Eggplant Terrine, Panelle, Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes

 

This eggplant terrine is the very first recipe in Marc Vetri’s book “il Viaggio di Vetri” and it looked so intriguing from the moment I read it. I’ve never really made proper vegetable terrines before, plenty of meat terrines of course, but not a vegetarian layered and molded terrine that holds together beautifully. Vegetarian versions are lots of times held together with an aspic (gelatin) and if done right they could be fantastic. In contrast Vetri’s eggplant slices are held  together with a minimal amount of custard base (egg+milk+parmesan+thyme). I half expected the whole thing to fall apart as soon as I unmolded it honestly and that would’ve been a shame because of all the work that went into it.

First the eggplants are peeled and the peel blanched to be used for laying in the terrine mold in lieu of bacon or back fat in a meat terrine. I sliced the eggplant very thin and salted the slices. After draining for an hour or so they get washed, dried and pressed between paper towels. The eggplant then gets fried and layered in a terrine (I used a small loaf pan since I was only making half the recipe). Between each layer I drizzled a tablespoon or so of the uncooked custard. The pan gets cooked in a bain marie for about an hour. After it is cooked, I weighed the eggplant down in the pan to compress the terrine as it cooled in the fridge overnight.

When ready to serve I unmolded the terrine and sliced it with a very sharp knife. An electric knife is probably very handy here. The funny thing is I actually have one but never seem to use it. Like I said before the eggplant terrine held together perfectly due to the egg mixture of course but also I’m guessing due to the eggplant’s natural “goo”. Is that pectin? Maybe.

Vetri served his version with a few tomatoes, arugula leaves and shavings of parmesan. I made Panelle instead. Panelle are a popular Sicilian street snack made from chickpea flour and fried in olive oil. I figured their earthy flavor and rustic texture will work very well with the eggplant. Afterall, chickpeas and eggplant are a wonderful match. The other flavor component are those little cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market called chocolate cherry tomatoes. They were quickly blanched, peeled and marinated in olive oil, salt and basil. I love how they look like peeled grapes or poached cherries…The green sauce is made from blanched arugula, basil and parsley. It is thickened with Ultratex-3 and enriched with a little olive oil and lemon juice.

I garnished the dish with basil flowers and basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. The terrine was delicious with a full eggplant flavor and a very meaty texture. The chickpea fritters and tomatoes complemented everything perfectly. Instead of half a recipe I will be making the full one next time and will bake it in a proper terrine pan to get a perfect rectangle as well as more terrine for the next few days. The next day we used the leftovers to make the best eggplant sandwiches with some of the green sauce, arugula, ripe tomatoes on home-baked crusty sourdough bread.

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