Eggplant and ricotta cheese towers

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 medium or 3 smaller eggplants
1 Tablespoon salt
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil OR oregano
Black pepper, freshly ground
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon milk
2-3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

2 cups Red Pepper Coulis (see recipe below)
Ricotta Cheese Filling (see recipe below)

Directions

  • Partially peel eggplants, leaving on a bit of skin for color and substance.
  • Slice eggplants into even rounds a little thicker than 1/4 inch.
  • Lay out some paper towels and place eggplant slices on top in a single layer.
  • Sprinkle generously with salt and let stand for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes (to remove bitterness).
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Pat eggplant slices dry with additional paper towels.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a shallow bowl, beat eggs and milk together.
  • In a second shallow bowl, combine panko bread crumbs (crush them in your hand first to make them a bit finer), shredded Parmesan cheese, herbs and pepper. Mix well with your hands to be sure to evenly distribute the cheese.
  • Dip each slice of eggplant in the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture. The breadcrumbs might be reluctant to stick so press firmly and don’t worry if you can still see the eggplant through the crumbs.
  • Lay breaded slices in a single layer on the lined baking sheet.
  • Place full baking sheet in the oven.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until golden on the outside and tender in the middle.

While eggplant is baking, prepare Red Pepper Coulis and Ricotta Cheese Filling.
These can also be prepared up to 3 days in advance.

  • When eggplant is finished baking, take a 3-4 ounce portion of ricotta cheese filling and spread it on a slice of the breaded eggplant.
  • Then take another slice of breaded eggplant, which should be equal in size and place on top of the ricotta, cheese—this will make a tower.
  • Repeat this procedure until all the eggplant is used up (usually makes about 4 towers/servings).
  • Place the eggplant towers on a baking sheet and bake them for 5-7 minutes until the cheese mixture is a little melted—you will be able to see it on the sides of the eggplant towers.
  • When ready to serve, put eggplant towers on a plate and top with Red Pepper Coulis and grated Parmesan cheese.

If you make extra to use for lunch the next day, store breaded eggplant and sauce separately and combine just before serving.

RICOTTA CHEESE FILLING

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients

16 ounces Ricotta Cheese “Whole Milk Preferred”
¼ cup ¼” diced yellow squash
¼ cup ¼” diced zucchini
¼ cup ¼” diced carrots
¼ cup ¼” diced Vidalia onion OR a sweet onion
1 teaspoon fresh chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Heat a medium-sized sauté pan containing 1 ounce of olive oil.
  • When it just starts to smoke add carrots and onion first, sauté for 2-4 minutes, and then add yellow squash, zucchini and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes until vegetables are tender.
  • Remove sauté pan from heat and fold the Ricotta cheese into the vegetables and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Put cheese mixture in a shallow pan and refrigerate for 2-3 hours until mixture is cold and has set up—it will be firm and scoopable.

RED PEPPER COULIS

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

3 large red bell peppers
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar OR red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Directions

  • Roast the red peppers directly over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning occasionally, until the peppers are blackened all over.
  • Transfer the peppers to a bowl and let cool completely.
  • Peel the peppers and discard the skins, seeds and cores.
  • Coarsely chop the peppers.
  • In a food processor, combine the peppers with the olive oil, shallot, and vinegar, and purée until very smooth.
  • Season the coulis with salt and white pepper.

Make Ahead

The red pepper coulis can be made up to 3 days in advance and should be kept refrigerated. Bring to a simmer before serving.

5 Responses to Eggplant and ricotta cheese towers

  1. Lina Joyner says:

    Thanks for this recipe, Mark. It looks like it will be really tasty.

    I wonder if you would be willing to share your meatloaf recipe with me? When I was living it the BA I always thoroughly enjoyed your meatloaf and I now wish mine would taste more like yours.

    In any case, have a very joyous holiday season!

    Lina

    • pcook says:

      Sorry for the delay — here’s Mark’s recipe:

      Chef Mark’s Meat Loaf Recipe

      yield: Makes 6 servings with leftovers
      active time: 30 min
      total time: 1 1/2 hr

      Ingredients

      • 1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices firm white sandwich bread)
      • 1/3 cup whole milk
      • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
      • 3 garlic cloves, minced
      • 1 medium celery rib, finely chopped
      • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
      • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
      • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
      • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
      • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
      • 1/4 pound bacon (about 4 slices), chopped
      • 1/2 cup pitted prunes, chopped
      • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
      • 1/2 pound ground pork (not lean)
      • 2 large eggs
      • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
      • Garnish: cooked bacon

      Preparation

      Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

      Soak bread crumbs in milk in a large bowl.

      Meanwhile, cook onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low, then cook until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Add to bread-crumb mixture.

      Finely chop bacon and prunes in a food processor, then add to onion mixture along with beef, pork, eggs, and parsley and mix together with your hands.

      Pack mixture into a 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a 13- by 9-inch shallow baking dish or pan.

      Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatloaf registers 155°F, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

  2. Chef Mark says:

    Yes Lina I would love to.

  3. Maureen Smith says:

    The Eggplant Tower recipe sounds wonderful, and I’m going to try it. It did remind me of another dish I had while staying there. I think it was a sweet potato lasagna. It was so good. I would love to have that recipe. Thank you so much for posting the recipes. Maureen Smith

    • pwoodsum says:

      We’re so glad you’re planning to try Chef Mark’s Eggplant Towers recipe. We’ll ask him to see if he still has that lasagna recipe. Thanks for your comments.

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