Several of you asked for this recipe from our “Birthday Linner”. The truth is that my older son made it up, on the spot, based on vegetables that I had in the apartment, plus some herbs from our grocery store downstairs, which does not have a broad selection, particularly on a Sunday. He originally wanted some basil but they had none. He came back with a beautiful bunch of fresh mint instead. And, I just learned last night from my fellow cooking friend, Margaret, that mint is a relative of basil, so that was a very good choice indeed.
He meant to put in fresh grated Parmesan, but forgot. But as a dish in the middle of this many-course celebration, it did not need Parmesan. The clean tasting vegetables were a welcome interlude between the pasta with spinach and Pecorino Romano cheese and the very rich and super delicious short ribs with polenta.
This son is a big cook – he just gets in there and does things! Fearless and big, that’s what I call him. He says, “Thank you!”
Here’s a stab at his recipe.
ZUCCHINI, FENNEL, RED PEPPER AND MINT TORTA
1 and 1/2 fennel bulbs
2 large red peppers
3 – 4 tbs. olive oil
½ bunch of fresh mint leaves
Broil red peppers, checking and turning until all skin is blackened. Using tongs, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice zucchini and fennel on a mandoline, somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Using 1 or 2 tbs. of olive oil for each vegetable, toss separately in a bowl, with salt and pepper (test and taste for proper seasoning) and lay out each on separate baking sheets. Roast zucchini and fennel until crisp tender. Check in 20 minutes. The fennel will most likely take a little longer. This is why you keep them on separate baking sheets.
Peel the red pepper, core, remove the seeds and cut into 1 inch wide strips.
Layer the zucchini, fennel, red pepper and mint leaves in 10 inch round dish, repeating again until all is used up. Place a plate on top and weight it down to press ingredients together. We used a 28 oz. can of tomatoes with a large heavy mason jar of honey on top of the plate. Press for an hour or two. Then carefully slide the torta out, top side up, on a large round cake plate. Cut into pie wedge serving pieces and enjoy!
We used only two red peppers but three might be better. You could also add a layer of grated Parmesan cheese. We talked about that and then forget to do it.