Hors D'Oeuvres & First Courses The Book

46. Eggplant Caviar p.11

No recipe this time, but honestly you’re not missing all that much.

I think this came out to be less than the sum of it’s parts. Essentially it’s broiled eggplant, sweated onions, garlic, and green pepper mixed with fresh tomatoes, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and pepper. All good stuff up to this point, but it all went for a spin in the food processor, and came out a mushy unappealing terra cotta.

The idea is to chill this for a few hours and then serve it with crackers or baguette. In this regard the texture was way off, it had tiny chunks in a soupy liquid destined to slip and slide. Its texture was wrong in the same way that store bought salsa can be wrong. If it had been completely smooth and thickened it could have worked well, if it had been left chunkier with something to bite into it might have been nice. As it was all the ingredients lost their individual identities, but didn’t really meld into a flavour partnership. Bland, watery, and ugly was the take home message of this dish. I had 12 hungry people in my living room devouring anything put in front of them, but there was plenty of this left at the end of the evening.

A day or two later I cooked down some the remainder and used it as a pizza sauce. It worked remarkably well in that incarnation. Eggplant, tomato, and onions all have a lot of water in them, I think the water either had to be left in the cell structure of the vegetables, or cooked out. Food processing it just left is soupy and uninspiring.

Hors D'Oeuvres & First Courses The Book

23. Vodka-Spiked Cherry Tomatoes With Pepper and Salt p.26

the recipe

This looked like a really simple recipe. Just cherry tomatoes in a vodka based marinade. The blurb in The Book tells us that “what makes these tomatoes special is that they’re peeled. Don’t worry; after you blanch them their skins slip right off”. The book lies! I blanched them well, even a few seconds longer than recommended in loads of boiling water. The skins absolutely didn’t slip off, and peeling the slightly loosened skins was a huge huge pain. The active time for this was more like 2 hours than 45 minutes. I’ll presume that I just don’t know how to peel a tomato though.

The marinade was quite good. Vodka and tomatoes are a classic pairing, apparently there are flavour compounds in tomatoes that are only soluble in alcohol, and without it we’re missing out on part of what the tomato has to give. The zest and vinegar gave the tomatoes a nice citrus bite. It’s becoming a recurring refrain here, but there was too much sugar on these. The recipe calls for a tablespoon to be added, and while I see where they were going with the sweet / citrus / vodka contrast I think they went too far. Vodka is quite sweet on its own, I’d say a teaspoon of sugar would have been more than sufficient. Maybe they calculated that amount using less naturally sweet cherry tomatoes? Who can say.

While peeling these little guys was a big hassle, it really did let the marinade penetrate the tomatoes. The tomatoes were flavour packed, and because they were peeled but not cooked you still got the delightful feeling of them popping in your mouth. I think they were tasty, but on the whole not worth the effort.