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In this dish, we kept it simple. The result was outstanding.
Elegant Eggplant Napoleons are one of the easiest appetizers to date that I have included on Not Entirely Average. In season now, the eggplant comes in a range of shapes and colors, globe eggplants being the largest and most common. At our farmers market last week, a few vendors were displaying a smaller version of this versatile veg, the Japanese eggplant. They are long and narrow, have fewer seeds, a slightly thinner skin, and a much milder, less bitter flavor than the globes.
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 the Japanese eggplants for an experimental Napoleon recipe which turned out AMAZING.
Try this eggplant recipe as a delicious way to enjoy the vegetable, coupled with layers of whipped ricotta cheese and slow-roasted sweet cherry tomatoes. If you needed additional zing, the incorporation of fresh basil pesto or a mild lemon sauce will usually do the trick. In this dish, we kept it simple. The result was outstanding.
Simplicity is magnificent.
There are times when entertaining for a crowd, even if a small one, can seem daunting. In an effort to minimize the stress, we've taken to lightening the plated dish to a salad main paired with a chilled refreshing Rosé wine for summer entertaining. This by no means implies that it's a meager platter of greens.
One of my favorite restaurants in Charleston is Five Loaves Cafe. They have gone to a great deal of planning to ensure that their menu is healthy, sustainable and responsible. My favorite item on their menu is a salad featuring eggplant fritters. I've tried and tried to recreate these fritters, lucky enough to find a recipe for them once, but mine never seem to turn out like those I frequently enjoy at Five Loaves Cafe.
Returning home with my cash of Japanese eggplants with a group of ten to feed had me channeling the Cafe and their delicious fritters. The result would be hefty lunchtime salad of frisee and mâche with two each of these tidy stacked eggplant Napoleons nestled among the leaves, dressed only with olive oil, fresh thyme from my porch pots, salt, and pepper. Simplicity is magnificent.
Ingredients for Elegant Eggplant Napoleons
2 or 3 Japanese eggplants, peeled and sliced 1/2" thick on the bias or straight across if you prefer a more perfect round
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Italian style breadcrumbs (Panko does not work well in this dish, so we do not advocate using)
1/2 cup freshly grated good quality Parmesan Reggiano cheese
vegetable oil for frying
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons of good quality olive oil
salt and freshly cracked pepper
*have a batch of whipped ricotta ready and at room temperature when preparing to assemble the Napoleons
For the Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Heat oven to 225 degrees.
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. Set a timer 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 somewhat sticky and viscous.
For the Fried Eggplant
In a small bowl, mix the Italian breadcrumbs with the Parmesan cheese to combine. Set aside.
Once the eggplant is sliced, sprinkle both sides lightly 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 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 two minutes per side until golden brown. Remove eggplant from skillet when cooked and drain on paper towels.
For the Assembly
* it's preferable to assemble the Napoleons on parchment before using a wide spatula to transfer atop a salad, or to a pretty serving platter if offering as appetizers. Begin with a smear of whipped ricotta as your base regardless of how you will serve. This 'glue' will prevent your Napoleons from shimmying about.
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.