Saturday, September 09, 2006

Not Just A Pretty Face

As is usually the case when my mind wanders, I was thinking about food while sitting in a 7PM meeting in a torturously stuffy room with torturously eager 1st year grad students (That’s just cruel. Ask anyone). Specifically, I was thinking of something interesting and quick to make for dinner. And then it came to me! A timbale - basically, a snob way of describing something that is stacked, or formed in a circular (or otherwise) mold. I am all for presentation when it comes to food, but only when it is as good to eat as it is to look at. I am not particularly interested in a stack skewered with a poof and topped with foam if all it tastes like is, well, poof.

Luckily, substance and beauty are not mutually exclusive in the world of food. Lisa had a gorgeously colorful timbale with yellow and red beets, layered with goat cheese and candied pecans. It was great! All the layers remained separate till the flavors mixed in your mouth – it was almost as though the dish evolved as you chewed it. Extreme description, I know. I may be prone to hyperbole. So that’s how I thought of a timbale. There. Now you know.

Of course I am only a food snob in spirit – I don’t happen to have various timbales laying around my apartment. I don’t even have a pastry brush, which is just sad. I had to make do with what I had on hand. I was so very happy to get Roma tomatoes and a big beautiful eggplant in my last Boston Organics box (top right corner). It was perfect – heavy, with tight and shiny skin… Not exactly what I look for in a man but it makes for a damn fine eggplant. So, roasted eggplant and Roma tomato timbale (or stack. I think I prefer stack) was the decision. No snobbery molds required.

I was originally planning on making the stacks with goat cheese, a la the Tavern, until I found out that my goat cheese had gotten a little too ripe for my taste. Yeeeaaah it was covered in mold. And not the good kind of mold. So, no goat cheese. Parmesan came in to save the day. I also wanted to use some of my home-grown basil until I discovered that my lovely plant was afflicted with some sort of basil-rot-scabby blight (clearly, a prapple and pecan orchard is not in my future. I can’t even keep basil healthy). So, no basil. Striking out right and left! Balsamic vinegar and good olive oil would have to suffice (a layer of fresh basil or oregano is definitely happening next time I make this).

The roasted eggplant stack was as good as it looked. Roasting brought out a sweetness and depth of flavor in the tomatoes– so much so that the taste reminded me of sundried tomatoes. The sweetness of the tomatoes was balanced by the acidity of the balsamic and the sharpness of the parmesan. The skin of the eggplant remained firm while the flesh practically melted. The eggplant skin helped maintain the integrity of the stack as it was being sliced (this may not be entirely evident in my picture). The eggplant would have greatly benefited from some fresh herbs – the oregano in the picture was purely decorative.

The left over roasted eggplant was happily reincarnated the next day as an eggplant and spinach quiche. Quiche is such a strange food to love, isn’t it? I feel like I should be a grandma playing bridge in order to enjoy quiche as much as I do. Oh well. I am more likely to become a grandmother than play bridge, and that’s saying something.

Roasted Eggplant and Roma Tomato Stack

1 medium eggplant, sliced into ½ inch thick rounds
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise into ½ inch thick slices
Parmesan cheese
Balsamic vinegar
olive oil

1) Salt eggplant slices thoroughly and place in colander to drain for about 15 minutes. Wipe off salt and dry with paper towel.
2) Place on a baking sheet along with the tomatoes, brush with olive oil, season with freshly cracked black pepper.
3) Roast under the broiler set to low (maybe 425F if your broiler doesn’t have a low setting?), turning the eggplant occasionally, for about 40 minutes, until the eggplant is browned and soft and the tomatoes have collapsed and lost some moisture. Let cool.
4) Stack as you see fit, pouring a little olive oil and balsamic over each layer. My stack was: eggplant, parmesan, tomato, parmesan, eggplant, parmesan.

P.S. My first post on my brand new MacBook! I love it. Problem is, I loaded it up with all sorts of image processing software that I shamelessly stole from lab and am now spending hours messing with every picture I take. I think I have a wrist cramp. From the mouse. Oh, and Federer is killing Roddick while Tiger Woods looks asleep in the stands. How can someone who plays golf find tennis boring?? Oooh Roddick looks piiiiissed.


lara griffiths said...

while the timbale looks just yummy i cant stop being jealous of the boston organic box…
just not fair
there has to be food snobbery in that, no? or just the appreciation of real fruit and vegetables.

Anna said...

Embrace your snobbery! Own it. I do :)

ben said...

Hmmm, for a snob, the food you make looks pretty good. I would have added some bacon, a slice of ham, a chicken breast, and some beef. Then, I would top it off with some A1 and pepper flakes. Then, I would try to eat the whole thing without using a knife since I probably forgot to do my dishes. But, hey, that is just me.

Seriously, pics looks awesome. Your blog is inspiring me to cook some new dishes.

Anna said...

A tower of meat products doesn't sound so bad. Let me know how it turns out :) Am excited to try your mayo/yogurt/wasabi concoction. Well that, and I wanted the chance to write "concoction".

ben said...

If I get off my butt, I want to try roasting some veg a la your blog. But, I was thinking of chopping the stuff up and mixing it with some olive oil, balsamic and pasta. Only other vegetables I would roast would probably be an onion and some garlic. I bet that would be pretty decent with a chicken breast. Ok, I am hungry again...and I ate like 6lbs of food today.

lara griffiths said...

ben- dont forget to top your meat tower off with some pan fried spam and vienna sausages! yummmm

ben said...

Um, pure genius! I would also probably want to sprinkle some bacon bits over it and wrap it all in a blanket of pastrami.

Anna said...

I think I gagged a little reading that.

ben said...

You know you would want a bite. I am touched by your sentiment, gagging is caring.