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Eggplant Gratin Covered with Ricotta Custard

September 12, 2011 | Tags: Deborah Madison , Food , Vegetables | Post comment

Eggplant Gratin Covered with Ricotta Custard

This eggplant gratin, with its puffed golden, top smells utterly enticing when it’s baking. The eggs and ricotta provide protein for what is otherwise a vegetarian dish. It is one of my favorite September dishes and one that I proudly serve to company. The leftovers are absolutely delicious reheated in a skillet or even eaten cold.

This dish takes a little more time and effort than most, but, as mentioned, it is a good company dish. I just made this for the vegetarians who were attending a gala event at Seed Savers Exchange last month and it looked (and tasted) as enticing as the beef every one else was eating. These flavors are always good with lamb, but again, this dish can stand alone quite well.

To make it super special, bake it in individual ramekins. Otherwise, a gratin dish, any shape, will be the ticket. I’ve made this many times, sometimes using less eggplant, sometimes more, or using canned tomatoes when fresh were lacking, and I have to say, the measurements really don’t matter that much. But the fresher the produce, the sweeter and more delicious this will be. You can always experiment with the amount of parmesan cheese you add - less sometimes allows the other flavors to shine through. 

Ingredients

2 pounds eggplant or more, such as Rosa Bianca  or other large variety
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for the dish
1 medium onion, finely diced (about a cup)
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 pound, approximately, tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced, about 1 cup
2 tablespoons slivered basil

2 large eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
½ cup milk
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 ½ ounces)

Preparation

Peel the eggplant then dice it into small cubes.  Toss it with a teaspoon of salt, put it in a colander and set aside while you prepare the rest of the vegetables and the custard. Make sure it’s standing in a bowl or on a plate. To make the custard, whisk the eggs, ricotta and milk together, then stir in all but 2 tablespoons of the grated cheese and add ¼ teaspoon salt..

Oil an 8 X 10 gratin dish heat the oven to 375’F

Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide non-stick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Rinse, the eggplant, blot dry in a kitchen towel, then add it the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cubes are soft and golden brown in places, 10 to 12 minutes. Scrape it into a bowl, add the remaining oil to the pan and add the onion. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, again stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened and has colored up just a little, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more before adding the tomatoes and the cooked eggplant.  Season with ½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper, add the basil and cook for about five minutes.  Taste to make sure there’s enough salt, then transfer it to the baking dish (or individual custard cups or ramekins.)

Pour the custard over the eggplant then scatter the remaining Parmesan cheese over the top.  Bake until browned on top, 30 to 40 minutes.  Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4