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Aubergine dream

photos by pwisenberg

You know those recipes that somehow come together in an easy, effortless way? ¬†Well so do I and this is not one of them. I made this on a lazy Sunday, but I’ll admit that it took a lot of prep work. That being said, it is totally worth the work! Not only did this layered number turn out looking exquisitely chic, but the savoury flavour of the white bean and basil pesto paired perfectly with the crisp tomato sauce and the hearty eggplant. Added bonus: the recipe yields leftovers, which means all the taste, none of the work for me on night two, yipee!

Paul and I get a bi-weekly produce box delivered from Front Door Organics, a great little Toronto company that ensures its customers get nothing but the most seasonal, local produce possible. This week, amongst other things, we received the most quintessentially perfect looking eggplant (they really are such a beautiful hue, no?). And so, the brainstorming commenced. I wanted to emulate something akin to chicken parmesan… minus the chicken and the parmesan of course. The eggplant is coated in panko breadcrumbs, pan-fried and layered with pesto and tomato sauce. Mmm!

Crispy eggplant with white bean basil pesto and tomato sauce
Serves 4-6

White bean and basil pesto

2 cups fresh basil
1 cup fresh parsley
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 14oz can of cannelli beans, drained and rinsed
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Tomato sauce

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chili flakes (optional)
1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 cup veggie stock
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Crispy eggplant

1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips and salted
1 cup milk of your choice (I chose soy)
1 cup flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for pan-frying, amounts will vary

To make the pesto, blend all of the ingredients in a food processor, while slowly adding the olive oil. Set aside until ready to serve.

For the sauce, begin by sauteeing the onion, garlic, bell peppers, chili flakes and oregano until slightly softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add the veggie stock and simmer for a minute or two. Next, add the tomatoes and simmer until flavours have combined, about 10 minutes. Puree the entire thing with an immersion blender. Keep on low heat until ready to serve.

To begin making the eggplant preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Set out 3 shallow pans, these will become your breading station. The first should contain the milk, the second will combine the flour and cornstarch, and the third will have the panko bread crumbs. To begin coating, dip the eggplant in milk, then move onto the flour mixture. Continue doing this will all of the slices and let them rest for 5-10 minutes in order for the milk, flour and cornstarch to become a glue of sorts. Next, quickly dip each slice into the milk again and then give each one a generous coating of panko. Allow the now-coated eggplant slices to rest in the fridge for another 10 minutes (be patient my friends) before pan-frying. Heat oil in pan until a pinch of flour immediately sizzles when dropped in. Fry 2 slices at a time so as not to crowd the pan (adding more oil when needed), they should only take about 2 minutes per side. Once golden brown, sprinkle with sea salt and transfer to a paper towel so any excess oil can drip off. Keep cooked eggplants warm in the oven as you finish frying the rest. Work efficiently and serve immediately.

To plate this stunner, layer the pesto, sauce and eggplant, forming a small tower of tastiness. Now marvel at what you’ve just created and enjoy!

Oh, and make sure someone else does the dishes.


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