Eggplant Relish Filled Cheese Tartlets

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Just because they’re vegetarian, doesn’t mean they aren’t delicious! Veggie appy’s are always a good thing in my books and the tartlet shells can easily be made ahead and frozen. All you need to do is thaw, refresh in the oven for a few minutes to crisp up, cool and fill with the yummy relish. If I just happen to have a jar of Caponata in the fridge I use it instead of the relish here…why the heck not! Seems like a “good thing” to make at the end of summer and beginning of fall when local eggplants are everywhere!

Makes Approximately 20 Tartlets

DSC_1151 nx2For the Relish:

½ of a medium eggplant
1 Tbsp. EVOO
¼ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz. tinned Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp. dry red wine
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
¼ cup Greek Kalamata olives, pitted & chopped
1 Tbsp. Mediterranean pine nuts or slivered almonds
1 Tbsp. capers, rinsed & drained (either preserved in salt or in brine)
1/8 tsp. each salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the Tartlet Shells:

2 cups unbleached flour
½ tsp. each dried oregano & basil
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup each chilled unsalted butter & shortening or lard, cut into 1” cubes
½ cup finely shredded Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
4 – 6 Tbsp. ice-water

Garnish: Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese shavings, fresh basil or oregano sprigs

Make the Relish:

Peel the eggplant & cut into ¼” cubes (you should have 2 ½ cups). Heat the EVOO in a large skillet; add eggplant, onion & garlic. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally; stir in the tomatoes & their juice, red wine, red wine vinegar, salt & pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce the heat & simmer, uncovered about 5 minutes or until liquid is evaporated. Remove from the heat; stir in the olives, nuts & capers. Allow filling to cool & use to fill the cheese tartlets just before serving. The relish can be make one or two days in advance of using.

Make the Tart Shells:

Combine the flour, salt & herbs in the bowl of a food processor. Using a few on/off turns combine; add the cold butter & combine until the butter & flour resemble coarse crumbs, using on/off turns. With the machine running, add tablespoons of water, one at a time, until the mixture just clumps together. Remove the dough from the processor onto a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap & form into a ball; flatten to a disk, wrap & chill for 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Roll the dough out to about 1/8” thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut into rounds using a 2 ½ to 2 ¾” biscuit cutter, dipping the cutter into flour between cuts. Reroll the dough as necessary to make 20– 24 rounds.
Spray with non-stick cooking spray, or grease small tart pans or mini muffin cups. Fit the circles of pastry into the prepared pans, pressing dough to fit. Prick each shell with a fork to keep the pastries from rising while baking.

Bake for 8 – 12 minutes or until golden brown. Checking after 8 minutes & If they have risen a bit, re-prick again. Once the pastries have cooled for 5 minutes, remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

 Assemble the Appetizers:

Arrange the pastry shells on a serving plate & spoon about 1 tablespoon filling into each one. Garnish each with a shaving of cheese & either basil or oregano sprigs, serve immediately.

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