Grilled Eggplant Napoleons
VEGETABLE NAPOLEONS are on tap this go-round. There are a lot of steps involved in this, but it so easy a monkey can do it! There isn’t even a recipe exactly. It’s all about grilling vegetables and you can improvise any way you like. Want to skip the zucchini? No problem. Want to add tofu? OK. Can’t stand eggplant? Blasphemy! Seriously, you can build this napoleon any way you like with anything you see fit. But this is my favorite way to do it ‘coz the flavors marry really well. In fact, when you think about it, this is simply a fancy presentation for a grilled veggie platter!
1 large regular eggplant (the big, raven one)
1 russet potato
1/3 C of goat cheese
4 leaves of fresh basil (I forgot to use these on the show!)
Sprigs of fresh rosemary
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
What’s really important about making this dish is the execution and planning. It all starts when you are selecting your veggies. Make sure that your eggplant, potato and tomato are all about the same size in diameter. We’re going to build a stack and it’s best to have these veggies all roughly the same size (think of a perfect stack of pancakes). Zucchini can be a bit problematic when it comes to getting the right size. Sometimes you can find extra wide ones but if not, just having two small slices overlapping (like I do on the video) is a great work-around.
Slice your veggies into rounds of equal thickness about a half-inch thick. I highly recommend salting and sweating your eggplant in a colander to remove any bitterness.* If you bought your eggplants at the farmer’s market, you can probably skip this step…fresh, young eggplant are not very bitter. Still, it’s always good to ask your farmer or greengrocer for advice.
I prefer to grill my veggies for this recipe but you can use a pan and just sear ‘em. Another nice thing about this dish is it’s equally delicious HOT or COLD. Whether you are grilling or pan frying/searing your veggies, you are going to want a medium high heat. Rub or brush a little olive oil onto your eggplant slices and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Remember to brush more oil onto the slices before flipping them. I like to turn the veggies about 45 degrees to give them a nice criss-cross mark when I’m working on the grill, but it’s really not necessary. Depending on how thick your slices are, you’ll need about 4 to 6 minutes of cooking time total. Make sure you hit them with a pinch of salt and some black pepper too!
Grill your potatoes in the same manner. Grilled potatoes are excellent! On the show I just used some leftover baked potato ‘coz I was in a hurry…like I said, you can improvise with this dish easily. But, if you’ve never grilled potatoes you must give ‘em a try. They’ll take about the same amount of time as the eggplant but are a bit more prone to burning so keep an eye on them.
Your zucchini will grill in about 4 minutes total. They’re more succulent and tender than the other veggies. As for the tomatoes, I leave them raw for this dish.
One of the reasons why I like to do this on a grill, besides the smoky flavor grilling lends, is ‘coz the surface of a grill is so large you can get all of this done at the same time. But if you’ve got a small grill or are using a pan, fear not. You can transfer fresh grilled veggies to a warm oven to keep ‘em hot OR just serve this at room temperature or even cold—it’s great anyway you do it!
While you’re grilling the veggies, prep all your other ingredients. Get the goat cheese up to room temperature. Take your fresh thyme, give it a fresh rough chop and mix it in with the goat cheese. Lay out your biggest basil leaves and prep those spears of fresh rosemary—choose pieces with sturdy stalks and trim the ends at a sharp angle so they’ll cut through the veggies like a skewer.
OK, now it is time to build the Napoleon! For the base, I use a piece of potato as it’s the thickest and heaviest of the vegetables and will act as a good foundation for the stack. On top of the potato I layer a piece of eggplant. Now I smear a good teaspoon or two of goat cheese on top—cover the surface. Next I add a big leaf of basil, then a slice of tomato. On top of that I do another eggplant slice, more goat cheese, and finish it with zucchini on the very top.
Have fun with this! Use any combination or order for the vegetables you want. I wouldn’t go too high though ‘coz it may fall over and may be difficult to cut and eat. To help hold the napoleon in place and give it a little extra fancy garnish, spear your rosemary through the top and straight down the middle; it’ll look like a flag sticking out. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top and around the plate. A good squeeze of a quarter lemon, a pinch of cracked black pepper and nice sea salt…maybe even some shavings of lemon zest or parmesan too…whatever you like and YOU ARE DONE!
*Simply rub about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to each side of your eggplant slices and let ‘em sit in a colander for a good 20 to 30 minutes. Rub the salt off. Don’t freak out if your eggplant looks a little dark and bruised now…