Monday, July 19, 2010

Vegetable Torte

I started with this:

And ended up with this:

I'm not going to lie, it was a lot of work. But it was delicious. I saw a Mark Bittman article and recipe for a vegetable torte in the New York Times a few days ago, and it was something I had never made or even thought of making before. So, why not?

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 medium zucchini or yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup bread crumbs, preferably fresh

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put a grill pan over medium-high heat, or prepare a grill; the heat should be medium-high, and the rack about 4 inches from flame. Brush eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms lightly with half the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; if roasting, grease 2 baking sheets with oil. Roast or grill vegetables on both sides until soft.

Coat bottom and sides of 8-inch springform pan with oil. Layer a third of the eggplant slices into bottom of the pan, then layer in half the zucchini, mushrooms, tomato, garlic and basil, sprinkling each layer with a bit of salt and pepper. Repeat layers until all vegetable are used. Press the top with a spatula or spoon to make the torte as compact as possible. Sprinkle top with Parmesan and bread crumbs, and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon oil.

Bake torte in oven until hot throughout and browned on top, about 30 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before removing outer ring of pan, then let cool for another 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.

When I read the recipe, I noticed at the top it said "Time: 2 hours, largely unattended". I thought - ok, I can accept that. Two hours is a long time, but if it's largely unattended, fine. Well...not so much. The grilling of the vegetables was by far the most work. Because they are sliced so thin they cook pretty quickly, not to mention that it's just a lot of work to grill about 20-30 slices of squash at once. And I had to do 3 or 4 batches of 20-30 slices. Think about it - an eggplant, 2 zucchini, 2 yellow squash, and 2 portobello mushrooms all cut into 1/4-inch slices...that's a lot of slices.

But once that was done, all I had to do was assemble the tart and bake it. All the work was worth it, the tart came out perfectly and was really good. Also I should say, in terms of his directions - don't worry about preheating the oven right when you get started. It took awhile to chop and grill everything, and I turned the oven on after all that was done. Chopping the tomatoes, garlic, basil, and assembling the tart takes just as long as the oven takes to preheat so that was perfect. Also, for the assembly rather than do exactly as he said I did one layer of eggplant, one layer of squash, some mushroom and tomato, and some basil and garlic. Repeat. Not something I would delve into on a Tuesday night after work, but for a Sunday evening activity it was perfect.

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