It’s summertime, and that means the bounty of summer vegetables will be coming in very soon – at the market or from your garden.
While grilled veggies are great as a side dish or an antipasto platter, I like to put them all together in a terrine mold and cut off a big slice for a delicious cold dinner at home or as a first course for a summer wine dinner party.
Making a terrine is a labor of love. Each vegetable is prepped and grilled and assembled in alternating layers in a long mold, weighed down to compress everything together, then sliced for an elegant and eye-catching presentation. Grilled vegetable love on a plate.
The next time you go to the farmer’s market, buy a box full of summer vegetables – purple or white Italian globe eggplants, red and yellow peppers, green (and mild) Anaheim peppers, nice tomatoes, spinach and chard, and plenty of fresh herbs, like basil, parsley, tarragon and chives.
The spinach and Swiss chard aren’t grilled; they’re blanched, which I do ask my grill is heating up. They add a nice green component to the terrine.
The eggplant should be sliced fairly thick and will need lots of seasoning and oil. The peppers go right on a hot grill to blacken, then the fun part of peeling and seeding them and tearing them apart by hand.
Makes 1 terrine, enough for 12 servings
3 Italian eggplants
3 red peppers
3 yellow peppers
3 Anaheim peppers, or green peppers
1 bunch fresh spinach, stemmed
1 bunch Red Swiss chard, stemmed
1 cup canola oil
1 envelope gelatin
For plating, you’ll need:
2 nice, ripe medium-size tomatoes, cored, seeded and finely diced (tomato concasse)
A variety of fresh herbs, picked over and chopped
S & P
Fruity extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Finest-quality balsamic vinegar, for some zip
A big saucepan
A charcoal or gas grill (with a smokerbox), with a cover
Real mesquite charcoal chunks
A variety of metal bowls
A shallow ceramic dish
Heavy duty aluminum foil and plastic wrap
A super sharp knife
A super sharp serrated knife
A decent vegetable peeler
A big, clean sanitized cutting board
A terrine mold (a pound cake pan or bread pan is usable too)
A 2-cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup
A pastry brush
A fine mesh strainer
Cardboard, to make a top for the terrine mold
1. Fire up the grill – preferably a charcoal fire – or use a gas grill with a smoker box set up.
On the stove, blanch the spinach in boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain through a sieve (I re-use the blanching water) shock in ice water, drain and squeeze out the excess water. Prep the Swiss chard: cut away the stems and cut the leaves crosswise into 3 or 4. Blanch the Swiss chard leaves 1 minute, shock in ice water, drain and squeeze out the excess water. (Discard or compost or save the Swiss chard stems for another use.)
2. Prepare the other vegetables for grilling:
Cut off the tops and bottoms of the eggplants, peel them, and slice into 4 or 5 pieces lengthwise – so you have nice “slippers” of eggplant ½- ¾ inch thick.
In a big bowl next to the grill, season the eggplant with S & P, brush generously with canola oil and grill over direct medium-high heat till charred with nice grill marks on both sides and the flesh is cooked through, yet still firm. Use the indirect heat area on the grill as a landing zone to cook the slices through without burning them to a crisp.
Layer the eggplant slices in the shallow backing dish and cover with foil. They will continue to cook and soften.
Grill-roast the red, yellow and Anaheim peppers over direct medium-high heat till the peppers are blackened all over. Use the indirect heat area on the grill to cook the peppers through, covering the grill if need be.
Put the peppers in a bowl, cover with foil to let them sweat for 10-15 minutes. They will continue to cook and soften.
Chef Willie’s Note: Save the liquid from the grilled vegetables – that is going to become the aspic that holds the terrine together. After the vegetables sit for a bit, strain their liquid into a measuring cup and add filtered water (if necessary) to measure 1 ¼ cup. Taste it, and season with a good pinch of salt. It should taste like a super-strong grilled vegetable stock.
3. Tear apart the peppers over a clean bowl, saving their liquid (aka – the grilled vegetable stock). Peel and seed the peppers under cool running water – no seeds at all, but a little charred skin is OK.
4. Make the aspic – which is a fancy way of saying “vegetable jello”. It’s easy.
Strain the liquid from the grilled vegetables into a medium-size metal bowl that will fit over the saucepan. Bloom the gelatin in the grilled vegetable stock, stirring with a fork; the liquid will look cloudy. Heat the gelatin/vegetable stock over simmering water till it is clear – this should take no more than 1 or 2 minutes; take it off the heat, strain it back into the measuring cup, cool it to room temp and have it ready. You’ll need at least 1 ¼ cups.
Now the fun part.
5. Line the terrine mold with plastic wrap, with a little overhang over the sides. Film the bottom with a few spoonfuls of aspic. Add a layer of eggplant slices, trimming and cutting to fit snuggly. Add a layer of red peppers, season with S and P and spoon in a little more aspic. Layer in the spinach, then alternate with more eggplant slices, the yellow and green peppers, then the Swiss chard, then more eggplant, seasoning with S & P along the way. When all the vegetables are in, pour the remaining aspic overtop.
Cut out a piece of cardboard to fit the top of the terrine and double wrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil. Fold the overhanging plastic wrap to seal it really well and put the cardboard top in place. Place the terrine in a ¼ sheet pan of rimmed cookie sheet and weigh it down with a wine bottle, soups cans or whatever fits – something heavy. Refrigerate the grilled vegetable terrine in a super-cold part of your fridge – a few hours at least, or ideally, overnight.
6. When ready to serve, unwrap the terrine, invert it onto a cutting board and slice into ¾ inch thick slices using a super sharp serrated knife. (An electric carving knife is what I used to use in a restaurant.)
Garnish with a spoonful of diced tomato, dot with a few drops of fruity extra virgin olive oil and a splash of finest-quality balsamic vinegar. Garnish with fresh herbs (small basil leaves, chopped parsley, tarragon and chives). Summer love on a plate.