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Easy And Elegant Eggplant Napoleons are sumptuously assembled stacks of summer splendor, making them the appetizer that should have been the meal.
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Elegant Eggplant Napoleons
The best and easiest way to cook eggplant is to pan fry it. Prepared in tandem with an egg and Italian breadcrumb coating, a quickly pan fried slice of eggplant cooks up crispy and light. Use them for everything from eggplant parmigiana to these elegant eggplant Napoleons.
In this dish, I keep it simple. The results are always outstanding.
At our farmers market last week, a few vendors were offering my favorite versatile veg, the eggplant. In season now, the eggplant comes in a range of shapes and colors, globe eggplants being the largest and most common.
I messed around for about an hour trying to remember what I had scribbled onto a loose sheet of paper earlier and mistakenly left in my car; a short list of what recipes I wanted to try ‘if’ I could find certain vegetables at the market.
I knew eggplants were on that short list, but as for being able to recall everything else, well….nope. I settled on eggplant for an experimental Napoleon recipe which turned out AMAZING.
Do You Have What You Need for Elegant Eggplant Napoleons? Check The List!
Parmesan Reggiano cheese
light brown sugar
whipped ricotta, see recipe here
salt and freshly cracked pepper
How This Recipe Came About…
This recipe came about during a cookout I hosted for a small group of friends the summer before pandemic. I needed an EASY, low cost, but clever starter for when my friends arrived, and before the grilled main dish would be served.
A single large eggplant equals a lot of slices. At about 1/2-inch per slice, I was able to manage individual 3-slice-stacks of Napoleons for nine people out of just two eggplants. That’s 27 slices for roughly $4, the price I paid for both eggplant at my local farmer’s market. I actually ended up with more than the 27 slices, so saved those aside for anybody wishing to gobble up seconds!
There are times when entertaining for a crowd, even a small one, can seem daunting. In an effort to minimize my stress, I’ve taken to cost-effective and EASY vegetable starters paired with a refreshing chilled Rosé or Aperol Spritz for summer entertaining. This by no means is a meager plate of vegetables…
I returned home with my cash of eggplant. With a group of nine people to feed, I was channeling a delicious eggplant fritter that I frequently order at a local eatery. The fritters are served atop a salad with a basil dressing. The dish is entirely satisfying. Because time was a constraint however, the task of assembling and cooking up fritters was out.
Frying the slices would be straightforward and could be done ahead and reheated in a low oven. The ricotta could also be done ahead, removed from the chiller about an hour before assembly. The result? A hefty appetizer of richly embellished eggplant Napoleons dressed only with my sweet roasted cherry tomatoes, fresh thyme from my porch pots, a pinch of smoked salt, and freshly cracked pepper. Simplicity is magnificent.
Modifying The Norm To Make It Not Entirely Average…
This simple starter may be modified in several tasty ways. For example, the whipped ricotta may be replaced with whipped tofu or a cauliflower nut ‘ricotta.’ I found this clever method here. It’s FABULOUS for this dish or any where you’re steering clear of dairy.
Another flavor profile may be introduced via the roasting of the cherry tomatoes. Add hot pepper flakes for some heat, or half a head of roasted garlic to make the tomato compote sweet and not entirely average.
Additional flavor profile considerations are the incorporation of fresh basil pesto or a mild lemon aioli. But remember, keep it simple for an outstanding result.
What To Serve With Eggplant Napoleons?
These eggplant stacks could also be used as a main dish by plating atop a lush bed of Mâche and Frisée. If I were doing this is a main dish salad, I would recommend increasing each stack by two additional slices of fried eggplant and whipped ricotta, respectively.
What To Drink With Eggplant Napoleons?
I am BIG on the The Manhattan these days. It is light, crisp, not terribly sweet, and entirely refreshing.
If wine is the preferred libation of choice, consider a very well chilled sparling rosé. In particular, I find those from the Languedoc region of France extremely appealing because the majority of the fermentations are very short.
I am also really loving a fruity California Cabernet enjoyed CHILLED! Yes, you read correctly. In summer, it’s surprisingly refreshing and not at all inappropriate.
Can Eggplant Napoleons Be Made Ahead?
YES! And this is the genius of this dish. I fry the eggplant up to two days ahead. I store them in an airtight container, separating the layers with paper toweling, until ready to use. To reheat, assemble the slices on a foil lined baking sheet. Place into a low 325 degree F oven for 10 minutes per side.
The whipped ricotta may be made up to a day in advance and kept refrigerated. For this dish, remove the whipped ricotta from the chiller 1 hour before assembling the Napoleons.
The cherry tomatoes may be made up to 2 hours ahead. Undercook the tomatoes by 15 minutes. Once roasted, allow to cool slightly before transferring to a container with a lid. Do not refrigerate.
Elegant Eggplant Napoleons
- non-stick electric fry pan or large non-stick skillet
- 2 large globe eggplants or 3 medium; peeled and sliced 1/2" thick on the bias or straight across if you prefer a round
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- ½ cup Italian style breadcrumbs Panko does not work well in this dish so I recommend avoiding
- *1 tablespoon za'atar *optional
- ½ cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese freshly grated
- vegetable oil for frying
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes washed and dried
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups whipped ricotta see recipe here
- fresh Thyme leaves and tender young stems
- Kosher salt
- black pepper freshly cracked
note that this appetizer is served warm or at room temperature, but not necessarily hot
for the roasted cherry tomatoes
- Heat oven to 225ºF.
- Line a heavy cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
- Slice each tomato in half lengthwise and toss in a bowl with the brown sugar, olive oil, and a good amount of salt and pepper.
- Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, along with juices and oil from the bowl, on the cookie sheet and place in the oven.
- Roast for 45 minutes. Check tomatoes after 45 minutes, tossing a bit and placing back in the oven for another 45 minutes. Tomatoes should be slightly shriveled and juices from pan slightly sticky and viscous.
for the eggplant
- In a small bowl, mix the Italian breadcrumbs with the Parmesan cheese and the za'atar if using to combine. Set aside.
- Once the eggplant is sliced, sprinkle both sides moderately with salt, and arrange the slices in flat layers on paper towels.
- Allow about one half hour for the salt to draw the bitter liquid from the eggplant. Rinse the slices well and pat dry.
- Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in an electric skillet to shimmering.
- Dip each slice of eggplant first in the beaten egg, and next in the breadcrumb mixture. Fry the slices in the hot electric skillet, one to three minutes per side until golden brown. Remove eggplant from skillet when cooked and drain on paper towels.
- Begin with a small amount of whipped ricotta as a base. The ricotta will act like a glue to prevent your Napoleons from sliding once plated.
- Layer a slice of eggplant with a dollop or two of the room temperature whipped ricotta, followed by a teaspoon of the juice from the slow-roasted tomatoes. Top with another slice of the eggplant and a dollop more of the whipped ricotta. Repeat to create just three perfect layers.
- Top with several to many of the slow-roasted tomatoes this time, allowing the juice from your spoon to drip down the sides of the Napoleon. Garnish with sprigs and leaves of fresh Thyme.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.
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