Over a month ago, I cleared the eggplants bushes from my garden, but overlooked removing two of them that were planted in a box along the side of the house. Since then they've been out of sight, out of mind, totally neglected and getting no water until it rained last week. A few days ago my mental fog lifted and I remembered them. I was amazed to see that they were doing pretty good, covered with blossoms and some eggplant fruits. These are determined plants and I'll let them keep at it. I also decided to honor the eggplants with a special dish. And I knew exactly which recipe to use. During the summer I planned making Deborah Madison's Eggplant Gratin With Saffron Cream. But, it never happened. Now was the time, with the Survivor Eggplants.
As this recipe includes saffron, that makes it a good entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, created by Kalyn and hosted by this week by Meeta at What's For Lunch Honey. The saffron gives the custard topping a lovely golden hue, as well as a distinctive honey flavor.
This is a pretty simple recipe--and it has layers! Love layers. You begin with fried eggplant, basil leaves, and gruyere cheese. I confess that I used more cheese than the recipe called for. I lose control around cheese.
Eggplant Gratin With Saffron Cream (Deborah Madison)
2 pounds eggplant
vegetable oil for frying eggplant
2 Tb olive oil
1 small red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1⁄2 tsp dried herbs
21⁄2 lb ripe tomatoes, chopped, or 3 c tomato sauce
1/8 tsp saffron, crumbled
3 Tb hot water
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence or dried thyme and savory
1 cup ricotta cheese
3⁄4 c milk or cream
1⁄2 c Parmesan cheese, grated
10 large basil leaves cut or torn into small pieces
3 oz Gruyère cheese, grated or thinly sliced
SLICE EGGPLANTS diagonally about 1/2-inch thick. Discard pieces that
are all skin on one side. If using round eggplants, halve them
lengthwise, then cut
into 1/2 or 1/4 rounds, about 1/2-inch thick. Generously cover bottom of wide skillet with oil. When hot, add eggplant in single layer and fry until golden
on both sides and flesh is tender. Drain on paper towels. Add more oil, if needed, and fry rest of eggplant. Make sure oil is hot each time you add a new
FOR SAUCE: Warm olive oil in skillet and add onion, garlic and herbs.
Stir to coat onion with oil. Cook gently until onions soften, 12 to 15
minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, salt lightly and raise heat. Cook,
stirring occasionally, until juice has evaporated and sauce is thick,
about 15 minutes. Season to
taste with salt and pepper. If tomatoes are on the acid side, add sugar to taste.
FOR CUSTARD: Cover saffron threads with a few tablespoons hot water and
let stand a few minutes. In bowl, beat eggs and stir in ricotta cheese,
Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in saffron with liquid.
FOR GRATIN: Spread a little tomato sauce over bottom of baking dish, then arrange a layer of eggplant slices, slightly overlapping. Season with salt and pepper, scatter half the basil, add Gruyere. Make another basil-eggplant layer. Cover with rest of the tomato sauce. Pour custard over the top. Preheat oven to 350F and bake 40 minutes or until custard sets and is a delicate golden brown.
Remove from oven and allow to rest a few minutes before serving.