Eggplant Relish filled Cheese Tartlets, Appetizer

Eggplant Relish Filled Cheese Tartlets

Vegetarian and totally delicious! Veggie appetizers 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.  I’ve made the relish below but If I just happened to have a jar of Caponata in the fridge so used it instead.

Makes Approximately 20 Tartlets

For 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 and cut into ¼” cubes (you should have 2 ½ cups). Heat the EVOO in a large skillet; add eggplant, onion and garlic. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally; stir in the tomatoes and their juice, red wine, red wine vinegar, salt and 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 and capers. Allow filling to cool and 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 and herbs in the bowl of a food processor. Using a few on/off turns combine; add the cold butter & combine until the butter and 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 and 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 pan 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 and either basil or oregano sprigs, serve immediately.


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