If you're looking for a lovely first course that is vegetable-based, this is a wonderfully simple recipe to pull together quickly and using minimal cooking time. Once you've got the tomatoes safely roasting in your oven, then you can easily move on to other activities and prep work for this particular recipe.
We love the combination of less work and impressive results, so this is a dish we've recreated so many times with great success. A key element here is to use top-quality ingredients. Whereas some other dishes require a little less focus on using top-of-the-line ingredients, the inclusion of high-qualty items are of the utmost importance here. Shoot for the top-level aged Pecorino cheese as it will be a focal point of your recipe, and you'll be glad you did as the flavors are enhanced and brought to life as they meld with each other.
Not only will you be happy, but those enjoying your recipe will be too - sometimes a little more goes a long way.
Oven-roast the tomatoes
Preheat oven to 285C.
Wash tomatoes well, remove green tops. Cut in half, and place onto baking tray lined with wax paper. Finely mince aromatic herbs and garlic clove. Place in small bowl and blend, set aside. Dress well with olive oil and salt. Top with diced aromatic herbs and garlic blend. Cover tightly with foil.
Bake tomatoes in preheated oven for at least 1 hour, or until tomatoes are softened to the touch and give off lovely tomato aroma.
Prepare the smoky eggplant purée
Wash eggplants thoroughly, dry well. Turn on two burners on stovetop, set to medium heat. Place eggplants directly on top of flame and allow to cook until eggplant peels are slightly burned, and there is an aroma of smoking food in the air.
Turn eggplants often as they cook, and be careful not to pierce the outer skin. Remove from heat only once well-cooked and softened, approximately 10-15 minutes. Allow eggplants to cool, and remove skin. Coarsely chop, set aside.
Peel and finely slice medium golden onion, set aside. In medium sauté pan, coat bottom with extra-virgin olive oil, and add onion and fresh thyme. Allow to cook for a few minutes, then add chopped eggplants. Adjust to taste with salt, and allow to cook for a few more minutes.
Place mixture while still hot into standard-size blender, and mix well adding a bit of olive oil to help get to smooth, creamy consistency.
Slice the Pecorino and finish dish
Slice Pecorino into even pieces, set aside. Place stripe of eggplant purée onto each serving dish, and place one roasted tomato and slice of Pecorino on top of eggplant.
Garnish with fresh basil leaves and add fresh thyme leaves for a splash of color. Drizzle with olive oil, and serve at room temperature.