Grilled aubergine, courgette and pepper torte with goat’s cheese

This yummy grilled vegetable torte is guaranteed to bring summer to the table even if the weather outside is reliably horrid. It’s great with anything from the barbie (fish, chicken), or wheel it out for a main course veggie dish and serve it with couscous and a leaf salad. There’s a bit of prep work to be done but once that’s out of the way, it’s just an assembly job and into the fridge – preferably overnight. It helps a lot if you have the kind of grill/broiler that’s built into the ceiling of your oven, which gives you a large grilling surface. Or you can do all the grilling on the barbecue (watch the sliced veggies like a hawk as they burn very easily) or in a ridged grill pan.

First step: slice and salt the aubergines and courgettes, then grill the slices on both sides till golden. Second: grill the peppers and peel them. (Alternatively, if you live anywhere within striking distance of a branch of Picard, the French frozen food store, you can buy ready-grilled mixed veggies there – but you’ll have to make an inspired guess as to how many bags you need to buy…) Third: arrange alternating layers of veggies + loads of basil +  slices of soft fresh goat’s cheese (the kind that comes in a plastic pot, no rind and very little goaty flavour) braced by a metal ring or cake ring, and put it in the fridge. Throw together a slightly spicy salsa to go with it. Serve, slice, sigh, enjoy – and dream of summer.

GRILLED VEGETABLE TORTE WITH GOATS’ CHEESE, TOMATO AND BASIL SALSA

Serves 6
2 aubergines
3 red peppers
2-3 courgettes
salt and pepper
olive oil
2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
2 x 200g soft fresh goats’ cheeses (Petit Billy or similar)
plenty of fresh basil
Salsa
1 shallot or small onion
1-2 fresh or dried red or green chiles, stalks and seeds removed
a handful of basil leaves
3-4 firm ripe tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil

  • Cut aubergine and courgettes in lengthwise slices about 0.5 cm thick, sprinkle with salt and leave for about 20 minutes so they release some of their water
  • Pat slices dry with paper towels and arrange on an oiled baking sheet that will fit under the grill/broiler
  • Pour about ½ a cup of olive oil into a small dish and brush slices with it
  • Heat the grill/broiler to maximum and grill/broil aubergine and courgette slices till golden, turning once – you’ll probably need to do this in 2 (or more) batches
  • Grill/broil also the (whole) peppers (or put them directly on a gas flame), turning until thoroughly blackened on all sides, put in a plastic bag to soften them a little, rub skins off under running water, discard seeds and stalks and cut pepper flesh into quarters
  • Put all grilled vegetables in a dish, season with pepper and sprinkle with Balsamic vinegar
  • Place a 22cm-diameter metal ring (or springform cake tin minus the base) on a plate
  • Arrange a layer of vegetables in the bottom, like the petals of a flower, alternating aubergines, courgettes and peppers
  • Top with thin slices of goat’s cheese and some basil leaves
  • Continue with more layers of veggies and cheese, ending up with a layer of vegetables – in a perfect world these will include the outer slices of aubergine, glossy black sides uppermost
  • Put a plate on top, set a weight (e.g. a tin of beans) on the plate and refrigerate torte for a few hours or overnight
  • For the salsa, finely chop the shallot or onion and chiles
  • Add roughly chopped basil and quartered tomatoes, salt and oil
  • Process in short bursts till roughly chopped
  • Tip into a bowl (or finely chop all ingredients and put in a bowl)
  • To serve, lift off the ring/springform, cut torte in wedges with a very sharp knife and serve with salsa

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