Eat Your Vegetables: Mother’s Day Edition
May 11, 2008
Have you heard? It’s Mother’s Day. If you somehow missed the memo, may I direct your attention to the various commercials running incessantly right now? If you’re like me, the sappy music and moving montages have you welling up. And just as you’re about to let a tear spill over, you’ll realize that it’s a commercial for Zales. And it’s reminding you to buy your mother a diamond pendant (starting at $99!). And it totally kills your Mother’s Day spirit. Terrible commercials aside, there are a few ladies that I’m celebrating today.
First, my mom. Really, you’d love her. How do I know, seeing as though I probably don’t know you or anything about you? Just, trust me. Everyone loves her. She’s engaging and generous and warm. She has a knack for finding the most uncomfortable person at a party—maybe someone’s new boyfriend or a last minute add-on or someone slightly out of favor—and befriending them. I’m so happy that there are so many things about her that have woven their way into the fabric of my personality: delighting in throwing parties; making lists about everything under the sun; tearing up at things like “special episodes” of sitcoms (or, um, Zales commercials). And I love to cook with her. I can’t wait to have her here next weekend so we can do just that.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
And then there’s my grandma. You’d love her too. And, you know what? You’ll probably be calling her grandma after a couple days, just like all my friends do. She loves a good laugh, a rousing game of cards and a great hug. She sings her heart out in church, not caring a lick if it causes the rows around her to clear out. She’s a whirlwind in the kitchen, a blur of chopping vegetables, flailing knives, clattering pans. But you can bet that what comes out will be delicious and, if it’s not, she’ll serve it anyways and offer you a quarter if you take a bite. She’s got energy and life in spades. When you leave, she’ll stand out in the driveway waving as you drive away. I always wonder how long she stays there.
And while these ladies are the official mothers in my life, I’m lucky enough to have a couple unofficial moms to celebrate today too. Kevin’s mom, of course, who defies all mother-in-law clichés. And his two grandmas, one gentle and sweet and the other boisterous and effusive, both so nice to me, their newest granddaughter. And my aunts and my mom’s friend Mary Jane. And … well, you get the picture. I’ve got a lot of ladies to celebrate today. I better hop to it.
Before I do, let me tell you about this tart. Because it’s such an “eat your vegetables” kind of meal, I thought it was Mother’s Day appropriate. In truth, I was expecting it to be more of an eye candy type of dish (more visually appealing than knock-your-socks-off delicious). So I was pleasantly surprised when the crust (whole wheat-cornmeal) was nutty and tender, with a hint of richness. And the filling was comfortingly hearty and savory. I varied up the vegetables (swapping yellow squash for eggplant) in the original recipe and you can do the same to suit your tastes. I also added a slick of marinara beneath the vegetables. With a heap of greens, it was a delicious light dinner.
Cornmeal-Crusted Ratatouille Tart
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup whole-grain pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 pound thinly sliced eggplant rounds (about 1/3 medium eggplant)
1 zucchini, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds (about 8 ounces)
3 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine cornmeal, pastry flour, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to incorporate. Add butter and oil and pulse about 20 times, until mixture resembles small pebbles. Add water and pulse until mixture forms a loose dough. Remove dough from processor and press into bottom and about 1/8-inch up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a detachable rim. Press aluminum foil into the bottom and sides of the pan on top of the dough and weigh down with uncooked rice or pie weights. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and remove rice and foil. Return to oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until no longer shiny and wet. Remove from oven and let cool.
For the filling: Increase the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat; saute shallots until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Spray 2 baking trays with cooking spray. Arrange the eggplant, zucchini and tomato slices on the trays in a single layer and brush with the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and roast the vegetables until soft but not browned, about 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables from oven and cool.
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Lay the eggplant slices in 2 layers on the bottom of tart; cover with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese and some of the shredded basil. Add the zucchini and shallots, top with another 1/3 of the mozzarella and basil, then the tomatoes. Top with rest of the mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and vegetables have further wilted. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes, and cut into 8 slices. Serve warm.