I don't know why this is called a "torte". In my mind, a torte is sort of cakey, or maybe tarty? But this is neither. In fact, it's sort of mushy. A giant mess. A delicious, wonderful mess. A delicious, wonderful mess that took a really long time to make, several pots and pans, and a chunk of my patience. It also really doesn't photograph well, or maybe I was just too tired and hot by the time it was done to take the time to try and get a decent picture.
I decided to try this recipe - before realizing how many freaking separate pots and pans it required - solely because there were great local eggplant and zucchini available. It's sort of like a lasagna meets a ratatouille, with several separate elements that need to be individually prepared. In separate pots. The first was the tomato sauce, with sage and thyme and slowly cooked onions for delicate sweetness:
Then the oven roasted vegetables. The starring veg is eggplant:
Plus red pepper and zucchini:
Every element is layered with a cheesy custard sauce:
Then all is baked until bubbly, brown and puffed. Then you do dishes for an hour. But seriously, it was worth it, the sweetness of the onions in the tomato sauce, the different deep flavors of the roasted vegetables playing off one another, and that cheesy custard, yum, that was the icing on the cake. I followed the recipe closely for the most part, but I chose to use olive oil spray to roast the vegetables instead of brushing them with oil. I think the end result had the right amount of flavor and was not greasy at all, sticking with the original oil amounts would probably have been too oily for my taste. I intended this to be a side dish for pan-roasted bass, but I all but ignored my fish. I'd sooner eat a ton of this. I still don't get why it's called a "torte", though. Recipe after the jump:
EGGPLANT, ZUCCHINI, RED PEPPER, AND PARMESAN TORTE
Adapted from Gourmet May 1999
2 large onions (about 1 pound)
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil
olive oil spray
a 26- to 32-ounce container chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 large eggplants (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
4 large zucchini (about 1 3/4 pounds total)
4 large red bell peppers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
6 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 2 cups)
Halve onions through root end and thinly slice. Finely chop garlic. In a large heavy skillet cook onions with salt to taste in 2 tablespoons oil, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and cook mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until any liquid onions give off is evaporated. Add tomatoes with juice, sage, and thyme and simmer, stirring occasionally, until excess liquid is evaporated and mixture is very thick. Season mixture with salt and pepper and cool. Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray at least 2 shallow baking pans with olive oil spray.
Cut eggplants crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rounds and arrange in one layer in baking pans. Spray eggplant slices with olive oil and roast in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans halfway through roasting time, until tender and golden, about 20 minutes. Cool eggplant 5 minutes and transfer with a slotted spatula to paper towels to drain.
Cut zucchini lengthwise into 1/3-inch-thick slices and roast in same manner until tender and pale golden, about 25 minutes. Cool zucchini 5 minutes and transfer to paper towels to drain.
Quarter bell peppers lengthwise and discard stems, seeds, and ribs. Arrange peppers, skin sides up, in oiled baking pans and brush with some remaining oil. Roast peppers in same manner until tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Cool peppers 5 minutes and transfer to paper towels to drain.
In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart heavy saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes and whisk in milk and cream. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking, and simmer, whisking occasionally, 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and cool sauce 5 minutes. Whisk in eggs, two thirds Parmigiano-Reggiano, and salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 400°F. and lightly oil a 14- x 10- x 2 1/2-inch or other 3 1/2-quart shallow baking dish. In baking dish arrange half of eggplant, overlapping slices to form an even layer, and season with salt and pepper. Top eggplant with half of tomato mixture, spreading evenly, and pour about one third Parmigiano-Reggiano custard over it. Nestle half of zucchini in custard and season with salt and pepper. Top zucchini with half of peppers. Repeat layering, reserving half of remaining custard for topping. Pour reserved custard over final layer of peppers and sprinkle with remaining grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Bake torte in middle of oven until custard is puffed and golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Let torte stand 10 minutes before serving.