A slice of a layered terrine makes for pretty party fare. Sure, there are long-cooked meaty terrines, like pates, with ingredients precisely placed. Gaze into 17th century paintings of luxurious feasts and you'll spy ceramic terrine molds there, with carved covers sporting a hare or chicken. But I'm dialing it back here - basically delivering a composed salad with style.
I first met these ingredients on a delicious plate at an Ottolenghi takeaway in London. Slabs of grilled eggplant, a pile of salty, herbed feta and a deep commitment to lemony sumac made the clouds part and sunshine stream in through the windows. I couldn't wait to re-create this dish at home and bring it to every potluck I attended. Soon, I learned that bringing this particular salad required a kitchen takeover to compose each plate. No host has ever appreciated that behavior. That's when I turned to the terrine, which is potluck friendly for host and guests.
Along the way, I learned some things about putting terrines together. Any food served cold or at room temperature must be seasoned with a strong hand, and this is especially true for any terrine with layers of cheese. A handful of fresh herbs surrounding the cheese brightens everything. The eggplant, when tasted separately, is salty and the sumac very forward. But once it joins the other elements, flavor balance is achieved. A bold dressing is a requirement, and this one, laced with kalamata olives, brings a burst of umami to the palate, bouncing off the salty feta and cutting through the rich eggplant with a sharp sherry vinegar finish.
Cut or cube the terrine components into small bite-size pieces, which will make for easier slicing. Place slim slivers of roasted pepper horizontally across the terrine; you'll follow that same line when slicing. Speaking of slicing, tackle that with a sharp knife dipped in hot water and wiped clean between cuts.
Form the terrines in mini-loaf pans (they can be disposable) lined with that modern kitchen tool called plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap overhang to lever the terrine out of the pan before flipping it over for serving. Even if you own a company-worthy long ceramic terrine, using two short pans is the way to go for this recipe. In testing, I found the larger version collapsed into indistinct layers because there's no gelatin "I beam" to provide structure. A couple of eight-ounce ramekins can work instead of mini loaf pans; there is no law that requires a terrine to have corners.
Inspired by the crispy feta appetizer, I began the layering with a mix of black and white sesame seeds - not only because they are pretty, but also because such a garnish can help camouflage a less-than-perfect presentation.
Inverting the terrine onto a serving platter successfully is worthy of an audience, so feel free to invite folks around. On the other hand, if calamity strikes and the terrine fails to hold together, pair the spread with a basket of pita chips and call the offering an appetizer, encouraging everyone to dig in.
With modern flavors and not much cooking, this terrine makes sense. The next time you're asked to bring a salad, think layers and unmold this composition. No kitchen takeover required.
LAYERED MEDITERRANEAN EGGPLANT AND FETA TERRINES
MAKES 12 servings (makes two mini-loaf-pan-size terrines)
Inspired by an aubergine salad at London's Ottolenghi takeaway, these terrines serve a crowd with all the sweet, salty, smooth and textural delights of the original. Offer this layered beauty sliced and served on spring greens with a splash of Kalamata Dressing (see related recipe), or with toasted pita chips as a dip.
Carving a terrine can be challenge. Use unscented dental floss or a long, thin and sharp knife, running it under hot water between cuts, to make clean cuts.
You'll need two mini loaf pans or short ceramic terrines; it's best not to build this in one long terrine, because that makes it tricky to unmold properly.
A blend of goat cheese and cream cheese can be used instead of the feta-yogurt mixture; see the VARIATION, below.
MAKE AHEAD: The molded terrines need to be refrigerated for at least 6 hours, and up to 3 days. Once unmolded, they can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. They do not freeze well.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 pound firm, purple eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground sumac
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
- 12 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (see headnote)
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt (regular or low-fat; see headnote)
- 1/4 cup roasted white sesame seeds, or more as needed
- 1/4 cup black sesame seeds, or more as needed
- One 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, and sliced into 1/2-inch strips (about 1 generous cup)
Heat the oil in a large wide skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes (to flavor and scent the oil). Remove the garlic (discard or reserve for another use) and add the eggplant cubes. Cook, undisturbed, for 6 to 8 minutes, then stir and cook for an additional 5 minutes, so the eggplant has browned evenly.
Stir in the tomato paste, molasses, sumac, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, for just a few minutes until the eggplant is thoroughly coated but has not completely broken down. Remove from the heat.
Stir together the cilantro and mint in a small bowl. Use a fork to whisk together the feta and yogurt in a separate bowl, until smooth. Spoon the feta mixture into a zip-top bag.
Lightly coat the mini loaf pans with cooking oil spray. Lay a double layer of plastic wrap (two pieces) in one of the pans, tucking it into the corners. Make sure there is sufficient wrap draping over the edges. Repeat to line the second pan.
Now, you're ready to layer the terrine, in this order, as you have the pans side by side: Line the bottom of the pans with the white and black sesame seeds, mixed together. Snip the corner from the zip-top bag and squeeze in an even layer of feta-yogurt mixture into each pan, using half of it; cover your hand with a piece of plastic wrap and gently press each layer into place. Next, divide half the cilantro-mint mixture between them, to make a thin green layer.
Divide half the eggplant mixture between each pan. Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro-mint mixture. Add a single layer of roasted red peppers, then squeeze in the remaining feta-yogurt mixture. Add the final layer of eggplant to each. Fold in the plastic wrap overhang to completely enclose each layered terrine in its own pan, gently pressing down to compact them. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours (and up to 3 days).
To unmold and serve, gently release the terrines using the plastic wrap; working with one pan at a time, peel back the top layer of plastic wrap. Place the serving dish or cutting board over the pan and invert it quickly, giving it a good smack on the counter to help dislodge the contents. Remove the pan, then gently remove the plastic wrap and do any necessary neatening. Sprinkle with a bit more sesame seeds, as needed.
VARIATION: To replace the feta-yogurt mixture, combine 8 ounces room-temperature goat cheese, 4 ounces room-temperature cream cheese and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl; whisk until smooth. Proceed with the layering of the recipe as directed above.
Nutrition | Per serving (using low-fat yogurt): 160 calories, 6 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 350 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar
MAKES8 servings ( 1/2 cup)
Bright, acidic, slightly sweet and full of umami, this dressing complements the Layered Mediterranean Eggplant and Feta Terrine. It makes a splash on grilled summer squash as well.
MAKE AHEAD: The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Shake well before using.
- 9 pitted Kalamata olives, minced
- 6 tablespoons best-quality olive oil
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon minced shallot
Combine the olives, oil, vinegar, honey and shallot in a 1/2 pint jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal and shake until well incorporated.
Nutrition | Per tablespoon: 110 calories, 0 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar