Thursday, January 11, 2007

Eggplant Ricotta Timbales With Faux-Fresh Tomato Sauce

This recipe is an adaptation of one I used to make for a local restaurant many years ago. It involves a bit of preparation but is worth every minute of time you will spend. A company pleaser for sure, it's vegetarian to boot. Add a simple salad and you're done.

Eggplant Ricotta Timbales
Loosely adapted from the Larrupin' Cafe
2 large globe eggplants
Olive oil for brushing
15 ounces part skim ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons seasoned, toasted bread crumbs (I use Brio croutons and buzz them in my food processor)
1 heaping teaspoon dried basil
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1/3 cup parmesan, grated
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, left whole (walnuts may be substituted)
8 sun-dried tomatoes that have been packed in olive oil, minced
1 large egg, slightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Slices of mozarella or provolone (optional)

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.
Cut the stem end from each eggplant and slice each down the middle lengthwise.
Laying each half cut side down, cut into thin slices lengthwise.
Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil and place on the prepared sheets.
Roast in the oven on two racks, switching racks halfway through the roasting time, until the slices are completely softened but not cooked dry. About 10 minutes in a very hot oven. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Lower oven temperature to 375.
Mix the ricotta, breadcrumbs, basil, garlic, parmesan, pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes together and blend well. Season to taste with the salt and pepper then add the beaten egg and mix to combine.
Using a paper towel, oil 6 6-ounce souffle cups.
Beginning with one strip of eggplant, lay eggplant slices, one next to the other, in each cup, one end in the bottom of the cup with the rest of the strip laying over the edge and draping on the outside. See photo for example.

Fill each cup 2/3 full with the ricotta mixture then, going around the cup, bring the eggplant strips up and over the top of the mixture, cutting the ends on a diagonal to fit.
Place cups in a roasting pan, pour hot water into pan to reach halfway up the sides of the cups and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the timbales from the water bath and allow to cool.

To serve, tip a timbale out of its cup onto a warmed plate.
In the oven, melt a slice of mozarella cheese over each timbale.
Spoon the warm tomato sauce (see recipe below) around the timbale and serve immediately.

Faux Fresh Tomato Sauce
Christine's original recipe
1 large can whole fire-roasted tomatoes, such as Muir Glen organic
8 slow-roasted tomatoes a la Kalyn, diced to make about 1/2 cup
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons sweet Vermouth
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until well blended. The sauce should be thick. Adjust seasonings to taste then heat gently in a saucepan.

Cook's Notes:
This is a photography note actually. Lately I've been taking my photos at night with the resulting yellow-tinged effect that I dislike intensely. I apologize for this and want you to know that I'm trying to find a permanent home for the great Photo Studio in a Box that I got for Christmas so I can start using it regularly. At the moment I can't leave it out because the cats, being the curious creatures they are, eye it longingly. Taking the studio out of the box, taking a photo, then putting the studio back into the box not only makes for cold food, it's not my idea of fun. I must figure this out.