Saturday, September 4, 2010

Summer Vegetable Torte

As I sat on the subway on my way to work the other day, there was a group of 'kids' (I feel weird saying that) talking and laughing awkwardly. I eavesdropped enough to pick up on the fact that they were college freshman who were in that fittingly awkward getting-to-know you phase of orientation. I laughed to myself as I watched and listened to them, clearly uncomfortable, one-upping each other with stories of badass high school parties, crazy nightclubs, and that time that they got caught by their parents. Part of me wanted to tell them that rather than being so uncomfortable, they might as well loosen up now, because they would eventually anyhow, and why waste time being anxious? My more cynical side wondered who would still be friends after four years, who would be eaten alive by New York City, and who had already decided that these were not the people that they wanted to be friends with. And then, just for fun, I wondered which girl was the sluttiest, which guy might be ashamed of going to college a virgin, who was lying about their past and if anyone was standing there with a smile, but secretly wanting to cry. Come to think of it, it's no wonder freshmen drink so much.
eggplant layered vegetable torte
Four years ago, I would have been the girl who smiled, told her stories and stood there wanting to cry. Not because I was unhappy, but because I was scared. Shitless. Understandably so, I found myself in Canada, far from home, surrounded by unfamiliar faces who kept saying weird things like "eh." Well the long and short of it is that sooner rather than later I, too, was saying "eh." It was lovely and remained lovely, including the very unlovely moments that I complained about to no end. Seeing these freshmen on the train was the first time I really realized that I am done with school. It's actually kind of cool that back to school commercials are no longer giving me an awful sinking feeling in my stomach. I am also not busy calculating how many combined essay pages I am going to have to write this semester. And even more unusual, my job isn't just something to fill my summer days, but reality. It's bizarre, new and different, but rather than standing there wanting to cry, I feel refreshed, invigorated and excited. I guess on some days I also kind of wish that I were hearing a few more "ehs" around; alas, I suppose I will have to make the trek the Canada here and there. Problem solved.
summer vegetable torte
This torte has nothing to do with any of this, except for the fact that it tastes like August. August, that once bittersweet month indicating the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, the only type of year that exists when you're a student. Turns out that the flavors of August are just luscious. It's too bad that I have so often tainted them with negative thoughts of back-to-school, because they should be appreciated for their fleeting goodness. I realize that August is gone, but by the looks of the Farmer's market today it's not too late to indulge in some Augustian* delicacies. This torte showcases the flavors of zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes by simply roasting them and jazzing them up with some basil, a lot of garlic and a sprinkle of parmiggiano. There's nothing not to like as the flavors of the sunkissed vegetables meld together, while maintaining their own distinct presence. So I guess I am just pretty pumped that I got to enjoy the flavors of August this year, and I have a feeling there will be many new and exciting flavors to come (yes, that's dorky metaphor of about new life experience. Forgive me). In the meantime, I'm just taking it easy and kicking back with a slice of torte. Doesn't sound half-bad, eh?
plum tomatoes summer vegetable torte
*Yes, I made this word up. Def: relating to the month of August.

Summer Vegetable Torte
(adapted from Mark Bittman at The New York Times)

2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 medium zucchini or yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano

1. 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 and zucchini half the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grease 2 baking sheets with oil. Roast or grill vegetables on both sides until soft.

2. Coat bottom and sides of 8-inch springform pan with oil. Mix the garlic and basil into the remaining olive oil. Build a layer of eggplant, then a second layer of zucchini, then a layer of tomatoes, pour a third of the olive oil mixture over this. Repeat until you have used all the vegetables, if any remain place them decoratively on top. Pour any remaining oil mixture over the top and then sprinkle evenly with the parmiggiano.

3. 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.


Jaime said...

LOOKS DELICIOUS! Oh, how I long for the good old Montreal days... and you cooking for me!

Anonymous said...

sembra buonissima come bella la tua storia bacioni nonna