ffwd – eggplant “tartine” with tomatoes, olives and cucumbers

I had picked up a couple of eggplant at the local farmstand, so I was looking forward to this recipe. As usual, I didn’t actually read it beforehand, so assumed that I needed some bread for the “tartine”. I think I’d even read through this one before. Oh well. The bread was nice anyway! 🙂

I also had been looking up some recipes. Lately I’ve been getting a bunch of emails from “America’s Test Kitchen”. I have a number of friends who love their recipes, as they tell you the “right” way to do things and are never-fail. I assume I can always learn something. So, I decided that since I had two smaller eggplants, I would go ahead and try both methods. To be honest, I was sure that the Test Kitchen method would win out. After all, they are so very certain about it. Essentially, this is a slice of roasted eggplant topped with a salsa and some sliced cucumbers. I’d run out of celery. Oh well. (as a Dorie side-note, my mother got me eating celery again because she strips off all of the strings too – and now that I’ve adopted that method, I like it a lot more)

The test kitchen method is a bit more involved. The eggplant is not peeled, and sliced into 3/4″ slices. They are salted and then left to draw out the “bitter juices” for at least 1-1/2 hours. Then the slices are rinsed thoroughly, and pressed in between many layers of paper towels to get rid of those juices.

Dorie’s recipe simply has you trim some of the skin from the eggplant, then slice 1″ thick.

At this point, I was a bit skeptical. The skin looked bad, the slices thick, but, I persevered!

At this point, for hers, I followed Dorie and put the slices on some lightly oiled foil, and topped with a teaspoon of olive oil, plus some salt and pepper. For the test version, I prepped the same, but just sprayed with some virgin olive oil that I keep in a pump sprayer. They got the same salt and pepper.

I roasted Dorie’s for the full 45 minutes, I ended up just adding the test slices at 35 minutes to go (I think I’d read that 25 minutes at 400 was right – I was splitting the difference). I brought them out, and while they look a bit different, not that much. Dorie’s are on the left.

While the eggplant cooled a bit, I made the salsa. Simply chopped vegetables and the additional ingredients – in this case green olives and capers along with a bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar. I used basil because that was what I had on hand (and besides, I like the combination). And the cucumbers get sliced.

Since I wanted a side-by-side comparison (I was certain that there would be a big difference), I put one each of my eggplant slices on a plate. Again, Dorie on the left. I have to admit, it looked really nice with the brown crust on top (a result of the extra oil, I’d guess).

And then it gets assembled!

This was really good. I have to say that the only real difference between the eggplant was because of the peeling of the eggplant skin (better), and the thickness of the slice (better as well) of Dorie’s. The obvious other thing is that it’s so much simpler! And while I often wonder about Dorie’s (extra) steps, in this case, her method was terrific – no reason to mess with all of that other stuff!

Now – the remainder of the dish. My olives came from a local company, so maybe were a bit stronger in flavor than others (though in my imagination, everything in France is more flavorful – so a bit of a hollow excuse, I expect). But I thought that they overwhelmed the flavor of the eggplant (that was so, so good!). The cucmbers were a bit of an odd addition, but still tasty.  I think absent the olives, this would have been a really great dish. That said, it was still very good. Next time, I would just leave the olives out. Overall, I can totally see making this again. As a starter, or along side something grilled – or even with just a little cheese to round it out a bit as a light meal.

This was a lot of fun to make, and it was even better to learn something new. Thanks Dorie!

18 thoughts on “ffwd – eggplant “tartine” with tomatoes, olives and cucumbers

  1. Both versions look great! I think that salting the eggplants to remove their bitterness is done because you keep all the skin which often times can be bitter. I liked this recipe very much even thought I was a bit perplexed about the cucumbers 🙂

  2. Candy, great post about the different steps invoved in your aubergine tartine making process! Your pesentation looks wonderful and delicious, either way!

    I agree with Teresa, the bitterness seems to depend on the variety used – I did not salt mine and used sleek oblong aubergines that I always use, no bitterness there but who knows.

    Very informative post – have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Thank you for doing a side-by-side comparison with ATK. About once or twice a day, that’s how often I hear from them. Once I even signed up for something to stop the e-mails. Nope. Didn’t happen. Although, you’re right, they always “sound” so right, that I almost want to always rebel and go off to left field. That being said, I love the magazine, the show, and their notes and comments. But, I do feel the eggplant should be peeled and I don’t know a bitter aubergine from a non-bitter one. I always salt. Just not much of an expert on aubergines but I certainly appreciated your having your “own” test kitchen. A very nice Post.

  4. I’m a big fan of cook’s illustrated but I usually ask myself, “Is this complicated technique really going to make a tremendous difference?” I’m with Dorie on eggplant I have salted and soaked it in milk and water and I don’t think it is really important to anything to it.

  5. I’m also a big fan of the test kitchen but too many times I’ve gone through all their steps to find it wasn’t worth the extra effort! I tend to look up foods and techniques I’m not familiar with but not really use their recipes. You reminded me of why I do that:) I’m glad you enjoyed this dish. Have a great weekend.

  6. I love the side-by-side comparison. I’m not personally a huge ATK fan, after trying to cook through 2 of their books. Everything always sounds like it makes sense, but the finished product of the recipes I’ve tried have always been bland and, in my opinion, need work. I know lots of people who swear by ATK, though, so maybe it’s just me. It makes me happy that Dorie’s method stood up to theirs, with less work.

  7. Great comparison. They both look wonderful and so good. We enjoyed this also, especially
    the salsa. Have been using the leftover on crackers.

  8. Just to follow-up: I used the leftover eggplant that I’d frozen earlier in the week to make a light version of eggplant parmesan. A tomato sauce made with a little chicken Italian sausage, lots of peppers, onions and mushrooms, and a dose of Marsala. Topped my eggplant with that, a few little dollops of homemade pesto, some light mozzarella, finally topping it off with some parmesan. Now, that was good!

    The punchline: freezing the baked eggplant worked. And of course, Dorie’s method was just fine. Lesson learned!

  9. How fun to do the side-by-side experiment, but it’s good to know the easier method won. I never knew you could freeze roasted eggplant slices, but that is my favorite tip of the week. Thanks for that. Your tartines looks great. I really liked this, especially that salsa. I’m not so sure about cucumbers on top, but overall a good one.

  10. I love your comparison of the two techniques. Glad to hear Dorie’s worked well. (Sometimes I get a bit overwhelmed reading those ever so detailed America’s test kitchen breakdowns.) I’ve only tried the salting technique before when “wateryness” might be an issue, like in a baked eggplant Parmesan dish.

  11. interesting results of your side by side, as we’re always instructed to salt eggplant first to remove bitterness. nice to know we can skip that step, at least when buying eggplant in season from a farm stand!

  12. Your multi colored tomatoes make this look wonderful! I was hesitant to let D try this one, he’s been unhappy about eggplant in the past, but he ate three of them. Woe to me for underestimating the power of a well dressed eggplant, no leftovers in our house.

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