Cool Summer Vegetable Terrine
If you’re having a hot summer and do not possess an air conditioner, as is the case for many (most?) Italians, chilled foods become really appreciated. For the last couple summers, I’ve gotten pretty tired of salad, even the delightful Caprese, after a couple months of eating it, leaves me well, cold. But this year, I discovered a delicious, light but satisfying vegetable dish that I plan to make a lot. It’s impressive to look at, so it goes very well as a fresh starter for a dinner party or a main course for lunch.
Now that summer is in full swing, I buy a lot of red bell peppers, eggplant, and zucchini by the kilo. When I get home I go through a new ritual: I turn on the oven (oh, for an outdoor BBQ grill! No heating up the house!) and roast all the peppers and eggplants. Once charred on the outside, I pull out the peppers (they take less time than the eggplants), toss them in a paper bag, let them steam for a couple minutes and once they’re cool enough to touch, I peel off the skins, scrape out the seeds and put them in Tupperware in the fridge. Next come the eggplants: Out of the oven, sliced in half longways, flesh scored with a sharp knife into ½ squares or just ½ inch strips then scooped out with a spoon, placed in a mesh strainer, salted and drained for a couple hours. Then the Tupperware, fridge experience. With this (admittedly long) prep-work out of the way, I’m in business to make all kinds of fantastic foods: Greek Melitsanosalata, roasted red pepper mayonnaise, baba ghanoush, gazpacho (much redder and richer than with raw red peppers), and the list goes on. But the prettiest of summer dishes is the cool summer vegetable terrine.
2-3 roasted red bell peppers (depending on size), once roasted, each pepper is cut into 3 wide strips from top to tail
1 large eggplant roasted, sliced into strips, salted and drained
2 large zucchini, sliced into thin rounds and lightly sautéed in minimal olive oil until soft
1 lb spinach (or other cooking green) washed, spun rather dry, salted and wilted in a large frying pan
8 oz log of goat cheese or 8oz gorgonzola mixed with cream cheese
¼ cup whole arugula leaves or whole parsley leaves or basil chiffonade or any other green garnish.
Almost all the work for this recipe is in the initial veggie preparation, sautéing or roasting, etc. Once that’s done, all you do is assemble. I took a standard rectangular bread loaf pan and lined it with plastic wrap. Then I layered the peppers, one strip on the bottom and the rest laying up the long sides and hanging a bit over the edges (they will be folded over the top in the end). Music to layer peppers by: "Higher Ground covered by Red Hot Chili Peppers You should not layer peppers up the short sides because in the end, you should be able to see all the veggies from there. This is the most important step since the peppers will be the visible outside layer of the terrine, so make sure there are no bare spots on the bottom or long sides of the terrine. Save 2 pepper strips for the last layer. Follow with the eggplant, in a flat layer on the bottom, then ½ of the zucchini slices, also in a flat layer, then place the cheese along the center and continue layering zucchini at it’s sides. You will probably not have enough zucchini to build up the sizes of the cheese to make a flat layer, so continue layering the spinach on the sides of the cheese until the sides are built up enough to make a flat layer. Finish by covering the cheese completely with the last of the spinach. Finally, place the last two pepper strips in the center on top of everything and fold over the overhanging pepper strips. This part can have bald spots since it will be the bottom of the terrine when it’s served. Finally, fold the plastic wrap over and weigh the terrine down. I used a smallish oval dish with my heavy mortar and pestle on it. Put everything on a large plate and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24. The terrine will give off a LOT of liquid, so make sure the plate underneath is large enough.
Serving: When you’re ready to serve, line the serving plate with the arugula or herb garnish, pull the plastic wrap away from the top of the terrine and flip it over onto the serving plate. Slowly remove the metal bread pan and then the plastic wrap. Slice into 1 inch serving pieces with a very sharp knife. Serve some crusty Italian bread or grizzini (breadsticks) alongside.
As opposed to a salad, this chilled veggie dish is satisfying with the rich cheese center, and dense with all those packed summer vegetables, yet refreshing and so healthy!