And eggplants, and heirloom tomatoes. All of these foods are things we have in abundance right now, thanks to our new product launch last week, and an prolific garden. So tonight’s task was to make a meal using these ingredients. Despite my aversion to the 1980’s and early 90’s “tall food” craze, I settled on the thought that I was going to make an eggplant Napoloeon.
A Napoloeon usually describes a layered dessert, but can also describe layered foods of other sorts. My Napoloeon was fairly simple: a shmear of humus (babaganoush would have been nice, too, but not on a weeknight) on the plate, followed by a slice of fried eggplant, followed by a shmear of humus, followed by slices of heirloom tomato. Repeat layers until it’s tall enough, i.e., you can’t add another layer without having it topple. For the top layer of ours I added a slice of mozzarella cheese to cover the dietary needs of my teenage vegetarian. A few shakes of extra old balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a little cracked pepper, then a chiffonade of basil, and it’s done.
Frying eggplant is easy. Wash and slice the eggplant. Salt the slices generously with kosher salt, place the in a collander, and add a big weight on top (I set a plate on them, and heap on anything heavy that’s handy – today it was a stone mortar and pestal). Like the eggplant drain for 30 minute, then apply some pressure to squeeze out the water, and rinse the salt off. Dry the slices with a clean towel. Dredge through an egg/milk mixture, then through our new Roasted Cornmeal. Fry in hot peanut oil a couple minutes per side till golden. Drain on a paper towel, and hold in a warm oven till your batch is done.
Humus is easy, too. If it weren’t a weeknight, I would have made babaganoush instead, which is like roasted eggplant humus. But since canned garbanzos are too easy, I made a traditional humus as follows: drain a can of garbanzos, and put them into the food processor. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon, a couple roasted garlic cloves, some roasted pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, some parsley, and a big pinch of salt. Pulse in processor till smooth. You can do this a day ahead.
Now you have your humus and fried eggplant, all you have to do is assemble. Literally, that was all there was to it.
Dessert required a little more creativity. I wanted to create something that used both cornmeal and grits. So I shot for a Roasted Grits cookie bar, which turned out to be more like a cookie and custard bar. There are worse thing that could have happened, I suppose.
For the cookie bar, I started by creating a Roasted Cornmeal shortbread. I’ve never made a shortbread in my life before, so I looked up about a dozen different shortbread recipes, and made a spreadsheet of the amounts of flour (or flour-like ingredients), sugar and butter. Then I calculated the ratios of flour:butter, sugar:butter and flour:sugar. I took the mode of those observations and made that my recipe. So for an 8×12 pan, I used 0.75 cups Roasted Cornmeal, 0.5 cups flour, 0.5 cups sugar and 1/4 lb softened butter. Plus a big pinch of sea salt. Just cream them all together and pres sthat dough into the bottom of the pan, it winds up being about 1/2 inch thick.
Then make the custard. You’ll need cooked Roasted Corn Grits, so cook ’em ahead of time. Mix the following together: 6 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup heavy cream and 2 cups cooked Roasted Corn Grits. Pour that on top of the unbaked shortbread dough. Throw the whole thing in a 400F over for about an hour – till the custard doesn’t really jiggle anymore. Slice into desired servings while still warm, but do NOT remove from pan yet. Allow to cool thoroughly, or better yet, chill before serving. I added a little brulee topping to mine – just a little table sugar and a blowtorch.
The dessert was a make-ahead. It takes about 20 minutes to assemble and 60 minutes to bake. The eggplant dish took one hour start to finish, mainly because I fry in small batches, and I drink a lot of wine while cooking (Pellegrini Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel). But I used local ingredients in abundance this time of year (with a few Marco Polo ingredients), plus our special Roasted Corn Grits and Roasted Cornmeal.