How to Cure A Case of the Mondays + A Recipe

This was one of the first dishes I ever plated in culinary school and one of my favorite dishes because you can use to to impress friends at a dinner party, or just make it for yourself when you want your vegetables to look pretty. I served it tonight with seared strip stead and an arugula pesto.

It seems like no matter how much sleep I get on Sunday night I’m always tired Monday morning. I did not cook as much as I had hoped to this weekend. I can’t help but think of that annoying commercial which says “A body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion stays in motion,” well this weekend my body was certainly at rest as well as my brain and my kitchen.

I believe that your mood on Monday can define your entire week. Think about it, how many times have you woken up, looked out your window, realized it was raining, stubbed your toe and said “this is going to be the worst week ever!” If something doesn’t turn your mood around by the days end, chances are you will start a bad mood domino effect, inevitably ruining your week. I’m speaking from experience, being a chronic pessimist myself.

One thing I’ve realized about myself is that no matter how crappy I feel on Monday, I end up thinking about what I’m going to eat/make for dinner. The next step to this miraculous revelation, was realizing that thinking about food and planning what I could make actually puts me in a good mood. Or a better mood at least.

I know that some people find planning dinner a daunting task. This I will never fully understand, though I do have my theories, number one being that most people are extremely lazy, especially after work. Another theory of mine is that people feel limited by their skills, and therefore deciding between pasta or a sandwich gets boring. I don’t believe that anyone “can’t cook,” only that they are trying to cook the wrong things. There are a lot of beautiful cookbooks out there, but its the recipe the counts.

Here’s a recipe that I believe anyone can make as long as you have 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your skill level, an oven, a baking sheet, a ramekin, a little bit of patience, and the confidence you can do it. This is a dish I learned in culinary school and have tweaked based on the equipment often found in your average kitchen.

Individual Roasted Vegetable & Goat Cheese Terrine

*once you have your ingredients, preheat your oven, nothing is more frustrating than being ready to cook and realizing you forgot to turn the oven on!

Time: 1 hour or less

Skill Level: Easy

Serving Size: 2

Equipment:

an oven

a baking sheet (or a few if you have them)

a sharp knife

a cutting board

wax paper or parchment paper (optional but helpful)

a ramekin (about 2″ wide, 1″ deep)

Ingredients:

Keep in mind that ideally all of your vegetables will be the same width so that they can all fit inside the ramekin and stack on top of each other.

1 japanese eggplant or baby eggplant

1 yellow squash

1 zucchini

2 plum tomatoes

4 oz of goat cheese – at room temperature

2 tbs olive oil

balsamic vinegar for drizzling

1 small head frisée (optional)

Procedure

*Hopefully you already preheated your oven! If you didn’t, preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Slice all vegetables, width-wise, about 1/8″ thick. Don’t get our your tape measure. Even if you can’t get your vegetables as thin as you’d like, try to make them uniform. The idea is to let these vegetables release their water and then cook, if you cook them too high, they are going to burn and be watery.

Lay your vegetables on a baking sheet on top of parchment paper. If you don’t have any parchment or wax paper rub a little bit of olive oil on your baking sheet before placing your vegetables on it. Even though your vegetables are now the same size, they won’t all cook at the same speed (eggplant takes the longest, then squash and zucchini, then tomatoes). The best way to avoid half of your veggies burning while the other half are raw is by placing each type on a separate baking sheet. If you don’t have the equipment or the time, another option is to put each type of vegetable on its own piece of parchment that then share one baking sheet. If one of your vegetables is ready, you can lift it off the baking sheet and return the rest of your vegetables to the oven.

Once you have your vegetables all laid out on a baking sheet. Drizzle or paint on a thin layer of olive oil. I like to paint it on, because vegetables, such as eggplant, absorb moisture very quickly, so the more evenly the oil is placed on them, the more uniformly they will cook. Season with salt and pepper.

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Roast for 10 minutes, then check your progress. Everyone’s oven is different, so even though you can take a 10 minute shower, doesn’t mean you should. You may have to rotate your baking sheet half way through. Once your vegetables look at though they are a little bit dehydrated it’s time to take them out.

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My zucchini is perfect. My squash could have used more time, however, I was really hungry so I cut a few corners I shouldn’t have.

Let your vegetables cool for a few minutes. They shouldn’t be stuck to the parchment or baking sheet, but if they are don’t give up, you can still use them, and it will still look beautiful and taste delicious. Once they are cool enough to handle, grab your ramekin. One at a time lay your vegetables into your ramekin, followed by a healthy sprinkling of goat cheese. I like to put the tomato in first (because I like the red color on top, but you can do whatever your heart desires!) You should need about 3 or 4 slices of each vegetable to cover each layer evenly. Each time you put a layer of vegetables into the ramekin, press on them slightly. This will shape your terrine and spread your goat cheese out into a more even layer. Make sure you start and end with a vegetable and not with goat cheese, this will help the ramekin release your terrine and keep your mess to a minimum.

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Once you can’t fit any more vegetables into your ramekin, give it one more first press. Have your dinner plates out and available. Then, over a bowl (I suggest this rather then the sink because accidents happen and it’s easier to scrape things out of a bowl and reuse them then the sink) flip your ramekin over, keeping your hand over the exposed end of vegetables so they don’t all pour out. Gently shake the ramekin, loosening the terrine. You can hit the closed bottom if it’s being difficult. Once you feel your terrine release, carefully slide your hand out from underneath the terrine and let it fall onto the plate. You want to remove the ramekin slowly so the terrine doesn’t lose its shape.  If you bought the frisee, break a few pieces of its root and top the terrine. This will give your dish some more height, and add texture. Drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar over the terrine, being careful not to drench it. I like to use an aged balsamic that is rich and thick, but any balsamic will do.

Hopefully you have created something you are proud of. If not, I’m sure, despite the pitfalls, you feel good about yourself for trying. A good thing to try and remember, is that every time you cook, whether its a dish you think was “good” or “bad” you are learning something about your kitchen, the ingredients, and yourself.

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