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End-of-Summer Joy and Goat Cheese 

click to enlarge The roasted eggplant and tomatoes ready for the oven.

Photo by Simona Carini

The roasted eggplant and tomatoes ready for the oven.

When I turn the wall calendar to the September page, I go into denial about the approaching end of summer. At the farmers market, I continue purchasing summer produce until the last day it's available.

Preserving produce also helps keep summer alive in the kitchen. For example, in the recipe I am sharing here, the two vegetable ingredients — eggplant and tomatoes — can be frozen after roasting, so you can prepare the dish in the middle of winter, when a reminder of warmer, longer days is welcome.

The third ingredient is cheese, two types of it to be precise, one being fresh chèvre. Given its versatility, a disk of Cypress Grove's fresh goat milk cheese is a trusted presence in my refrigerator. Recently, I was invited to try two new flavors of the cheese, Meyer Lemon and Honey and the limited edition Hatch Chile, and, with samples provided by the local company, I went on a little creative journey with them.

Meyer lemon and alfalfa honey provide a bright, sweet note to the tangy cheese, while flame-roasted Hatch green chiles give the other variety an earthy, mildly spiced flavor. The flavors are well balanced, giving each cheese a charming personality. You can enjoy them au naturel on bread or crackers as appetizer or for a snack (remember to take the cheese out of the refrigerator an hour before eating) or add it to dishes.

There are also serving suggestions on the Cypress Grove's website (cypressgrovecheese.com), but here are a trio of other ideas I tested with excellent results:

Dress a pound of steamed green beans with vinaigrette and toss. Add a peach, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces, and some crumbled Meyer Lemon and Honey cheese. Toss again and enjoy. Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish, but I confess I cleaned the bowl all by myself.

As delicious dessert for two, I baked an Asian pear, halved and cored, for 20 minutes at 400 F, cut side up, then put a dollop of the Meyer Lemon and Honey cheese in the hollow and let it warm before serving. I am waiting for persimmon season to start to further experiment with fruit.

If you have leftovers of the Roasted Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato in my last column ("Farmers Markets, Summer Produce and Joy," July 22), warm them up, then dot the surface with some crumbled Hatch Chile cheese and mix it in. Serve immediately.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Cheese

You can roast the vegetables a day or two ahead and store them in separate airtight containers until you're ready to use them, or you can freeze and thaw them before assembling the dish on a day you feel the need to taste summer. Serves 4.

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds eggplant, Italian, globe or Listada de Gandia (aka, graffiti eggplant)  

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 ¼ pounds small tomatoes, about 1 ½ inches in diameter, Early Girl or similar variety

1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (thyme, winter savory, basil)

Fine sea salt

2 ounces fresh goat cheese such as Cypress Grove Hatch Chile or Ms. Natural, crumbled and divided

½ ounce freshly grated sweet cheddar or Gouda

Heat the oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Trim the top and bottom of the eggplant, then cut crosswise into ½-inch thick slices. Drizzle some olive oil over the slices and toss them with your hands to distribute. Place the slices, spacing them about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Place the baking sheets in the oven next to each other or on racks above each other. Roast for 20 minutes. Take the baking sheets out of the oven and flip the eggplant slices using a fork. Put the baking sheets back in the oven (if they are on different racks, switch their positions). Roast for another 10 minutes. Remove the eggplant and transfer it onto a large plate.

Next, roast the tomatoes. Heat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and place the top and bottom halves on the prepared sheet, cut side up. Drizzle them with some olive oil and sprinkle on the minced herbs.

Roast for 30 minutes on the center rack. Remove from the oven and let the tomatoes cool for a few minutes before gently transferring them onto a plate.

Heat the oven to 350 F. Assemble the dish in a 7 ½-inch soufflé dish. Distribute 1/3 of the eggplant slices on the bottom of the soufflé dish to form the first layer. Sprinkle with a pinch of fine sea salt. Place 1/3 of the tomatoes on top of the eggplant slices. Dot the tomatoes with 1/3 of the goat cheese. Repeat to make the second layer.

Lay down the final layer of eggplant and sprinkle it with a pinch of fine sea salt before topping with the last 1/3 of the tomatoes. Pour the liquid from the tomato plate over the layered vegetables. Sprinkle the grated cheese on the tomatoes.

Place the soufflé dish in the oven on the center rack and bake for 30 minutes.

Take the soufflé dish out of the oven and let the vegetables rest for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Simona Carini (she/her) also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her blog www.pulcetta.com and shares photographs on Instagram @simonacarini. She particularly likes to create still lives with produce from the farmers market.

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