Goat Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Consommé
This appetizer combines Mediterranean flavors. The transparent consommé carries the essence of tomatoes, and is garnished with a small tomato confit mold and a confit of whole baby eggplant. The pasta is filled with a potent packet of basil, goat cheese, and red pepper. Since the consommé base is chopped whole tomatoes, the tomatoes must be vine-ripened to the peak of flavor. An interesting side note: Hawaiian cooks use “tomato water” in food preparations, making it in this same method — crushed tomatoes, drip-filtered to yield transparent liquid with the essence of tomato flavor.
- Tarragon - 4 leaves, chopped
- Basil - 6 leaves, chopped
- Fennel Bulbs - 1/2 with leaves, chopped
- Celery - 2 stalks, chopped
- Shallots - 4, chopped
- Garlic - 2 cloves, chopped
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Cayenne Pepper - 1 teaspoon, or to taste
- Sugar - To taste
- Balsamic Vinegar - 1/4 cup
- Worcestershire sauce - 2 tablespoons
- Tabasco Sauce - 3 dashes
- Sun-ripened cherry tomatoes - 4 pounds
- Tomato Mold
- Tomato - 4 large, peeled, seeded, and quartered
- Olive Oil - 2 tablespoons
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
- Eggplant Confit
- Baby Eggplants - 4
- Olive Oil - 3 tablespoons
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
- Basil - 4 large leaves
- Oil - For deep-frying
- Goat Cheese Ravioli
- Bell Pepper - 1, peeled, seeded, and blanched
- Goat Cheese - 2 oz, cut into 8 small pieces
- Basil - 8 large leaves, blanched
- Thin pasta dough - Eight 4-inch circles, for ravioli
To prepare the consommé: Cut four layers of cheesecloth into a 3-foot circle. Cut an 8-foot length of kitchen string. Combine all the ingredients except the tomatoes in a large non-aluminum bowl and toss to mix together. Buzz the tomatoes in a food processor; do not completely puree the tomatoes, but chop them well. The tomatoes will release a lot of juice, which will be bubbly because of the action of the processor. Add the tomatoes to the vegetable mixture, stir, and set aside to marinate not less than 3 and not more than 4 hours. Place the cheesecloth in a bowl and the tomato mixture into the center. Gather the cheesecloth into a bag around the vegetables and tie tightly with the string. Hang the bag over a large non-aluminum bowl and leave dripping overnight, collecting the clear consommé in the bowl.
To make the tomato molds: Put the tomatoes and olive oil in a small saucepan and toss to coat. Place the pan over medium heat and cover. Cook just until the tomatoes are softened but not yet falling apart, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels and blot; season with salt and pepper to taste. Oil the inside of four small cylindrical molds, about 1-1/2 inches in diameter by 2-1/2 inches tall, and place on a dish (PVC pipe, cut to size, works well). Pack each mold with tomatoes, pressing to compact. Set aside. If not using immediately, chill in the refrigerator; out of the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes before unmolding.
To make the eggplant confit: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the ends off the eggplant. Slice lengthwise nearly through the eggplant, leaving the skin attached along one side; open like a book. Scrape out the seed pulp with a small spoon and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle each with a little of the olive oil. Close the eggplant and place in a baking dish. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil, turning the eggplant to coat, and bake 20 to 30 minutes, until softened but not yet falling apart. Remove from heat; let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator if not using immediately; let warm back to room temperature before using.
To prepare the basil garnish: In a deep fryer or deep heavy saucepan, heat the oil to 350 F to 360 F, or until a breadcrumb immediately sizzles and comes to the top when dropped in. Fry the leaves for 30 seconds, until they have floated to the surface and crisped. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.
To make the ravioli: Cut the bell pepper into 1-inch squares. Place the pasta dough circles on a very lightly floured work surface. Put a blanched basil leaf off-center on each. Place a piece of cheese on each leaf and top with a piece of pepper. Wrap the leaf around the cheese and pepper. Fold each piece of pasta dough in half over the filling. Moisten the inside edges with a little cool water and press tightly together. Trim the rounded side to a smooth curve (cutting with a steel ring or cookie cutter works best).
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a full boil. Slip the ravioli into the water and boil 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in cool water to stop the cooking, then remove and drain on paper towels.
To serve: Warm the consommé over medium heat; do not boil. Unmold a tomato round to one side in each warmed soup bowl. Lay an eggplant beside the mold. Lean two ravioli against the eggplant and mold. Gently ladle consommé into the bowl; it will not cover the mold. Stand a piece of flash-fried basil between the ravioli and mold in each bowl.