It’s self-inflicted, for sure, but I feel this constant pressure to create, create, create.

As if every day, I need to come up with something new. Something interesting. Something that no one else has tried before. It can be exciting, but it can also be exhausting. Sometimes I just don’t have any new ideas. Or else the new ideas I do have are not good ideas—even I can see that.

Food-Eggplant Cheesecake-3145-20170918What I need to remember on those days is that first, it doesn’t matter and second, to find some inspiration. Inspiration, at least when it comes to dinner, is usually sitting right there on the shelf next to our kitchen sink. It’s sitting in the hundreds of dog eared pages in the cookbooks I’ve collected over the years.

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So that’s what I did last week. I turned to my favorite, Yotam Ottolenghi, to answer my question: what to do with this summer produce that just won’t stop? Eggplants and tomatoes, what have I not tried with you recently? The best place I could find the answer was Ottolenghi’s Plenty More in the form of Eggplant Cheesecake.

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Don’t let the title fool you—this is a savory dish that takes roasted eggplant slices and pairs it with tomatoes and a creamy, custardy sauce that creates an incredible meal. So much so, that I’ve ended up making this several times this week, because I just can’t get enough.

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I give you the recipe almost exactly as it’s written in the book, with only a few small modifications. It feels good to share something I love, even if it’s not something I created. Sometimes that’s the best that we can do.

Food-Eggplant Cheesecake-3141-20170918

Eggplant Cheesecake
Recipe type: Side Dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more to finish
  • 2 pounds eggplant, cut crosswise into ¾ inch slices
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 5 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (I used whole milk)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup plum or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • ⅓ cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1½ teaspoon za'atar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. In a large bowl, toss eggplant slices with olive oil and a healthy pinch of Kosher salt, making sure oil is absorbed. Lay eggplant slices single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for about 40 minutes, until eggplant slices are golden. Once cooked, set aside to cool. Turn oven temperature down to 325F.
  3. Meanwhile, make the cream mixture. In a large bowl, whisk together feta, cream cheese, eggs, heavy cream, and black pepper. Beat until the mixture is smooth and thick.
  4. Line the base and sides of a deep 8½ inch square baking pan (or 8 inch diameter pan) with tinfoil. Drizzle with olive oil. Lay cooled eggplant slices into the baking pan. They should lean against each other and almost stand on their sides. Add tomato pieces, filling in the gaps between the eggplants, then top with half the oregano.
  5. Pour cream mixture on top of vegetables, leaving some of the eggplant and tomatoes poking out. Sprinkle remaining oregano and bake for 35-40 minutes, until custard sets and is golden brown. (Mine took closer to 55 minutes). Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and za'atar to finish.
  6. You can let the cheesecake cool to room temperature, slice it, and serve it that way (the way the recipe was written). Or, you can let it cool just slightly and scoop out warm portions to serve.

Recipe adapted, just slightly, from Plenty More.

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