just the plain dried version; we hope to start growing some herbs — animals in our yard just gobble them down — but, for right now, we rely on the dried variety. For the goat cheese, we’re lucky enough to get ours from Black Mesa Ranch in Snowflake, AZ. They have happy goats that we can visit during the open houses, they make great cheese, and we’re proud to help support such great people. Goats are getting popular enough that you should be able to find a local producer to support, too.
Procedure in detail:
Make dough and cheese filling. Basically, follow the instructions for the tartlet dough and the goat cheese filling in the Goat Cheese Tartlets, only don’t put them together, just put them in the refrigerator while you do everything else. It turns out that this is a great recipe to have on hand. It’s versatile: just think up a small amount of additional filling. Either mix it in, or layer it like we do here. You can serve several tartlets as a main, a single tartlet as an appetizer or side, and we think that if you made a slightly sweet filling, it could stand in as a dessert. What could be better?
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 6-hole muffin tin with cooking spray. Or use butter to grease it. We forgot to do this and the tartlets stuck just a bit, making the pan harder to clean. Lesson learned. We won’t forget next time.
Cook eggplant filling. We said this was simple, and now you’ll see. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat, add the onions, garlic, and the eggplant, and cook, stirring often, until everything is tender, about 10 minutes.
Taste and season. Give the filling a little taste, then add salt and pepper as needed.
Add sage and walnuts. Now, stir in the ground sage and chopped walnuts. Mmm! Sage smells good, doesn’t it? Remove from heat, because your eggplant filling is done.
Line muffin tin. Get the tart dough from the refrigerator and roll it out to about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Just imagine that you need six 3-inch circles of dough for the muffin tins, and roll it out accordingly. We cut the circles with an upturned glass, but, if you have a cutter you’ve been waiting to try out, go for it! Press the circles of dough into the pans. The dough does not need to come to the top of each cup.
Fill with eggplant. Divide the eggplant filling among the cups and press it down lightly. We were able to get the filling right up to the top of the dough, but no farther, which was perfect.
Top with cheese filling. Divide the cheese filling among the six cups and spread it around so that it covers the eggplant filling, sealing it in place, if possible. Nice job!
Garnish. We tossed a few chopped walnuts and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top. We don’t think there’s a savory dish that can’t be improved with a bit of Parmesan, don’t you agree? We use it as our go-to flavor enhancer, and have never been disappointed.
Bake. Slide the tartlets into the oven, set the timer for 30 minutes, and relax. Bing. Check to see if they’re puffed (they’ll collapse a bit when removed), set in the middle, and a nice golden brown. If not, give them another 5 minutes or so.
Serve immediately. Pop the tartlets out with a fork, and serve while they’re still warm.
We like the goat cheese tartlet recipe, precisely because it’s so versatile. We can add mushrooms, peas, eggplant, have them plain, and they always taste good. Since the recipe only makes a few tartlets, it gives us the opportunity to try out new flavor combinations in a real dish, without the penalty of a great loss if it doesn’t turn out. Anyone for asparagus, rosemary, and porcinis, or arugula, cheddar, and hazelnuts? See, whatever you can think of, you can make up in an hour. The combination of eggplant, sage and walnuts was really good, but we actually thought that these could have used a little sauce, perhaps a flavored cream sauce — pumpkin or roasted red pepper, maybe? Because we thought they would have been a bit better with a sauce, we’re going with four stars.