Ratatouille’s classic French ingredients include eggplant, zucchini, tomato, sweet red pepper, onion and garlic. These basic building blocks may be enjoyed in a stew, casserole or a tart. For layered casseroles and tarts, sliced hollow peppers present a structural problem not shared by the other ingredients. How does one create stacked layers with rings of sweet pepper?
To solve this problem, I turned to red pepper paste, a common ingredient in Turkish cuisine. Find red pepper paste in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern markets or purée your own from roasted red peppers from a jar or olive bar at your local grocer. A layer of red pepper paste on a tart of puff pastry creates a flavorful base for stacking slices of eggplant, zucchini, tomato and onion.
Bread crumbs on the sauce absorb moisture and even heighten subtle umami flavors in the tart.
The visual success of this recipe depends on sourcing vegetables which can be sliced into similar-sizes and arranged into patterns. Roma tomatoes, Asian eggplant, and leeks can be found in diameters which approximate that of most zucchini. Add chopped garlic on top of the sliced veggies. Throw in extra color with yellow crookneck squash if you desire.
- 1 Asian eggplant
- 1 zucchini
- 1-2 leeks
- 3 Roma tomatoes
- 1 17-oz box of frozen puff pastry
- 1/2 cup red pepper paste
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp cold water
- 1/3 cup bread crumbs
- 6 basil leaves
- 4 garlic cloves
- Kosher salt
- Cracked black pepper
- 4 tbsp, extra virgin olive oil
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 6 basil leaves
- Remove frozen pastry from the freezer to thaw.
- Wash and rinse all vegetables sans garlic. Using a chef’s knife, cut eggplant and zucchini into 1/4 inch slices and arrange into a single layer on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Salt one side, turn the slices, and salt again. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- After a through rinse, cut the white parts of the leeks and the Roma tomatoes into 1/4 inch sliced. Roughly chop garlic.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine red pepper paste, tomato paste and water. Beat into smooth spreadable sauce with a fork.
- Spray a large baking sheet covered in aluminum foil with cooking oil. Unfold first pastry sheet on one side. Fold 1/2 inch edge inward on all four sides.
- Use a spoon to spread sauce evenly on the first pastry sheet. Slice basil into thin strips across the stems. Sprinkle some into sauce along with half of bread crumbs in an even layer.
- Press a top layer of paper towels to absorb moisture from salted eggplant and zucchini.
- Arrange sliced vegetables into tart in any pattern you wish. I preferred opposing rows. Sprinkle half of garlic into the first tart.
- Assemble the second tart by repeating above steps.
- Drizzle olive oil on vegetables. Sprinkle fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt. Whisk egg with 1 tbsp water to create an egg wash. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg wash.
- Bake tarts on middle rack for 25 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, add crumbled goat cheese.
- Remove from oven. Garnish with strips of fresh basil, slice and serve with a French Rosé.