Full disclosure: I'm not sure this dinner tasted as good as it looked, nor am I entirely sure it was worth the effort, but my goodness it's pretty. Right? I saw it in this month's Gourmet and immediately knew it must grace my kitchen table. Plus, I purchased an elephantine zucchini from
the market thinking it was funny; then I got home and realized I had to figure out how to eat it.
The whole enterprise was a bit fussy. It has several steps and you need a springform pan and a pressure strategy and several hours' patience while it occupies significant fridge space. But when you finally pop it out, it's actually a lot of fun to eat. Plus it's pretty. Maybe this is a dinner party-type recipe, especially since it must be made ahead of time. So go ahead and throw it together. Impress your friends. Eat some vegetables.
The more I think about this "torte" the more I realize it is not just a single recipe; it is a brilliant strategy. The gist of it is this: sauteed or roasted vegetables layered with cheese, pressed for several hours in the fridge to get rid of excess moisture, and sliced for serving. Seems to me you could use a number of different vegetable-and-cheese combinations here, especially since roasted red peppers have a very distinct flavor, and one that tends to take over if you're not careful. (For a non-red-pepper-lover, this is a problem.)
And I hate to say it, but the springform pan is kind of necessary here. You want the torte to shed some liquid during the pressing, so you want something with cracks in the bottom. Hate to be high maintenance, but there you have it. My 6-inch springform was the perfect size. And then, when you're done, you can make tiny cheesecake (more on that later)!
Zucchini and Bell Pepper Torte
(serves 2, total time at least 4 hours, preferably more, adapted from Gourmet)
2 red, yellow, orange, or purple peppers (not green!!), stemmed, halved and seeded
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 lb (2ish) zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds and sprinkled with salt
1 red onion, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
2 Tbsp red wine or cider vinegar
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped (or 1 Tbsp dry)
- Start by roasting your peppers. Slather them with olive oil and place them cut side down on a baking sheet covered with foil. Roast around 425º for 20ish minutes, turning once halfway through. As soon as they're out, take a pair of tongs and toss them into a paper bag and close the top. In 2 minutes, open the bag and pull out the peppers. Their skins should slip right off. Cut into thick slices
- Now, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil with garlic in a large skillet. When oil is hot, add as many zucchini rounds as you can and cook about 3 minutes. Turn and cook 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate and repeat with any additional zucchini slices.
- In that same pan, add the onions with a pinch of salt. Cook 15 minutes, or until tender. Add vinegar and stir until evaporated, which will happen quickly.
- Now for assembly. Flip the bottom of the sprinform over so you have the smooth side up. The layers go like this:
- Cover with plastic and find a plate that is just a little smaller than your springform and will sit down in it. Put some heavy weights on top, place it in a bowl or something to catch the liquid, and let it sit in your fridge, at least 3 hours and up to a day. We ate it cold, which was fine, but the recipe says to let it come to room temp first. Your call.
- Bell Peppers
- Bell Peppers