It is pretty customary for children to treat mom with a lovely brunch in a nice restaurant on Mother’s Day–no cooking or clean-up for mom, what could be better? But in the restaurant industry, Mother’s Day brunch is known as the busiest brunch of the year, which also means one of the most hectic and sometimes crowded for guests. So I say, forgo the hoards of brunch goers this year and prepare a fresh, Israeli-inspired menu at home.
This Israeli eggplant tart is unique and flavorful, meant for a special day. The combination of sweet caramelized onions and eggplants, creamy Kashkaval cheese (cow milk cheese, originally from Italy and now very popular in the Mediterranean) and crunchy walnuts create the perfect bite. The best part of this recipe for mom? Most of the steps can be done in advance. Just refrigerate the dough and the filling and assemble just before baking.
The tart goes perfectly alongside a Mango, Basil and Cardamom Cocktail, which is inspired by a drink I once enjoyed on the beach in Tel Aviv. The freshness of the mango and lime, with fragrant notes of cardamom, balances the alcohol and represents modern Israeli flavors where new meets old, and east meets west. This can also be prepared as a “mocktail” by omitting the alcohol and adding more seltzer and mango nectar.
Espranto Tel Aviv: Mango, Basil and Cardamom Cocktail
3 cardamom pods
2 sprigs basil
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup rum
½ cup vodka
2 cups mango nectar
1 cup seltzer
mint sprigs for garnish
Using the bottom of frying pan, lightly smash the cardamom pods. Place them in a small pot, and add the basil, sugar and water. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from fire and bring to room temperature, remove the pods and basil.
Then, in a cocktail shaker or blender, combine the rum, vodka, mango nectar, juice from 2 limes and a few cubes of ice, and blend until fully combined. Slowly add the cardamom simple syrup to the drink to the desired level of sweetness.
Pour the drink in a cocktail glasses (add a few cubes of ice if desired) and top with a spritz of seltzer. Zest some lime over the drink, and garnish with fresh mint.
Eggplant, Kashkaval and Walnut Tart
For the dough:
1 ¾ cups + 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
6 oz cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 to 3 Tbsp cold water
For the filling:
2 eggplants, cubed
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced
4 oz butter
6 oz shredded mozzarella
8 oz kashkaval, cut into small cubes
¼ cup roasted walnuts
¼ cup milk
Salt and pepper
To make the tart dough, blend the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the cubed butter and pulse a few times until it has a texture of moist sand.
Slowly add the water and pulse a few more times, until the dough starts to combine (it will still be fairly crumbled). Don’t overdo it–we want to keep the dough flaky and buttery. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap in the shape of a disk. Let the dough rest in the fridge for at list 20 minutes (you can make a few extra portions, freeze it and save time when you make your next quiche).
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400F. Place the eggplant cubes on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt and roast until the eggplant starts to brown, about 20-30 minutes.
While the eggplants are roasting, in a large sauté pan over high heat melt 4 oz. butter and add the sliced onions. Reduce the heat to low and let the onions caramelize slowly until they brown, about 15 minutes.
Next, assemble the tart. Preheat the oven to 350F. On a lightly floured surface, using a rolling bin, roll the dough into a thin round shape and carefully transfer to the tart pan (I like to use the rolling pin as my assistant to transfer the dough to the pan).
In a mixing bowl combine the roasted eggplant cubs, caramelized onions, mozzarella, kashkaval, walnuts, egg, milk and nutmeg. Mix well and adjust seasoning as necessary. Transfer the mixture into the tart shell and bake until the tart is set and golden (about 30 minutes). Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan.