Back to the kitchen.
Back to the Eggplants.
We will have to agree that eggplants belong to the family of vegetables that triggers all sorts of animated debates. I have met people who would immediately turn their nose away as soon as they overhear that eggplants are part of a dish, and others who cannot stop praising them, trying to convince anyone hating them that they are the best vegetables out there.
I belong to the last group; I am also that crazy person who would try to lecture you into loving eggplants, adding that it is a real crime not to.
Right. Perhaps I won’t.
But I agree with you people who dislike them. Eggplants are not the most aesthetic vegetables once cooked. Where did their original beautiful pink, dark purple, green or white color disappear? Instead, think now of a mushy muddy color, a dark green brown, or is it perhaps grey? In fact, if I recall well, eggplants are quite likely the reason why I disliked ratatouille for so long as a child. I can safely blame this weakness of mine on elles, les aubergines.
Eggplants are botanically a fruit although they are also commonly considered a vegetable. Its colors and shapes vary according to the countries of origin, from Asia to Europe and Australia. They can be white, pink, pale green or dark purple; round, elongated, spherical, pear or egg-shaped. As I am lucky to live in a multi-cultural city, I can find eggplants of all possible origins, shapes and colors, if I want to. During the summer, our local farmer’s markets offer abundant choices too. And, while some people believe that eggplants originally come from India, others claim that they were first cultivated in China. I only discovered the miniature Indian dark purple and Thai pale-green varieties a few years ago, and have been a fan ever since. This year, I treated myself to the Rosa Bianca, the round fatty one on my picture, an Italian heirloom eggplant: sweet and creamy in texture.
So if you allow me, let’s start with an easy recipe, one which hopefully will reconcile us with the looks of a cooked eggplant. What about making Vegetable Milllefeuilles?
In French, “mille” means thousand; “feuille” means leaf, although in our context, we are referring to layer. In other words, in a millefeuille de légumes, you will imagine many vegetable layers. To make them, I decided to use a variety of eggplant commonly found: Italian Eggplants.
Italian Eggplants are smaller than its close cousin the Globe variety — I actually never buy large eggplants. I prefer them small because they are then more flavorful and less bitter (also because their size works well in this recipe). The best eggplants will be firm and shiny, not bitter if they have less seeds — like the male eggplants. Did I mention that eggplants had a sex? I, too, was surprised! Normally, male eggplants have less seeds and are therefore less bitter than female eggplants. When the indentation found at the bottom of the vegetable is a round scar, then it is a male, if it is oval, it is a female. Sprinkling them with coarse sea salt and letting them rest for a minimum of thirty minutes also helps to remove some of the bitterness, so if that matters in the outcome of your dish, do not leave this step out.
The different layers of my millefeuilles are slices of zucchini, potato, eggplant and semi-dry goat cheese, flavored with a mix of garlic and basil. Cook the vegetables separately first — which is really the only more constraining step of the dish, then assemble all the slices into layers to form the millefeuilles. Although these millefeuilles might look labor-intensive, they are however quite simple and delicious. Make sure to purchase vegetables of about the same size. If this is impossible, cut them to size with a round cutter of your choice.
And the bonus, you might ask?
The millefeuiilles can be prepared ahead of time, only cooked at the last minute.
Now, did I really write that eggplants always looked ugly once cooked?
Perhaps I actually need to amend this statement. I would almost find them pretty-looking.
And for sure, always tasty.
- 2 Italian eggplants (remember that they are small)
- 1 zucchini (of about same size as eggplant)
- 1 large potato, Yukon Gold type
- 6 slices of semi-dry goat cheese,of same size as the zucchini and eggplant slices
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
- Fresh basil, chopped
- Wash and cut the eggplants in 1/3″ slices. Sprinkle with salt and let them rest for 30 minutes in a colander.
- In the meantime, prepare all other ingredients. Steam the potato (time varies according to size, about 20 to 25 min).
- Let it cool and peel it. Cut it in 1/3″ slices. Keep.
- Slice the zucchini. Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the slices for 2 to 3 min on each side. Season with salt and peper and keep.
- Rinse the eggplant slices and pat them dry with a paper towel. In the same pan, heat some olive oil and cook the eggplant slices for 5 min on each side, medium heat. Add more oil if necessary. Keep.
- Slice the cheese.
- Chop the garlic and basil and mix.
- Preheat your oven at 350 F.
- To assemble the millefeuilles, start with a slice of eggplant
- Top with a slice of zucchini and spread some of the garlic/basil mix. Season with salt and pepper.
- Continue with a slice of eggplant, zucchini, and more garlic/basil.
- Top with a slice of potato and one of cheese. Add more basil/garlic and finish with a slice of eggplant (Note I used the top for decoration).
- Secure with a wooden stick. Place in a oiled dish and add a splash of olive oil. Cook in the oven for about 15 min.
- Serve with a nice green salad.
- 2 aubergines italiennes moyennes
- 1 courgette (de la même taille)
- 1 grosse pomme de terre à chair ferme
- 6 tranches de fromage de chèvre demi-sec
- Huile d’olive
- Sel et poivre
- 4 gousses d’ail
- Un bouquet de basilic frais
- Lavez et coupez les aubergines en rondelles de 1 cm d’épaisseur. Saupoudrez-les de sel pour les faire dégorger pendant 1 heure.
- Pendant ce temps, préparez les autres ingrédients. Faites cuire la pomme de terre à la vapeur (selon la taille, minimum 20 à 25 min).
- Laissez-la refroidir et pelez-la. Découpez des tranches de 1 cm. Réservez.
- Découpez la courgette en rondelles et faites-les revenir dans de l’huile d’olive pendant 2 à 3 min de chaque côté. Salez et poivrez et réservez.
- Rinsez les aubergines et essuyez-les avec du papier absorbant. Faite revenir les tranches d’aubergines pendant 5 min de chaque côté, sur feu moyen. Rajoutez de l’huile si nécessaire, les aubergines aiment cela. Réservez.
- Coupez le fromage en tranches.
- Hachez l’ail et le basilic et mélangez.
- Préchauffez votre four à 180 C.
- Pour former les millefeuilles, commencez par une tranche d’aubergine.
- Continuez avec une tranche de courgette et le mélange ail/basilic. Salez et poivrez.
- Continuez avec une tranche d’aubergine, courgette, puis ail/basilic.
- Posez ensuite une tranche de pomme de terre puis du fromage. Ajoutez du mélange ail/basilic et terminez avec une tranche d’aubergine.
- Tenez en place avec un pique en bois. Mettez les millefeuilles dans un plat huilé. Arrosez-les d’un filet d’huile d’olive et mettez au four pendant 15 min environ.
- Dégustez de suite avec une belle salade.